Thursday, July 31, 2008

FedEx Air Shipping & Saturday Delivery

We serve a lot of customers who want their stuff within 24-48 hours, no matter where they are, and I've always wondered how 'Brand X' gets away with charging a customer for 2nd Day delivery, and then taking a week to ship the order out... hmmmm.... it's like hey, thanks for nothing, but I'm sure they are too busy to do better and I stopped trying to figure them out a long time ago...

... so anyway, as many of you already know, if you are a US customer and select FedEx air shipping on your RACS Anime order up until about 2-3pm (EST) we ship your order the same day for delivery the next business day or in two business days if you select 2nd day air. So if you place an overnight order early on Tuesday afternoon, you are going to get it Wednesday morning. There is no 'you might get it' or 'most orders arrive the next day' or 'ships next day but takes an additional 1-2 days for processing' kinda thing going on. Hey, we choose our warehouse location partly for it's proximity to the airport and the regional FedEx air depot (it's only 2 blocks away) - we're pretty serious about this stuff.

So with that in mind, there are a couple of features of how we handle 'FedEx Air' orders here that I thought you guys might like to know:

1) FedEx Air orders, no matter when they are placed, go right to the front of the line and get processed before any other class of orders.
2) FedEx Air orders get priority for inventory allocation. This is the only time that inventory is assigned to orders in a manner that could be considered 'less than fair'. Though it does not happen very often, let me give you an example: If we have 1 unit of a PVC Figure left in stock, and we get 2 orders for it over the weekend, on Monday we would assign it to the first order that was placed - except if the second order is an 'Air' order. In that case, the air customer would get first preference for the inventory, and we would backorder it for the other customer. Bet you didn't know that. :-)

Air customers pay extra for priority treatment, and that's what they get - plain and simple.

So great, we offer FedEx air express shipments, and we get them shipped right away. What's the catch? Well, one issue we run into is this: FedEx delivers on a business day schedule. If your order ships out on Friday, and you select 2nd day, it definately will NOT get delivered on Sunday. It gets delivered on Tuesday, which is 2 'business days' later. Same thing with overnight. A Friday Overnight shipment won't be delivered until Monday unless you specifically check the 'Saturday Delivery' box and authorize us to add the additional $18 fee that FedEx charges for this service, and that's only if your address is inside their Saturday delivery area. Sometime it's not even available.

And speaking of FedEx Air parcels with Saturday delivery, there is a pricing anomaly that appears sometimes. A Thursday shipment going out 2nd day with Saturday delivery added can sometimes be more expensive than a regular Next day air shipment that would be delivered a day sooner anyway. We run into that from time to time, and when we do - if Overnight is cheaper - we toss out the Saturday option and just ship the order for next day delivery.

Just a little info to help you guys understand our FedEx air shipping service.

Have a great evening!

Bob (aka Robert)

Note 1: I want to mention that our FedEx International service is a little different, but those orders typically ship next business day and get delivered where ever you are in the world within 48 hours. In my opinion that service level is worth the extra cost no matter how you cut it. Those parcels get handled with kid gloves too.

Note 2: Just for fun, we're planning to offer a same day delivery service through FedEx later this year, so an order placed at 10am here on the East Coast could be delivered by 3-4pm the same day on the West Coast 3,000 miles away. It will be REALLY expensive, but we think it will fill a niche among the 'gotta have it RIGHT NOW' crowd. :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Funimation Will Begin Scheduling Former ADV Titles Soon

Everyone is asking us about the status of the ADV titles Funi is going to re-release. Since I've already answered this question via e-mail over 100 times, I thought I'd go ahead and post about it :-)

Today Funimation sent us this formal statement:

ALL pre-orders that have been placed for the batch of titles that used to belong to ADV films (but are now going to be released by Funimaton) will remain open and on the books until Funimation finalizes their release schedule for these. We have left the following releases up for pre-order with no current release date:

Devil May Cry, Vol #3, Level 3 DVD
Kanon, Vol #6 DVD
Pumpkin Scissors , Vol #5, Battlefield of the Heart DVD
Red Garden , Vol #6 DVD
Shattered Angels , Vol #2 DVD
Shattered Angels , Vol #3 DVD
Tokyo Majin , Vol #4 DVD
Welcome to NHK, Vol #5, 5th Conspiracy DVD
Welcome to NHK, Vol #6, 6th Conspiracy DVD

None of these titles will be out in August like the rumors floating around the Anime boards are suggesting. Don't be too concerned about the stated 'packaging changes' either. They have the change the logo's and such, and all the UPC and studio codes so that retailers cannot try to return their extra ADV to Funimation. Other than that, it looks like the releases will remain as is, and will begin release in October. We'll post that information in a couple of weeks as soon as Funi passes it on to us.

