What to Expect for the Rest of 2021
I decided to write this post to serve as a single response to the questions we receive asking when specific kits will be complete and when we think they will be released.
It's no secret that 2020 was an unexpected year: the arrival of Covid-19 and how it touched all of our lives was something without precedent in living memory. Covid impacted every aspect of society, and its effects continued to be felt into 2021. Beginning toward the end of 2020, manufacturers big and small began to see supply shortages for key parts. Because we're a "small fish" in the big pond of manufacturing, in some ways we were lucky (we don't usually order large quantities of parts, so for us parts were usually easier to obtain than for large companies), but in other ways we were challenged (since we do not order in bulk, we often had to pay much higher prices).
We expected the supply chain would rebound in 2021, and that both prices and supply would return to more normal levels. As you have likely seen in your local stores and many online outlets, that has not been the case. In fact, the supply issues this year seem to be worse than in 2020, something I don't think anyone expected.
How does all of this relate to Brickstuff and our kits?
Unlike our competitors, every new kit we make includes custom parts that require custom manufacturing steps. When other companies release new lighting kits, what they are really doing is just packaging different combinations of existing parts. For them, making a new kit is easy, because there's often nothing "new" that goes into a new kit. For us, making a new kit is a special project that often requires weeks or even months of engineering, testing, ordering parts, testing again, and revising.
As just one example of this process, this year alone we have created 11 new revisions of our TRUNK08 master effect controller (the controller in our kits for the Millennium Falcon, Hogwarts, and Disney Castle). We are constantly making improvements to our controllers, and our new kits will be based on the next generation of this controller with new features that will support our kits for the next 3-5 years. Because of that, we want to make sure we're getting everything right before finalizing the new design. Each revision of the TRUNK08 controller requires 2-3 weeks to wait for prototypes to be manufactured, then we assemble each prototype by hand in our shop and test it. If you add up the total time to make and test those 11 new revisions of the TRUNK08 controller, that's 22-33 weeks of time-- and that's just for one controller.
We're not just working on making our controllers better. This year we've also been working on several new lines of adapter boards and an entirely new system for creating large-scale sequenced lighting effects such as those for airport runways. We've also been developing a sound-reactive lighting system, a full line of control systems and signal systems for LEGO trains, and a full line of adapters that will allow parts from any manufacturer to be used with parts from any other manufacturer.
It's a huge vision, and making it into a reality has consumed much of the year for us. We never want to make "just another light kit"-- we want to create amazing components that will enable you to create effects and installations you never dreamed of.
If you imagine all of these new products and technologies being tested and revised, each with a 2-3 week development time for every revision, and you also imagine us working hard every day to keep all of our 175 products in stock and also working to keep up with orders for our Premium kits like the Millennium Falcon, Disney Castle, Hogwarts, and our new Ecto-1 kit, you can see how we're always burning the midnight oil at HQ even if it doesn't look like we're making progress on our new kits.
Lately, supply for many of the parts we need to keep making our products has begun to fall short, meaning we're now spending multiple days every week just trying to get parts from our suppliers. We're not unique in this, but again since we're small, in many ways our problems are magnified. As supplies have fallen short, many suppliers have increased their prices. As just one example, the price of the little controller chip used in our small effect controllers rose 600% this year. In another case, a part that normally costs $0.10 now is sold for $1.10. We don't just work hard to create amazing technology-- we also work hard to keep the costs of our kits reasonable, so we also focus hard on finding affordable parts.
The good news here is that we're having success getting parts, so none of our kits are in danger of going out of stock. Keeping things moving forward smoothly is our top priority, so you always know you can trust us to be here for you before, during, and after you make a purchase.
The not-so-good news is that we're going to have to push into 2022 for all of the new kits we've been planning to release this year. That means we won't have kits ready this year for the LEGO 10273 Creator Expert Haunted House (really a bummer for me, with Halloween coming up and so many good ideas planned for this kit), the LEGO 75252 Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer, the LEGO 21318 Ideas Tree House, the LEGO 75978 Harry Potter Diagon Alley, the LEGO 75290 Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina, or our long-awaited update for the LEGO 75827 Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters. All of these kits are still planned for as early in 2022 as we can get them finished, but finishing them requires that we first complete our new technology platform. We're very close, and I think we will have the core elements finished by December 2021, but I don't want to set any false hopes that these kits will be ready by Christmas 2021.
While this is disappointing to us as I'm sure it is to you, we still have some good stuff in the queue for 2021, including light kits for the LEGO Winter Village sets and a light and SMOKE set for the LEGO 10254 Creator Winter Holiday Train. Stay tuned to this Forum for the latest updates about these kits.
As always, we work hard to create kits with features you can't find anywhere else, which is why I love coming into work every morning. Thank you for reading this very long post! I hope it helps explain some of the reasons we've appeared quieter than normal on the Forum, and while the new kits we've discussed for a long time aren't yet available. I continue to hope that the supply chain issue improves in 2022 and beyond, and we've learned a thing or two about smart supply chain management this year that will better enable us to keep things moving smoothly next year.
I'm incredibly grateful for the continued support of our customers around the world who, like us, share the goal of creating something extraordinary.