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June 30, 2013
Last week I had an interesting conversation with a high-level Kidrobot employee regarding their products which I can (or cannot) purchase from them. The end result was that I decided to stop supporting Kidrobot by being one of their retailers. Or, in other words, I asked them to cancel my wholesale account.
I can imagine this statement would inspire a range of responses:
"I'm not surprised," some of you are thinking.
"That's insane" might be a response from die-hard KR collector.
"Who cares?" is probably what many of you are thinking.
See, as a retailer, canceling your wholesale account with a vendor is pointless- you never need to do this. You can keep your account open and just never order. It would have the same effect: no new products from that vendor in your shop.
So what's the point of me doing this, and why am I telling all of you in a blog post?
The act is symbolic. I need to make a statement which shows Kidrobot that their actions over the past 5 years or so have negatively impacted active members of our art toy community.
We were granted a Kidrobot wholesale account just prior to the release of Dunny Series 2. At that time, there were not very many store stocking Kidrobot toys, or art toys in general. The market was wide open, lots of interest from collectors, not much competition for my new business. For several years, Kidrobot was my bread and butter. I sold a whole mess of 3" and 8" Dunnys and the sales of those products allowed me to stock other, less well-known products. It led to my support of emerging brands and emerging toy artists.
Dunnys also acted as a gateway drug for toy collectors just getting into the scene. They could go on the forums, read about how cool everyone is, and figure out which artists to collect. Dunnys led collectors to new artists. I owe a lot to Kidrobot. I think we all do. If you sell art toys, many of your customers started out collecting Dunnys.
Everything was copacetic for a couple years. During 2007 & 2008 I made enough money selling stuff online to allow my wife to stop working for 2 years and attend school to get an advanced degree.
Things changed a little in there somewhere, though. Lots of competition sprouted up and Kidrobot's sales increased dramatically, and they started making decisions about the direction they were heading. I am told that they had numerous high-level meetings about how to control and advance their brand, and the end result was Kidrobot decided to focus on their brick & mortar retailers, giving them an advantage over their online retailers. I assume this is because they felt the online marketplace was diluting their brand, and that it took a lot more dedication to run a brick and mortar. Owners of physical shops have a heavily invested interest in the Kidrobot line. (The sad thing is: so did I.)
And so around that time began a series of retailer rule changes that systematically deprived me of being able to turn a profit on their products:
- Wholesale accounts cannot sell Kidrobot products on eBay.
- Wholesale accounts cannot sell the Kidrobot blind-boxed items as open-box.
- Online retailers only get access to certain designated items. No more sales of 8" Dunnys to online-only retailers.
- Brick and mortar retailers granted a free "case exclusive" Dunny to give to buyers of Dunny cases as a reward for their purchase.
The point is: my business was affected negatively.
In speaking to the Kidrobot employee, one who has been there a long time, is extremely friendly and personable, and was genuinely concerned about this issue, it became apparent that he would not be able to change any of these retailer rules, and that my own personal experience with my shop's diminishing KR sales was in fact the eggs that broke when Kidrobot made the omelet.
Translation: "Sorry, dude. I wish I could help you but the rules are the rules."
That's fine. I had a feeling he'd say that, and I knew what my response would be: to cancel my wholesale account.
I got into selling art toys as a collector in 2004. We started on eBay. I knew nothing about building a website, branding, accounting, fulfillment, sales, html or anything a normal businessman would know. I learned everything on my own. I started a (shitty) website to direct my eBay customers to and eventually 98% of my products left eBay and were sold instead on TenaciousToys.com.
I live in Manhattan. Rent is extremely high here. So while I have been dreaming of opening a storefront shop here, I can't afford it. $2500/month rent minimum, plus other expenses, means it'd cost me $3500/month just to have it open. Due to the sometimes not-so-great margins on art toys, I'd have to make $126K in sales per year just to BREAK EVEN. Without being too specific here in public, I feel comfortable telling you that I have only made sales like that in one year of my 8 years in business, and that was a year when I could sell whatever KR product I wanted, wherever I wanted.
My point is that I am, in fact, fully invested in the art toy business, at least as much as any other shop out there, brick-and-mortar or otherwise. My own personal feeling is that I should be given an equal opportunity as any other Kidrobot retailer to try to make a profit off of their products. Kidrobot feels otherwise.
So in these 8 years, as I have transitioned from an art toy fan into a businessman who sells art toys, I have become much more aware of watching my bottom line. And when I find that a product line is simply not profitable, no matter how much I like it, I cannot keep selling it. I've abandoned dozens of product lines over the years. Kidrobot just happens to be the biggest, most obvious, most pivotal of these. I didn't write any blog posts about the others because it wouldn't have mattered.
