At this point, should customers be assuming most of the older items are in the "reduced for clearance" bin (even if they're not actually reduced)? If I look at something like the basic pauldron or proton packs or great helms, is it safe to say once they're gone they're gone? No more restocks or new colors or such?
Nothing has been made official about any items being retired, but that reality is inevitable. Some of the items have become outdated and frankly deserve an updated version. Others may be either updated or renewed on a new mold as they fit into the newer way BrickForge does production. You are correct in noticing the increasingly infrequent restocks. I have however, recently noticed some of the older items have been getting screen printed updates to make them more practical and desirable. Take for instance the screen printed blades and round pauldrons with the crown and cross prints. BrickForge just isn't overly concerned with advertising them like in the past. I like to think of it as a nice reward for fans that happen on them by chance and makes you look at other items to find hidden gems (its worked on me :P).
On a related note... is there any point to The Melting Pot now? The tighter, more uniform theme would seem to rule out many random suggestions (said as the guy who's posted half the random suggestions in the past few months). Is it still worth posting things there?
The Melting Pot is still important and relevant. BrickForge just has more avenues open than it did in the past, like Flickr and Facebook. It's really more of a change in social media than anything. There is indeed a tighter, more uniform style of how BrickForge plans out their items and releases. Random suggestions have many purposes even if the majority don't seem to get used. I have more contact with Armothe than the average fan, and a lot of our conversations are....random suggestions.