Friday, July 04, 2008

ADV Implodes, Funimation Picks Up ADV's Former 'ARM' Licenses

Well folks, stuff is going down. And this is supposed to be my day off! :-)

Funimation announced yesterday that they had finalized a deal for many of Geneon's former titles. We knew that was coming. What we didn't expect was this:

Today Fun answered all the questions about what the heck is going on down at ADV. Funimation has now officially signed a deal with ARM corporation for the following former ADV titles:

Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy
Air Gear
Air movie
Air TV
Blade of the Phantom Master
Comic Party: Revolution
Coyote Ragtime Show
Devil May Cry
Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor TV
Jing, King of Bandits: Seventh Heaven
Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora (Shattered Angels)
Le Chevalier D'Eon
Moeyo Ken TV
Moonlight Mile
Murder Princess
Nerima Daikon Brothers
Pani Poni Dash!
Project Blue Earth SOS
Pumpkin Scissors
Red Garden
Sgt. Keroro 1st & 2nd
Tokyo Majin
UFO Princess Valkyrie
Venus Versus Virus
The Wallflower
Welcome to the NHK

So we're going to be making a lot of changes to our store catalog over the next few days. Any ADV stock we have on the above titles will become 'limited to stock on hand', and we will await further info from Funimation on how and when they plan to start re-releasing these series. I think we can also assume that the successive volumes of Kanon, NHK, Wallflower, Tokyo Majin, Devil May Cry, and Shattered Angels that ADV failed to release are in fact 100% canceled. I doubt Funimation will be reusing any of ADV's old ADR and will likely re-release these series in the future starting from vol #1 again or more likely as boxed sets.

I feel terrible for everyone who invested in these series in anticipation of ADV finishing them, but unless you have been in denial I think everyone knew ADV has been hanging on by a thread since January - and I have not made any secret of their problems in my weekly newsletters this year. The failure of ADV to finish these shows will hurt us also in terms of lost sales and unsold inventory on the incomplete shows, so the pain will be felt all around.

I read through the threads on ANN and AOD regarding this briefly today, and a lot of fans and wanna be business scholars are speculating on exactly what happened, but I think it's very simple. ADV has been plaged by serious cash flow problems this year. When your business partner becomes unable to make regular royalty payments, you pull the plug and look for another one that can, and Funimation is currently the strongest player in the R1 industry. They currently have 30% of the US Anime market in terms of sales. Genji has always been the smartest guy in the room in this industry, and has Navarre corporate financing backing him up. He's clearly looking to give Fun a 50%+ market share by next year, and in the process do in a few competitors. That's just good business. Personally, I don't see how ADV will survive after this. There is no way they can make it on re-releases for any length of time. Who will give them financing now? How can their revenue stream ever recover? If they do, they don't have much chance to be a significant player in the industry anymore.

I think fans would have more sympathy for ADV had they been more forthcoming about their problems earlier on, but that's not the way they do things. It's been well known in retailer circles for the past 3 months that none of ADV's new releases have sold well as many fans no longer trusted them to finish the shows. Moonlight Mile, Project Blue Earth, and Shattered Angels all came in with abominable initial sales. Kanon did well with the directs like us, but was a disaster in retail chains like Best Buy and Amazon. I have always felt deep down that they have tended to carry a certain hidden contempt for the fan base (and their retail partners) that has been built into their corporate culture. Gary Steinman (he was the former head of NewType) told me once (in 2006) that he felt like the Anime fan base were mostly 'a bunch of whiners' (a comment that shocked me, mostly that he said it to ME), and there was no love lost between me and him when we heard he was out last January. While we have always have excellent relations with Bandai, Funimation, and Viz, our relationship with ADV has had a lot of bumps over the years. They have always found it difficult to work with us whenever a situation would arise when we were more concerned with the fans wants or needs than with just selling whatever priority they had at the time. I have never felt their strategy to dump excess inventory into the marketplace was wise, and we have showed that by not becoming an outlet for their unsold junk like so many other retailers. There are some really good people over at ADV, but the guys in charge have never run that company the way it should have been. We had the a similar experience with Geneon in that once Denstu took over, they became all about 'pump and dump', and never cared too much about the fans concerns. Looking back, it's not hard to see how these companies end up where they are.

I hope everyone has a great July 4th. Jamie and I are heading out this evening to see the fireworks.

UPDATE: For the last couple of years I have heard execs at both Funimation and ADV blame much of the industry's profitability problems by pointing the finger at each other for bidding up licenses too high. It would seem that Funimation is out to finally solve that problem. By consolidating more than half the R1 market into one company they will finally have some pricing power in negotiations with Japan, so I see this as a net positive for the R1 market over the long run. It will also give Funimation a lot more contract flexibility in choosing how titles are released, and when, and will put pressure on the other healthy studios (Viz, Bandai Ent, and Media Blasters) to handle their businesses better.