But you, as an art toy collector, or a shop owner, should know what I'm doing, how this situation has affected Tenacious Toys.
I have noticed a decline in sales of Kidrobot products for the past 4-5 years. It's been steady. Every rule change forced my KR sales down. It became intolerable to me when I received my shipment of the 2013 Dunnys and did not sell ANY to my regular customers. When I complained about this on Facebook, two artists took pity on me and bought a few blind boxes. That, to me, is just sad, and it indicates to me that the Kidrobot product line isn't a safe bet anymore like it used to be.
This year I began selling hand-made custom and resin mini series on my site, a schedule which I've branded "Super Series Sundays." Today I released a resin figure called "Little Ox" which was made in Scotland by Creo Design. Several of my Super Series Sundays releases have sold out. This is what I want and need as a businessman- special, exclusive items that can only be found on my website. I cannot pay money up front to a company whose products do not sell on my site.
As a businessman, I had to make what my dad calls "a command decision" and so I did.
I still do have Kidrobot products in stock (2013 Dunnys still haven't sold!) but as I phase these out, they will not be restocked.
To my customers: I am sorry, but in the future you will have to purchase Kidrobot products elsewhere. There are tons of other great retailers that sell Dunnys.
To the other shop owners: Congratulations. I just reduced your competition by one.
To Kidrobot: Sayonara. It's been fun. Good luck.
To the toy collecting community: I am honestly not sure how all of you will take this. I'm too close to the issue to look at it objectively. But no matter how you feel, leave a comment about it under this blog post. I promise to publish all of them, whether you agree or disagree with me.
June 29, 2013
Scott Kinnebrew of Forces of Dorkness has just announced two new resin pieces available in his store right now. The Narwalrus Larvae is currently available in green or blue. But there's only one of each. And be warned, if you like a color you better grab it fast. Because each unique color way won't be duplicated!
Narwalrus Larvae are $30 with free US shipping.
June 28, 2013
From The Loyal Subjects collection designed by Les Schettkoe, the shirt is available in sizes small - XXL and is available for $25 on Sub-Urban Vinyl's website.
But his beauty isn't just skin deep. Little Ox features an articled head that attaches to the body via a set of strong magnets allowing the head to rotate freely. And topping it all off is the custom packing which features "nutritional info" on this little guy*.
-The Highest Fever
*Please don't eat your Little Ox.
June 27, 2013
Featured today is this trio of prints from SouJohn for the G.I. Joe show at Sub-Urban Vinyl a few weeks back. Featuring Scarlett, Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander, each digital print is 5"x7" and limited to only ten copies a piece. They are all available for $20 a piece right now on Sub-Urban Vinyl's website.
Snake Eyes print
Cobra Commander print
June 26, 2013
Hot on the heels of the release of his cherry-flavorway Octopup vinyl figure, Nathan Hamill presents his Curiosity resin figure in its new Lava Edition. Limited to 10 pieces, these 5" figures come in a mixture of semi-transparent yellow and red hues.
The Curiosity: Lava Edition is a Vinyl Riot exclusive and will be available this Saturday, the 29th, at 12PM EST.
-The Highest Fever
“Hurry!” I shout again. “We don’t have much time!”
Raindrops go pitpat on my head, and if I didn’t come back soon with a catch, Mr. V is going to pluck the feathers right off me. Oh, I remember the last time he trusted me enough to let me leave my nest and go searching in the forest for one of our visitors. I'll never forget that night so long as my heart beats and my head turns and my eyes go blink in the morning.
Thruuuuuush! The wind nearly knocks me over. It would be such a good night for flying games. But no! No, focus! This isn’t time for flying games. This is my chance to help Mr. V bring the final catch to his island. If I get this girl on the boat and to the island in one piece I will get my golden block! When I bring it back to my nest, all the other omens will say, "How did you get such a shiny golden block?" and I’ll say, "Mr. V asked me to catch the visitor," and they’ll say, "I don’t believe you!" But they’ll have to believe me. The golden block will be my proof.
Focus, focus! Is that her? Is it? There’s something coming through the trees.
It is! I almost flap my wings together, but I remember to stand tall (as tall as a little omen like me can!) and greet her with authority and poise.
“Ahem,” I say. “I see you have found the passage.”
I can’t help it! Flipflapflip! My wings sputter together and she jumps back in surprise.
“The passage?” she mutters.
“Why yes. The passage is right this way.”
