One of the areas that we tend to overlook when we talk about the toy business is the exciting area of adult collectibles. I was part of a panel discussion at this year's San Diego Comic Con and found myself at times almost overwhelmed (mentally and physically) by the crowds. There were longs lines of people waiting in line to secure tickets so they could yet again get in line to buy products from vendors at the show.
With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to speak with some people who are right in the middle of the collectibles market. They are Matt Westover, President/Co-Founder and Ben Westover, Creative Director/Co-Founder of Megalopolis.
Matt is a lifelong lover of action figures, as well as cartoons and retro video games. Before launching Megalopolis with his brother Ben in 2015, he earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Ben started collecting toys essentially as a toddler, and began his first toy business venture at 13–purchasing toys for resale from flea markets. He has worked in the industry for over 20 years., His personal collection is Masters of the Universe Classics–of which he owns every single item in existence.
Their attention to detail and customer service is notable as is their joy in what they do. Here is my interview:
Richard: What is Megalopolis?
Matt: We describe Megalopolis as the Comic Con lifestyle online. It's a big-tent pop culture experience with its own overarching attitude and product. While our core business is toy and collectibles retail, Megalopolis is so much more than that. Megalopolis is an immersive brand experience that brings collectors the hottest and most in demand items from around the globe, while also creating an engaging experience that brings the hobby to life so much more than traditional point and click online shopping.
Richard: I love the name Megalopolis and your character Toy OverLord. What are the origins of the names? And who exactly is the Toy OverLord and should I be concerned?
Ben: Thank you very much! I came up with both names while designing the initial framework for the brand story. With each brand I've worked on, I've always started with a pad of paper to scribble down ideas and concepts, and then worked backwards toward a fitting name.
I wanted to use the backdrop of a city because that imagery is so commonplace across different licenses and characters, but flip it on its head and make it a city based on toys. That made it so fun for storytelling — to be able to use real world big city issues in a satirical toy-based way. We also loved the idea of making a gathering place where all are welcome and catered to. 'Megalopolis' seemed the perfect word to capture that as much as one word can. Plus it just sounds neat.
When creating The Toy Overlord, I was writing out ideas for who this character would be and had written "almost like a Toy Overlord" as a description. It was so contrived and ridiculous that it fit the character's persona perfectly.
The Toy Overlord himself is a mash-up of elements that are prevalent across villains in countless toy lines so that he feels familiar to a huge cross-section of fans, and so they can accept him as a part of their own favorite world. He is the hapless would-be super villain that "rules" Megalopolis and longs to be adored by the citizens of his fair city. Unfortunately he is so utterly bereft of self-awareness that he never can quite understand how to achieve his goals. As far as being concerned, he would say you should be terrified of him, unless of course you shower him with the love he deserves for his legendary generosity. We would say the only concern is that he will make you laugh out loud at inappropriate times!
Matt: I myself have a reputation for being deadpan, monotone, sarcastic and cynical. All of these attributes are projected onto the Toy Overlord, given that I write the bulk of the character's content. He's the perfect outlet for my own ridiculous self-expression, and it just works in this context.
Richard: You claim to be a different type of digital retailer. Can you tell us what is different about what you are doing and how are consumers responding?
Ben: To the Megalopolis team, there is no industry in the world that provides more opportunity for fun and engaging commerce than toys and collectibles. Yet, entrants to date have never capitalized on this or given fans the ability to have the same sense of community and shared interest they have attending a convention.
Matt: To add–mass retailers offer a minuscule selection, poor customer service, and online stores that will ship your cherished item in a boring box with no padding, leading to damage prior to arrival. Other e-commerce sites are sterile, faceless, poorly-structured and treat their customer base like they are doing them a favor simply by stocking the items they want. "Fun" and "value" are simple concepts but still in short supply.
Ben: Megalopolis values every one of our citizens and works hard to have the best customer service anywhere. We offer live chat, phone support, social media communication, and email for fast responses. We have an active social media presence with up-to-date news. And we have, of course, The Mega Rewards Loyalty Program, which gives our citizens points for every dollar spent–redeemable for anything on the site. Our Bronze, Silver, and Gold tiers each offer their own quarterly incentives as well with additional free items! It is the only program of its kind for toy enthusiasts.
Every shipment from Megalopolis comes to the buyer in Megalopolis packaging, custom-made for shipping collectibles. Our box features both the Toy Overlord and The City of Collectibles. Inside you find your items wrapped in our signature purple bubble wrap and Megalopolis tissue paper. You’ll also find a Toy Overlord squishy and Megalopolis stickers, and (with orders over $100) a mint-on-card Toy Overlord mini-figure!
Matt: The consumer response has been amazing. As lifelong fans and collectors ourselves, we feel like we have our finger on the pulse of pop culture (more so than our competitors). Even still, we have been humbled by the loyalty of our citizens and the love they express for our brand. It has meant the world to us, and we work tirelessly to keep building the destination collectors have been wanting and deserve.
Richard: Who are the biggest purchasers of pop culture toys? Can you describe your consumer demographic?
Ben: We have an extensive and diverse group of customers. Collectibles are an amazing way for people to express themselves and to own a physical representation of something they relate to, or of a feeling they have. Whether you want to capture the excitement of a spaceship on the big screen, or an epic game-winning home run, there's a collectible that does the job. One of the most rewarding parts of what we do is seeing so many people who would never meet in any other walk of life connect over their common interests and fandom. It doesn't matter your age, race, gender, socio-economic status, background, your job, etc. ALL are welcome in The City of Collectibles!
Richard: Are pop culture consumers attracted to or inhibited by certain price points?
Matt: In our experience, no. That's not to say they aren't subject to the same economic realities that the rest of us encounter. What we find is that there are passionate consumers of products at all price points. It has far more to do with the quality of the collectible and how it speaks to the individual than the price tag. Our customers pay what the item is worth to them. If it's a well-made item that speaks to their sensibilities, then they buy it. If it doesn't, it wouldn't matter if it was 25 cents. It would collect dust. It's part of what makes working in this unique industry so much fun. It's all about fun and excitement and camaraderie.
Richard: I am interested in your white glove concierge service. Can you tell us about it?
Ben: As collectors ourselves, we know firsthand how obnoxious it is to receive an item you have been anticipating and find it on your door step beat up, with your item poorly packaged. We like to say flat rate really means cut rate, and the only "prime" you should trust around your collectibles is Optimus! Our boxes are custom made for us specifically for minimizing the risk of damage in transit. We also wrap each item in bubble wrap, tissue paper, and use packing peanuts. But it's not just about safety, it's also about style! Premium items should feel special, because they are special. That's why all of our shipping supplies are heavily branded with The Toy Overlord and Megalopolis artwork, so when you see the purple box on your porch you know it's something awesome!
We also allow our customers to choose any shipping carrier, and any service they offer, all at discounted rates. We find our citizens have as diverse needs in shipping as they do in their collections, so a fully customizable and personalized system is what is required to give the level of care they deserve! Every order also receives a visual confirm email, which has an actual photo of your very order being packaged!
What is next for Megalopolis and The Toy OverLord?
Matt: We have so many new partnerships and advancements in technology to announce over the coming months! It is so exciting for us to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the collector community, especially knowing we have unveiled only a small portion of what's to come! Our citizens can look forward to more first to market collectibles, Megalopolis exclusives, our own proprietary toy lines, and technology that will change the way collectors shop, get their news, and interact with one another! We can't wait to bring all of these things to life! And of course, The Toy Overlord will be there to guide us all along the way, in a style that only he can!