Gunpla building can be a tricky hobby to get into.
Very few of us are lucky enough to have an official distributor in our country, to be able to go into a local hobby store and see the assembled kits for ourselves. Most of us have no choice but to use various online stores, often waiting for weeks before we get our hands on the kits. Builders from Poland are in the same boat. It’s probably the main reason why, despite my love for Gundam, it took me so long to discover this amazing hobby.
For builders here in Poland, that changed in October 2017. This is when I first heard of GUNDAM POLSKA, the official Gunpla distributor in our country. Not long after, they attended their first major event and Gunpla kits started making their way to the Polish stores.
Recently I had the pleasure of talking to them about their initiative, current priorities, as well as plans for the future. Here’s what they had to say:
Hi! First off, what exactly is GUNDAM POLSKA and who are the people behind it?
Hello! GUNDAM POLSKA is an initiative aimed at bringing GUNPLA kits to the retail market in Poland. In addition, we want to do everything in our power to promote this awesome product! At this time GUNDAM POLSKA consists of two people – Kacper Olesiński, that’s me, as well as my long-time friend and business partner, Krzysztof Petryka.
When it comes to collectibles, the market is huge. Why did you choose GUNPLA? What’s your origin story?
First, you should know I’m a huge fan of anime, as well as Japan itself. It just so happened that I had a chance to visit Japan at the time. I figured I should bring something back from that beautiful country. My choice was GUNPLA. I got a kit for myself and another one for Krzysztof. That’s pretty much how we first fell in love with this product, a fan-favorite in Japan. As time passed, our business paths crossed. We wanted to start something new together, something that would bring us joy. Fast-forward to mid-2017, when Krzysztof got in touch with Bandai. There was no doubt in our minds – we had to jump at the opportunity and bring GUNPLA to Poland!
Bandai has rather few official distributors around the world, especially when it comes to GUNPLA. Was going into business with them difficult? What’s your advice for other companies trying to do the same?
Actually, once Krzysztof got in touch with Bandai, everything went rather smoothly. We had no trouble starting this partnership.
As far as advice goes – I’m not sure we’re in a position to give any yet. Remember – we’re just starting out. We can tell you one thing that works for us though – we don’t treat GUNPLA as just another licensed product, another fad that comes and goes. Treating those kits as something fresh and unique helps with gaining the market’s attention. Think of all the possibilities GUNPLA kits offer – it’s what makes them more than just another box on a store shelf.
You made a bold entrance, revealing GUNPLA to the Polish market during Warsaw Games Week 2017. What do you think of the last few weeks? Did the initial response meet your expectations?
That’s right! Those early weeks, or even months, are extremely intense and we’re giving this project 110%! The response blew our expectations away and we’d like to thank everyone for it!
Although for many people your WGW’17 booth was the first encounter with GUNPLA, the kits are not entirely unfamiliar in Poland. Some fans have been building them for a while, buying directly from Japan, myself included. In many cases kits can be found cheaper there. How would you convince us to buy them from GUNDAM POLSKA instead?
Currently our main priority is making sure GUNPLA kits are widely available in Poland – both in physical stores, as well as online. We’ve seen some mixed opinions when it comes to pricing and we definitely can’t prohibit anyone from importing kits on their own. We want everyone to be able to get their hands on the kits, quickly and easily. Without waiting two-three weeks for their order to arrive or having to pay extra tax and customs charges – something you’re probably familiar with. In addition, we’re working on Polish localization to further lower the barrier of entry.
Don’t get me wrong, but our goal is not to forcibly convert anyone. It’s to build a strong brand here, in Poland, because we love this hobby and want to share the joy it brings us.
I can definitely see where you’re coming from. One other thing your website mentions is 12-month warranty, which surprised me. What does this warranty cover? Do you offer part replacement service, something that’s currently available in only three, maybe four countries?
Warranty is there to secure buyers against faulty kits, as well as damage incurred during transport. Polish law has certain requirements here and we need to fulfill them. We obviously try to be as helpful as possible and we’re actively working on extending the support we can offer. I think the part replacement service you asked about will be available next year, in some form or another.
GUNPLA is nearing its 40th anniversary. Over the years, Bandai released hundreds of kits. Your offer, although diverse, is still far from complete. I know you’re planning on expanding it though – how often can we expect to see new kits?
We sell kits from all major product lines – SD, HG, RG, MG and PG. In addition, we just introduced the entire Petit’GGuy lineup. As for new items, we plan to introduce 10 to 15 new kits every two weeks. When choosing which models to add, we listen to the fans first and foremost. We encourage people to send us their wishlists – we will make note of them!
Aside from that, what other plans do you have for GUNPLA in Poland?
Our goal right now is to promote and strengthen the GUNPLA brand in Poland, to make it self-sufficient. In the long term, we’d also like to introduce some other Bandai products, like Dragon Ball S or Pokémon lines. That is for the future though, at the moment GUNPLA keeps us very busy!
What are your plans for promoting GUNPLA?
We noticed the best way to familiarize yourself with the kits is to see them in person. Which is why we’ll regularly run GUNPLA building workshops. We’ll be announcing them as we get closer to the events. In fact, we’d like to invite everyone to our booth at the upcoming Comic Con Warsaw Fall Edition. We will have some kits for our visitors to build! :)
Despite being popular in Asia and USA, many scale modelers are either not aware of GUNPLA’s existence or see them as toys. This is often due to a simpler, glue-less build process, as well as the fact they’re already molded in color, making painting the kits optional. Do you think you can convince Polish scale modelers to give them a chance?
We’re trying to avoid the term “toys”, since it doesn’t do GUNPLA justice, making the hobby seem lesser than it truly is. Additionally, we think that as the kits become more readily available in Poland, even the most seasoned scale modelers will be interested in trying them out! Especially the bigger, more complicated ones.
I think this is a good time to mention that GUNPLA goes far beyond just following the manual. With the advent of GBWC and Gundam Build Fighters anime, more and more builders have decided to tackle customization. From custom paint jobs and kitbashing to advanced scratch building and gorgeous dioramas, there are many wonderful builds out there. Would you like to encourage Polish builders to go beyond the manual and try customizing their GUNPLA models?
Yes! This is another big step for us. We have already started building some contacts within the modeling community, which we hope will help us popularize customization.
Speaking of, Bandai offers some products designed specifically for customization, like the Builder Parts line or waterslide decals. Are you planning on introducing those to the Polish audience?
At the moment we’re focused exclusively on model kits and expanding our offering of those. As for Bandai’s customization sets, we won’t be introducing them at this time. The reason behind it is twofold. First off, we’re pretty sure most of the advanced GUNPLA builders already have a sizable stash of those. On the other hand, many newcomers to the hobby might need some time before they feel ready to use those accessories. That said, we’re hoping to take this step sometime next year.
Yes! We’d love to bring the Gunpla Builders World Cup to Poland, hopefully as early as 2018. We hope to discuss it with Bandai early next year, we’ll be able to say more then!
Thank you for this chat and good luck!
Thank you very much! :)