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 2011 ? ~ Schleich Company ~ Masters of Suspense ~

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sphyrna18



Country/State : Pennsylvania, USA
Age : 34
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PostSubject: Re: 2011 ? ~ Schleich Company ~ Masters of Suspense ~   Fri Jun 17, 2011 6:26 am

bom
Wow! You're really serious about this. I'm sorry, I didn't realize this was such a hot topic. Allow me to clarify that I'm not looking to debate this. I have absolutely no insider information, and as I stated in my first post, the market data I have is not recent (at least 2 years old). Ultimately, who steamrolls whom or if no one is steamrolling anyone else, it doesn't make a bit of difference to me. I simply thought it was relavent to mention that although few years ago Schleich seemed like a steamroller, I watched as Safari replaced Schleich in many of the places that had been Schleich strongholds. Some of those places still have Safari for sale, some do not. It's rather like watching FAO Swartz: First they had this outstanding Schleich section, then about 6 months later, Safari usurped that throne, only to be overthrone themselves by Schleich a short time later, followed by a coup de Safar, etc., etc. etc. I don't know that either of them has a fabulous display there now haha. No

The point is, quite frankly here on the East Coast, Schleich is the rare animal, at least from everything I've seen in my travels. Safari can be found pretty easily, especially in every museum/zoo gift shop you stumble into. Schleich? Not so much. Schleich was at Target, Toys R Us, and Tractor Supply. Most of the Targets I've been to in the last year have dropped Schleich from the shelves, Toys R Us only really focuses on the Fantasy figures , and Tractor Supply has a vested interest in the Farm animals, for the obvious reasons. However, Safari is readily available in AC Moore, Hobby Lobby (who also carries Papo What a Face ), Michaels Arts & Crafts, and HobbyTown USA. I've found Safari in Borders Books as well. And seriously, did I mention in every museum and zoo gift shop. No lie. Safari used to be available in the Einstein Educational Resource centers, which I'm not positive are still open (I don't shop there anymore, as I moved), and they also found a niche in some of the party supply stores. I've even seen them in Spencer's Gifts (basically a souped up novelty store/adult book store) WooHoo!! cheers

That said, I'll try to address some of your questions. Forgive me if I miss anything or jump around, as I am writing this as I have time (which is to say, a sentence here, then attending to work, family, etc., and a sentence there, ...)

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
... With all due respect, a few press releases in Dubai do not constitute much evidence of a sea change in their production and marketing approaches.

Are you sure you are not conflating a longstanding practice with an assumption about Safari's overall worldwide marketing plans? I'm not saying that there isn't a link, but merely that you haven't provided us any evidence of this beyond naked assertions. Do you have links to press releases by Safari or other salient documentation you can provide us with?

1. I never indicated there was any change in their production and marketing approaches. 2. The press releases I mentioned were in the publication Playthings, which is/was a toy industry publication. That publication has since become absorbed into a much larger industry publication Gifts and Acessories or something; I no longer follow it as closely. But I think the fact that a major toy industry market publication was unable to sustain itself is bad sign for the industry as a whole, althogh that is really neither here nor there. If I get time, and that's a very doubtful if, I will locate the press releases and post a link. But as I've little enough time to even post as much as I have, don't bank on getting those links. Otherwise, check Safari's Facebook page. That's where they posted the request for suggestions of non-North American animals and the reason why. Or, assume that I'm so full of bull that my eyes must be brown. Your choice geek

Quote :
As far as Safari goes, the scuttlebutt among collectors I've heard in the last three years, for whatever it's worth, is that Safari has fallen on fiscal hard times and is struggling to compete without a strong worldwide retail presence in the Western markets.

I've heard the same, and I think that is totally reflected in their offerings going a few years back, and even today. Last year was all but abysmal IMO. Very few new animals were produced. 2011 saw a modest upswing, nothing like the glory days when they had Carnegie, Wild Safari Dinos, Wild Safari Sealife, Wild Safari Wildlife, Incredible Creatures, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Tenessee Aquarium Salamanders, Snake Kingdom, Dinos of China, Dino Discoveries, Vanishing Wild, Baltimore Aquarium Poison Dart Frogs.... All basically going at the same time. It was awesome. The 90s were a great time, eh? But the bubble crashed on replicas. Heck, I still remember the Earth Store haha, which was a dream come true. I digress: the point is, from everything I've seen, Safari seems to be in an upswing. Perhaps they are truly desperate, but their presence on Facebook, their interaction with fans, collectors, and casual consumers, their generosity, not only in charitable donations, but in the fact that it is really not hard to get free stuff from them... Those are generally signs of company with fairly solid footing financially. There are exceptions to every rule, but companies usually follow basic rules of behavior. When they are stressed, they withdraw and focus their resources on survival. They tend to not be overly eager to reach out to others, they respond only to what is necessary, and they do not invite undue scrutiny upon themselves that may bring their weaknesses to light. They also don't debut their upcoming products almost almost a year in advance - too much chance for lost enthusiasm, too much opportunity for bootlegs/copycats, etc that can reach the market beforehand. Safari's behavior over the past 12 to 24 months has been the exact opposite of all the behaviors associated with a struggling company. If they have reached China, they don't need the Western markets to stay financially stable. Not for now, at least. Don't believe me? Talk to an oil exec. China is a goldmine. Following close behind that is India. These are countries with increasing middle classes and substantial (read: HUGE) populations who are spending their hard earned money on luxury. Couple that with the considerable wealth of the Middle East (hello, Dubai!!!), and a lot of the Western market woes are allieviated. I'm not positive that's happened. I have no proof that it has. But I know that when I was watching a special about Goblin Sharks in Japan, the Japanese experts had Safari Ltd. figures in their labs and around their computers. (The Wild Safari Mako Shark was even being used as a monitor buddy by one of them!). Not that Japan has a strong economy, quite the opposite overall. But the Japanese people do spend money hand over fist.