UPDATE 2: Our local fireworks show has been rained out until tomorrow. ~sigh~

UPDATE 3: Gen Fukunaga's (Funimation) confirmed at his keynote address at AX that they now indeed have all rights to the 30 titles ADV produced in the last 2 years, but he also said that "for the ARM titles, we are in talks with ADV for continued production", so that means they are looking to finish ADV's ADR on the incomplete titles and then probably re-release them with dubs completed by the original ADV voice actors. Why shouldn't they, it would be the quickest and least expensive way to bring these titles back to market and please the fans at the same time. Kudo's to Funimation for this.

UPDATE 4: Ledford's (ADV) keynote address at AX was a prepared speech, and the mood was quite somber. He said this has been a very tough year for ADV, but that they are working on a deal with another Japanese partner for new licenses and additional financial backing. They are going to wait until Otakon to make any announcements about that to "wait for the blood to dry". ADV's characteristic 'tower booth' at AX this year has been replaced by a simple DVD sales table being run by an ADV employee who also owns a local DVD shop. Ledford said their partnership with Sojitz has been very difficult from the beginning because they tended to concentrate "on the spreadsheets", which means they were worried about unit sales and ROI on their titles. It's clear ADV was not producing for them in a satisfactory manner, causing them to pull the plug.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dentsu Wises Up - Funimation Signs Deal for Geneon Titles

Well they finally announced it! I was hoping we would get the word ahead of AX.

Funimation announced this morning that they have signed a deal with Geneon to distribute a cherry picked selection of Geneon's licenses, but the titles they are picking up are the ones we needed:

FUNimation Entertainment obtains the exclusive rights to the manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution of established Geneon titles, including international successes "Ergo Proxy", "Hellsing Ultimate" and "Black Lagoon". Among the first titles to be released includes the special edition of "Hellsing Ultimate". Follow up releases include "Black Lagoon Second Barrage", “Karin”, "Kyo kara Maoh! Season 2", and "Lyrical Nanoha".

Additional titles include: “Black Lagoon”, “Elemental Gelade”, “Fate/stay night”, “Kamichu”, “Ninja Vixens”, “Paradise Kiss”, “Rozen Maiden”, “Rozen Maiden - Träumend”, “Shana”, “Shonen Onmyouji”, “The Familiar of Zero”, “The Story of Saiunkoku”, “When They Cry”, and “The Law of Ueki”.

Dentsu had been in serious talks with Genius Entertainment a couple months ago about picking up the whole catalog, but Genius backed out because of a couple of key deal points. One of them was that many retailers, including us, refused to sign off on certain lousy contract arrangements related to prior invoices and credits, and stock rotation terms. The folks in Japan finally relented, and went back to Funimation with their tail between their legs. Any revenue stream from a small selection of titles is better than no revenue at all. You know if they got Law of Ueki, the deal was a giveaway, and all I can say is good for Funimation! I couldn't have worked out better for us, we have the best relationship possible with Fun.

You can read the entire press release here on ANN.

I've got a conference call scheduled with our gal at Fun this afternoon. We'll see what info they have, and any release info will be updated on the site as it comes in. We'll all be doing a little happy dance this afternoon...

We're still following up on the ADV situation, anything going on there will be added to this post.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with our gal at Funimation. They are expecting to have some initial release information to us on Monday next week. She told me that they are expecting certain Geneon catalog titles to become available for order in August, and new titles should be in the pipeline to begin release in September.

UPDATE 2: As promised Funimation provided us with their plans today for the first batch of Geneon releases and re-releases for August and September, and the best part is that the first DVD's are less than six weeks away. The following titles are now available for pre-order:

Geneon / Funimation New Releases:

Black Lagoon Second Barrage, Vol #1 DVD

Black Lagoon Second Barrage, Vol #1 Limited Edition DVD

Black Lagoon Second Barrage, Vol #2 DVD

Fate/Stay Night Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #4 DVD

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #4 DVD Limited Edition

Karin, Vol #4 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #7 DVD

Paradise Kiss Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set

Rozen Maiden Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set

Shana (Shakugan no Shana) Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set

When They Cry: Higurashi, Vol #4 DVD

Geneon / Funimation Re-Releases:

Black Lagoon, Vol #1 DVD

Black Lagoon, Vol #2 DVD

Black Lagoon, Vol #3 DVD

Black Lagoon, Vol #1 Limited Edition DVD

Black Lagoon, Vol #2 Limited Edition DVD

Black Lagoon, Vol #3 Limited Edition DVD

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #1 DVD

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #2 DVD

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #3 DVD

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #1 DVD Limited Edition

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #2 DVD Limited Edition

Hellsing Ultimate, Vol #3 DVD Limited Edition

Kamichu Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set

Karin, Vol #1 DVD

Karin, Vol #1 DVD w/ Limited Art Box

Karin, Vol #2 DVD

Karin, Vol #3 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #1 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #1 DVD Limited Edition

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #2 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #3 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #4 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #5 DVD

Kyo Kara Maoh!, Season 2, Vol #6 DVD

When They Cry: Higurashi, Vol #1 DVD w/ Collectors Art Box

When They Cry: Higurashi, Vol #1 DVD

When They Cry: Higurashi, Vol #2 DVD

When They Cry: Higurashi, Vol #3 DVD

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some ADV New Releases Now 'Suspended Indefinitely'

We've been keeping on top of ADV regarding the 6/24, 7/1, and 7/8 releases. As of today both the Shattered Angels 2 and Kanon 6 DVD's have missed the street dates. A couple of weeks ago we got the word that these releases would probably be shipping late due to 'replicator problems', however late last week the status was changed to 'on hold'. Since then I've been following up with ADV daily.

I just got the word this morning from ADV that the following new releases have been 'suspended indefinitely':

Shattered Angels , Vol #2 DVD
Shattered Angels , Vol #2 DVD w Art Box
Kanon, Vol #6 DVD
Tokyo Majin , Vol #4 DVD
Welcome to NHK, Vol #5, 5th Conspiracy DVD

I did not inquire about releases out past 7/8. This is just a quick post, and I'm currently working to get some clarification on what's going on.

UPDATE: FYI, a small number of NHK 5 did ship - mostly to Best Buy - but others may have gotten a few copies as well. ADV had a special ongoing promotional arrangement in place with Best Buy for NHK, and they did seem to get a small pressing out to them before they had to pull the plug (for reasons still unclear). I can't comment right now on the other titles.

UPDATE 2: It's been difficult to get anymore hard info from ADV this afternoon, but I'll post more as it comes in - but only news I've been able to verify with at least two sources at ADV and that always takes time. If nothing else, ADV should shed some light on what has happened at their Anime Expo panel this coming Friday afternoon. The 'deer in the headlights' deal we went through back in February isn't going to cut it this time.

UPDATE 3: Just wanted to make a note that any copies of the above titles that we are able to obtain would strictly have to go to fill existing pre-orders.

UPDATE 4: Following up on more e-mails that have come in. This posting does not mean that ADV is out of business, but it does mean that they are still experiencing serious business problems. We've been quietly accumulating extra inventory of their thin-paks for the last few weeks 'just in case'. As of now they are still shipping the new thin-paks and restocks to us. We received the new Divergence Eve thin-pak today, and the FUMOFFU re-issue arrived a couple of days ago. I think we'll be taking things day by day with them for now, and again, their panel at Expo should be very interesting.

UPDATE 5: 'Suspended Indefinitely' means exactly that - their words, not mine.

UPDATE 6: It's defiantly a licensing issue - again. Our sources at ADV confirmed this morning that any retailer who might have received a few copies of any of the above titles got them strictly by mistake as "they are no longer allowed to ship those titles".

UPDATE 7: At the ADV Sneak Peak panel at Anime Expo on Thursday afternoon Matt Greenfield let us know the deal - ADV has officially separated from its Japanese licensing partner Sojitz. He said this means that the status of 'recent titles' are now "fate undetermined". That's industry speak for 'we're probably screwed'. We're working to get a full list of actual names in place of 'recent titles'. As a bright spot, he did say that they are negotiating for 23 new titles. How nice for them.

So the question is: 1) can they actually afford to license new material, and, if so 2) do they still have the resources to produce it - and lastly 3) will the fan base ever trust them to finish any series that they start. I mean, they had to sell the desks and chairs to buy Matt a plane ticket out to AX...

...come on, you know I'm just kidding about that... :-)

...but I don't say any of this stuff lightly. We're going to loose ten of thousands of dollars in business due to the cancellations, much of which was booked in advance. You have to wonder how much ADV management knew about when this deal would end while they still continued to rush these volumes out the door. I had always felt it was very peculiar that they had scheduled Shattered Angels 2 and 3 only 3 weeks apart (6/24 and 7/15) - seemed like they were in a awful hurry to get them on the street before ? what ?. Thanks Matt, enjoy AX - you guys really screwed us again.

Sorry guys, I'm a like cranky this afternoon. It's been a long day. I hope you all have a great long weekend!

UPDATE 8: Funimation answers all. See my post here.