I stand by that statement, I really do; Walmart is Terrible for Collectible Toys. When Toys R Us died because of investment bankers loading it with debt and taking their commissions as the ship sank, Walmart and Target had the opportunity to be the new Number One toy shop. And guess what– neither of them took it. They both failed to do anything beneficial (and financially advantageous on their end!) for this important audience.
However, someone over in the world of toy manufacturing didn’t quite get this memo that neither retail giant was making efforts to make waves in the toy world. No, no– there was an accidental winner in this battle no one realized they were having. Instead of leading the war like a strong, intelligent, calculated victorious warrior with their sword raised high and hammer ready to strike, Walmart somehow became the gatekeeper of exclusive toys and doesn’t understand what that means. It comes across like it was against their will! So, if there is a winner in this “Target versus Walmart Toy Battle”, Walmart was crowned the winner while they had a bite of Taco Bell dribbling out their mouth. Glancing up in surprise with wide, confused eyes, Walmart was named the toy collectibles winner that no one voted for. And you know what, it only managed to make Walmart even worse than before.
Editorial opinions and stream of consciousness aside, let’s look at the facts– Walmart has the buying power to get more product in stores, expand the toys sections, and fully stock the aisles. And guess what– it did none of these things. In fact, the store has shrunken the action figure section from two sides to one or (one and half) at store locations. Walmart is never fully stocked– not even close; usually these aisles are barren and unkempt.
I check multiple stores wherever I go on my runs, that is, I have a series of stores I rotate through and hit in succession on my toy hunting ventures. I used to do this with Toys R Us which is now reduced to just Target and Walmart. Target is usually stocked, but the main collectibles are always missing. Walmart is totally violated, wrecked, disrespected, and looks like the day after Christmas every single day. Trip after trip, it never changes and the aisles always look like trash.
Walmart is the new (horrible) leader of Collectible Toys and Exclusives for no reason and with toys that are impossible to get.
Walmart has really pulled to the lead for exclusives and hard-to-get toy items. The level of consistent failure here just nothing short of catastrophic. Release after release of arbitrary exclusives and highly desired toy items have been utter disasters. Walmart fails on every aspect of the sales. Collectors do their part and preorder items (assuming the product page is active, stocked, or not broken) and then the items are not shipped until long after those pieces show up on Walmart’s retail shelves. That last sentence is arguable if you live in an area with terrible distribution and toys never show up on your shelves at all. This is exactly what happened with my Real Ghostbusters Vintage Kenner action figures.
Now of course, all of this is contingent upon making sure you’re able to preorder during the tiny window of random time that Walmart deems feasible. The window of time for these online Walmart preorders can sometimes be 2-3 hours, and in other instances, it can be six minutes. That is not an exaggeration. In the case of the TMNT Casey Jones and Ralphael in disguise figures, that toy was available for six minutes.
Walmart was also the gatekeeper exclusive holder for the brand new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Origins toy line. Those links went live and the product sold out in minutes. Referring back to the aforementioned NECA Casey Jones and Raph two pack, it sold out in minutes. Leading right up to yesterday’s Back to the Future x Transformers Megawatt figure, fans are left unsure with vague details. Some people state that the item goes on sale today. Some state that the sales link went live yesterday and the traffic it generated crashed the page. Whatever the case, toy collectors are already seeing eBay listing going live, listing the 35th anniversary commemorative crossover Megawatt for sale with some outrageous prices.
Walmart can’t ship toys to save their lives.
Now, moving onto another topic of discussion– Walmart’s shipping and toy delivery condition. In short, their shipping is not set for collectibles. I am sure they can ship a wrench or waffle iron just fine. But we expect toys to be shipped better with more consideration and care. Even Amazon ships a single carded toy in a bubble envelope. What to do personally is that I always order toys in twos so that they have to give me a box. But Walmart’s shipping is coated in so much failure that even this isn’t enough.
I finally received my Real Ghostbusters Vintage Kenner sets just the other day, months after they hit the retail shelves. Remember, I had preordered these on day one of availability. And the condition of arrival was a travesty. The toys were in six packages and almost every toy was packed poorly or damaged in some way. There was no rhyme or reason for how they were stuffed into those boxes. I have to assume Walmart packers hate me, toys, their jobs, or a combination of the above. Looking at pictures of other peoples He-Man Origins toys that made their way around online toy groups, I could see that they where all beat up as well.
I want to think there is a round peg square hole test Walmart packers have to pass and my guy cheated somehow. At one point, a figure was bent in sideways into the box. Two of the boxes where overfilled with bubble wrap with the toys crammed inside, bowing the boxes and bending the cards. One box had no packing at all. One box had a bubble wrap envelope with the toy placed on top of it, not inside. I also received two in bubble envelops, both damaged.
Walmart is a Resellers Paradise.
So, what now? Walmart is not giving us anything to work with here. Their site is not made for collectible ordering. Their shipping, handling, and packaging is not set for collectibles. The stores are not restocking toys or collectibles. Their sporadic and seemingly random distribution does not give collectors a chance to even see certain toys on shelves. The corporation don’t understand the wants and needs of the collectible market. And yet, exclusive after exclusive is being handed to them and the collectible toy buyers are out of luck. This of course leads to a new wave of Walmart resellers.
The mismanagement of all these factors has generated a perfect storm for the secondary market. Now this did not birth the secondary market by any means. That would be an ignorant statement to make. But what it has done is pour gasoline on the fireworks. In addition to hike ups on limited and broken preorders, Walmart stores are also infiltrated by part time sellers. Most of the toy guys running areas in Walmart only take that job to make more money selling stuff online or out the back door. Which means, again, that the next has been poisoned by venomous drones who will never allow these toys to see the shelves if by chance the distribution in that store isn’t trash.
This army of inside-job toy sellers at Walmart is very true in the LA area, you can see it in action at Frank and Sons (a well known vendor warehouse where collectibles are sold). The moment a toy is an Walmart exclusive, you can sign that sigh of defeat because you know you’re already screwed. The stores are ravaged and eBay is king. You can’t buy your toys online at Walmart and you can’t buy it in stores. If you really want it you are forced to buy it from secondary market. That’s where the insane mark ups are, but once a collector really wants a toy, it’s hard to convince them not to pay these premium prices for the piece.
It’s almost like if Walmart knew what they were doing and gave any inklings of a damn, they could order a normal stock of the toy and make those millions of dollars for themselves. But who wants that, right?
How can Walmart do this better?
At this point, what can Walmart do to make things better? For starters, preorders need to be allocated in greater numbers. The super limited (to only 1,985 pieces Gigawatt Transformer) was gone in seconds. The best model to get your collectible toys is Super7’s made to order preorder service. You have a month to order and after it’s made, blamo, it is sent to your door. Hasbro did a couple of pieces using this model, such as Jabba’s Sail Barge, Unicron, and the Regal Cobra Commander. The advance time needed works for limited exclusives and the numbers can be made to order.
As far as shipping, Walmart needs to take a hint from Target, who packs its collectibles almost as well as BigBadToyStore. In the store, they need to stock the shelves and limit employee purchases to cut down the back door sales. With a little work they can use that buying power as a force for good, and not its current model which is shown to be one of apathy that discourages and frustrates customers.