Quote :
You also mentioned the Carnegie Collection and Monterey Bay Aquarium lines, which are both fantastic, IMHO. However, both of these lines are relatively ancient, and I don't believe that they have generated the retail sales figures that Safari initially hoped for

Carnegie is anything but cheap anymore. Have you seen their 2009 Spinosaurus?! Anywhere from $20 to $27 is the going rate for that beast. Yes, the older figures are dirt cheap, but the newer ones? Not so much. The value of the retired figures has little to do with whether or not they sold well, unless they are dirt cheap because everyone has them. These figures were available forever, really, and I think they sold well enough that both lines are still in production today. Trying to find some of the retired figues, btw, is also nearly impossible. Try to track down an original Carnegie Protoceratops or Smilodon. If you can, let me know, coz I want them.

Also, MBA, from the rumors I've heard, is getting a full makeover in 2012. BUT, that is just a rumor I've heard. Don't quote me on that. No, I will not reveal my source for that rumor, as I'm not sure he would want me to do that. How reliable is he? I guess we'll see in 2012. Suspect

My point about these lines, though, was that while they still focus tremendous attention on scientific accuracy (vs. Schliech, for instance, who can't even make a proper Orca, go the love of God! What is with that eye patch?), they no longer seem to put emphasis on the scale, which could actually be significant. The Japanese, for example, are not very concerned with scale. From what I can gather, and it isn't much, the Chinese aren't really, either. However, Americans and Europeans tend to be much more focused on scales. Don't believe me, hop on over to the Japanese toy gurus in the Godzilla fandom, and they'll educate you mighty fast as to why you will never get true scale figure collections out of Japan. They make several references to China, btw, as well. My point being: these very accurate lines that seek to educate aren't pandering to a very real market value in Western markets. What's that you say? Schleich and Papo don't either? Papo doesn't claim to be educational, do they? I should hope not, since there is nothing educational about their JP Dinosaurs. Schleich? Well they produce a scaled dinosaur collection - kind of - or an approximation of dinosaurs. But they stick to scale, religously.

The Wild Safari figures are educational, I guess. Back in the day, they used to include facts like the animals scientific name, as well as some key physical or taxonomical data. Now they give a few cursory "cool facts", which is wonderful and all, and I suppose it even makes it an educational figure, but nowhere near what it used to be, IMO. Wild Safari was Safari's "Budget" line when it was introduced. Slowly, and sadly, it has become the predominant line, although, luckily it offers a pretty amazing range of creatures, and they have definitely improved the quality of the figures, many are still very much toys. As I said earlier, figures from the Vanishing Wild made better statues and, in a pinch, blunt force weapons, than they ever did toys.

Quote :
I may well have underestimated Safari's financial footing, but it seems to me that Schleich is a "streamroller" and that, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much of an alternative to it in the marketplace,

I'm seeing quite the opposite here on the East Coast. I have to really search to find any Schleich anymore, while Safari is in every kind of hobby/craft/party supply/novelty/niche store as well as in all museum and zoo gift shops. I suppose it really depends on the market. Thinking back to like 2001 to 2004 or so, Safari was obsolete, and Schleich was readily available. But that hasn't really been the case in a few years. Again, just my own personal observations. Once the 3 "local" Targets (by local I mean within 50 miles) stopped carrying Schliech (for all intents and purposes), I have been hard pressed to find any new figures in local stores. Regardless of Safari's financial footing, Schleich doesn't appear to be doing really well from where I'm standing. Which doesn't please me, btw, as I collect Schleich as well.

Quote :
It seems to me that another possible approach by Safari might be to establish itself as the dominant online presence by undercutting Schleich's woefully overpriced new figurines. No retail presence needed, low overhead, and an emphasis on Safari's high design and production standards might well carry the day in the long term, it seems to me. In addition, it might create a web "supersite" which would allow visitors to access educational materials and external links about each figurine produced and utilize this approach to market its figurines as dual-purpose as toys and as educational materials. Such a site could be utilized to introduce customers from around the world to the fauna in emerging market regions and also might be a powerful tool in developing programs to be marketed to schools in all geographical regions.

Safari used to have a nice catalog they put out like two or three times a year. It was a retail catalog. Then they stopped selling directly to consumers for quite a long time. Now, it appears they are open for retail business again, recognizing, I'm sure, all the benefits you stated above. Also, look:

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

All the educational information compiled in one place.