I know if I stand there any longer she will ask more questions. That was my problem the last time, with the boy. I almost had him with me and he said, “Where does the passage lead?” Instead of saying, “It will take you right home,” I said, “The island of Mr. V, where all the children go.” He dashed into the forest and we never saw him again. Oh, how stupid of me! An amateur move. A thoughtless amateur move.
I hobble down the path as quickly as I can, but not so quickly that I get too far ahead of her. Her footsteps still make noise, crackling over the forest's debris behind me.
“Right this way!” I say. “Just a little further!”
At the bottom of the slope, the branches and the bushes clear and we are standing before the lake, the boat bobbing at the end of the dock. And there he is! Oh, what a sight he is, there in the flesh, waiting for me —for me! His horse mask catches the light from the moon and for a second it looks like those false eyes are generating the light themselves, that Mr. V’s eyes are made of fireflies. Just to be in his presence, to feel his power—that’s worth all the golden blocks in this forest.
“Good evening, Mr. V!” I shout. “Our guest has arrived!”
She emerges from the trees and her mouth opens at the sight of the water, but she does not speak.
“What’s your name?” I whisper. “I forget to ask you your name!”
“R—Ruth,” she stammers.
The rain starts to pour down all over us, cleansing the mud off both our bodies.
“Don’t worry, Ruth. Mr. V is strong, and when he starts rowing, the wind will dry you good as new. Now let’s go! We don’t have much time!”
I run to the edge of the dock and puff out my chest as she picks up her pace behind me.
“Ahem,” I say, bowing before Mr. V. “Ruth is here!”
“Hurry!” says the voice. “Walk this way. No, not that way, this way! Let’s go!”
I am lost, and the world is dark, and the forest’s mossy floor is cool on my bare feet. I was maneuvering blindly for—for how long? How long could it have been? I had opened my eyes in the depths of the silence, my head on a pillow of wet leaves. Heavy, swollen raindrops lost their grip on either the clouds or the trees and came down in soothing thuds on my face, drawing me awake and into this world.
I stood up and walked for what felt like hours, trying to avoid tree trunks and rogue branches, praying for the sun to rise. The wind kicked up every so often nearly tossing me aside, or perhaps I just let it toss me aside. I was tired and wanted sleep. Under the covers in my own bed would have been ideal, but I would have fallen asleep anywhere, just so I could close my eyes, because if I closed my eyes I would not be here, lost in these unknown woods.
“Hurry!” A voice. It doesn’t sound human, but I follow it anyway, tumbling over fallen trunks and roots. Mud gets lodged under my fingernails and I can’t get this grime off my skin.
“I’m coming!” I say, though I can’t be sure of which way I walk. This darkness is so thick I can’t even tell if my eyes are open or closed, if I am awake or lost in the labyrinth of my own dream.
It was almost impossible to even get her to come on board. That stupid, little creature could barely look her in the eye and lie. Eventually she came on after that little omen made up a pathetic story about a waterfall at the end of the lake, a waterfall that would take her home.
This will be the last time I ask this one to do anything. He’s more of a fool than I thought if he actually believes he will be flying back to his nest with one of my golden cubes. With him keeping watch I wouldn’t be surprised if we sailed into a rock. But he did get the catch. He got the girl. She’s the last one I need. The last one I need for the island.
Just then she talks. Her voice is feeble and meek.
“You aren’t taking me home, are you?” she whispers.
For the first time since she has been here, I speak.
“Nowhere near home," I whisper, letting go of a deep slow laughter that reverberates off the lake and echoes softly, deep into the darkness of her dream.
These three distinct vinyl figures are part of the most complex story ever told by coarse within the last 10 years. With a boat length of 16'' [40 cm], a width of 8.5'' [21.25] and a height reaching 11'' [27.5 cm], be prepared to unpack an impressive sculpture.
The elaborate group includes the huddled Ruth, the domineering Void gripping the oars, and his minion Omen keeping watch at the bow. All three characters have found themselves crossing the waters in a heavily loaded rowboat heading towards Void’s island in the night.
Twelve golden cubes are also on board, so Void will keep his removable Trojan horse mask fixed tightly to ward off any rogue omens who might try to swoop in and snatch his precious cargo.
Available July 6, 2013
Limited to 222 pcs
HK$ 3860 Includes global shipping* (That's about US$500)
Available for preorder only at the coarse online store at the following times:
08:00 am Los Angeles
11:00 am New York
05:00 pm Hamburg
11:59 pm Hong Kong
Each set contains one "family and friends" application card.