WizKids, a couple of weeks ago, announced a change in HeroClix initial order policies that should benefit brick and mortar retailers and customers at large as it will make HeroClix more widely available.
The announced change limits initial orders, starting with the Superman/Wonder Woman set, of HeroClix bricks and gravity feed displays to 50 of each per account, subject to change on a case by case basis. What this means, from what I understand, is that, in general, that no store will be able to order, per location, more than 25 cases, 2 bricks per case, of a HeroClix release at the initial release. WizKids, I think, hopes by doing this to alleviate the chronic shortages that typically accompany the initial release of any new HeroClix set.
The problem comes from the long lead times required for each HeroClix set and the comparatively short pre-order window that retailers have for a new set. WizKids typically sets production runs for a new release a year before the set actually hits the street. Retailers, however, whether online only, brick and mortar or a hybrid operation, put their initial orders in 2-3 months ahead of the release date. WizKids, essentially, is flying blind on setting its production runs for a new set, having to put orders in with its manufacturers in southeast Asia 9 to 10 months before ever seeing an order from a retailer. WizKids could alleviate this problem by soliciting orders for new sets a year before the product line releases, but very few specialty game retailers are willing to commit to pre-ordering merchandise a year before it releases, a common problem with retailer Kickstarter offers as well. WizKids has been increasing production runs on new sets each time they put in an order for a new one, but the company’s increased quantities still has not met up with demand, meaning allocations and shortages when a new set releases.
By limiting quantities orderable on the initial release, WizKids expects to have more product available on the initial release and to be able to more widely spread the initial shipments of product throughout the channel. Most stores within the hobby channel, especially those that offer Orgainzed Play, which as I pointed out last week has become a much more important component of the collectable gaming segment of the industry, do not order 50 bricks of a new HeroClix release at initial order, at least not per store for multi-store operations, it is the online operations, with nationwide sales reach but without an Organized Play component of their operation, that ordered massive quantities of a new release, often breaking open large numbers to satisfy single figure demands then selling the remaining boosters at deep discounts. By limiting the number of bricks and gravity feeds available to accounts on initial, WizKids should be able spread out the available initial shipment among all accounts wanting the product and thus making more of the set available initially to the local customer base, meaning local customers should have greater access to the new set of HeroClix in their LGs.