I would say that the internet is definitely their domain at present. They have a massive Facebook presence, constant online contests, etc. I see them definitely being internet savvy. Safari seems to have embraced the idea of being a company for the consumers - willing to interact with as well as consider the suggestions of, a very supportive fanbase. I see them only getting better and better at it in the coming years as well, leaving those companies that remain closed off from the public far behind.
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sphyrna18



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PostSubject: Re: 2011 ? ~ Schleich Company ~ Masters of Suspense ~   Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:11 am

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
Okay, I'm going to do the unthinkable - reply to my own comment...! I've now done my research at safariltd.com, and I was floored by what I didn't find there.

A quick count revealed 41 trade show appearances in 2011. Almost all of them are in the USA or EU, with single shows in HK, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Melbourne. Not even a single show in any the "emerging markets" you referred to.

A look at the roster of available wildlife figurines shows that other than the few species you listed, most of which have been available for several years, the great preponderance of Safari wildlife figurines represent species indigenous to North America and the EU or very popular species from Africa, etc.

The listing of linked news articles and press releases dates back to 2006. Only one of them really references an "emerging market" and that is the one authored by Ramona Pariente, President of Safari, Ltd. The first paragraph reads: "This year we participated at the Middle East Toy Fair for the first time. We heard about the exhibition from direct mailings sent to us in Miami, Florida. I decided to try out the show since, being familiar with the Middle East through various business trips, I was almost sure that this was an emerging market that should be taken seriously. We have always sold before in the region, but never on the level I thought we should be."
She never visited any retail outlets, and evidently, her only contact was with those interested individuals who came to her booth, many of them teachers. She said she made some contact with local retailers, and that as a result, Safari product was being sold at Geant and one educational store (all in Dubai, evidently).

Nowhere else in the entire website could I find anything that in any way referenced any of the "emerging markets" you have referenced.


If I were to critique, and I'm not, I'd have to ask that you next determine how many trade shows were held in these "emerging markets" in 2011 that Safari did not attend. To say that they didn't attend any trade shows in those markets means one of two things: 1. they simply opted not to attend, or 2. there are no trade shows to attend. I don't know the answer to that question. But maybe you want to find that out for your own personal knowledge.

That said, Dude, seriously?! You actually counted the trade shows their attending? I'm not sure what your motivations are here, as my original post made references to these "emerging markets" on which you seem to perseverate as points of interest/consideration. I found some of the trends to be interesting, and the comparisons between the two business models to be of moderate intrigue. I thought perhaps some others on this board would as well. I'm sorry if I have somehow offended your delicate sensitivites regarding toy animal market shares in the United States and abroad. You obviously have much more invested in this than I do, or you're simply looking for a fight. Either way, Mannheim Steamroller is still from Omaha, and my observations of Safari and Schleich abundance in and along the Mid-Atlantic States is as valid as yours is of Schleich abundance whereever it is you're from. Good luck to you in getting the evidence you need to either believe what I've asserted or irrefutably prove me wrong, either of which I welcome. Til that time, I'll be happily collecting whatever figures I stumble upon, regardless of who produced them or for which market they were intended or what the motivations were that led to their creation.

Perhaps I'll retire this "discusssion", and it is retired, with the words of the infamous Billy Joel: "I look and I write my book and I walk away with the wrong impression. Don't care, coz I've done my share, and I need some time for my own obsessions." king
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schleich61



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PostSubject: Re: 2011 ? ~ Schleich Company ~ Masters of Suspense ~   Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:57 am

Thank you for your meaty replies, Sphyrna. I want you to know that I have found all of this to be a rather amusing exercise. In no way have you offended my "delicate sensitivities" nor am I "looking for a fight." However, I am laughing so hard as I type this that I am definitely going to have to proofread this missive before publishing it here... Laughing As for the points debated, I think we can agree that each and every member here can judge for her/himself as to the relative merits of what we've put forth.

You're an a most amusing fellow, Chad, and my research DOES indicate that you are correct about at least one thing - Mannheim Steamroller ARE an American band (we're comin' to your town, we'll help you party it down, we're an American band). At least, Wiki says so, and that's good enough for me! By the way, have you ever considered running for political office? If you ever do, you can count on my vote, and I might even volunteer to walk a precinct for you!


Here's some more Billy Joel - right back at ya!

"Friday night I crashed your party
Saturday I said I'm sorry
Sunday came and trashed it out again
I was only having fun
Wasn't hurting anyone
And we all enjoyed the weekend for a change

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just might be a lunatic you're looking for
Turn out the light
Don't try to save me
You may be wrong for all I know
But you may be right"


God Bless and God Speed..... Wink
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Kikimalou
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PostSubject: Re: 2011 ? ~ Schleich Company ~ Masters of Suspense ~   Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:03 am

scratch ... What a Face ... study ... cyclops ... scratch ... cheers


Very very nice discussion, I learned a lot of things here and I like it, even my poor english improved... Wink

I was the first to used the name "steamroller" and maybe it's the way we feel the change in Europa. I hope we will see more "hot topics" soon Very Happy

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