Hasbro, Inc. (HAS): A Board Game Just Told You How to Invest. But Did You Listen?

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Board games rarely give us much insight into the real world — they’re meant to distract us from our everyday lives and provide us entertainment as we attempt to outsmart our opponents. But read on and you may begin to think differently…

Perhaps the most well-known of all board games is Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS)‘s Monopoly, an icon among the board game industry for eight decades. Hasbro, wanting to keep up with the times, recently noted its interest in eliminating one of its eight game pieces in favor of a new game piece, and allowed its fans to vote on which piece to eliminate and which new piece to select.

Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS)The results were announced yesterday, and for those of you who previously dominated St. James Place with the iron, you may want to turn away now. Hasbro announced that, as of mid-2013, it would be eliminating the iron and replacing it with the cat (the piece which actually garnered the most votes overall).

Pandering or priceless truth?
On one hand, this seemed like shameless pandering as Hasbro attempts to do what it can to keep its board game franchise fresh. For those sectors represented by a piece on the precipice of elimination (the iron, the wheelbarrow, and the shoe), it gave those industries added publicity and a chance to increase awareness of their products via social media avenues like Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter as the public closely watched the final tally.

But beyond that superficial layer of shameless plugging, there were quite a few real-world trends worth taking note of.

To begin with, note the introduction of the cat into the board game. At no point did the dog icon face the threat of elimination, and the cat actually garnered more votes than any other piece. This is merely a representation of what I’ve been trying to browbeat into readers over the past few months: that pets are transcending beyond just companions and are becoming part of the American family. Zoetis Inc (NYSE:ZTS), the recent spinoff from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), sold $4.2 billion in pet medications and vaccines last year — almost all of which comes directly out of patients’ pockets because they rarely buy insurance for their pets. People will pay whatever is necessary to ensure the health of their family pet and that often results in hefty margins for Zoetis.

We’re also seeing this trend in brick-and-mortar stores like PetSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ:PETM) . In almost every retail sector we’ve witnessed a shift from in-store shopping to the convenience of online shopping. Pet-centric stores are one of the few exceptions to the rule as PetSmart reported a 6.5% increase in same-store sales in November while online meds provider Petmed Express Inc (NASDAQ:PETS) has witnessed sales stagnate. Pet owners still prefer that one-on-one interaction for their pet rather than an informal online purchase.

An era of reform
The removal of the iron, and the near-removal of the wheelbarrow, are also significant and can be spun a few different ways.

The iron and wheelbarrow both come with the inference of housework and farm work, two generally unappetizing activities to the majority of people. To me it appears as if people are seeking fun pieces to reflect their personality and trying to dissociate their game piece from their home life; or they could be trying to escape their homes altogether. This can be seen in two different connotations: Either people are expressing their interest in travel, or they’re expressing interest in working outside of their home.

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