The death of Toys R Us, in the United States, has made it extremely difficult to toy hunt. More often than not, we find ourselves reminded of what once was. The reality that we have to accept now is that our options are as limited as we think. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let us answer that question you already have in your mind. "Why don't you just shop online"? An excellent question. The first and best answer is that we want to choose which figure we want in person. Ordering online, besides the woes of shipping snafus which constantly plague us, does not allow us the choice of inspecting the figure for bad paint jobs or damaged boxes. What we get, with online orders, is what we get. Once in a while, we have all put a figure back that has had a damaged box or bad paint job. We want it to look as good as possible. This is why prefer not to shop online.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the list. We are wasting precious toy hunting time.
Walmart has recently announced they want to fill the void that Toys R Us has left in the toy market. "Walmart announced on Thursday (August 3oth, 2018) that it plans to increase its toy selection in some stores by 30% and expand its website assortment by 40%" (read the full article HERE on CNN.com). Heads up Walmart, we were already shopping at your stores for the past two years because Toys R Us barely put any new product on the shelves. If you are to expand your toy departments (already a wasteland of overstocked, outdated, products which no one wants), then by all means, fill up your locations. Our word of advice to Walmart is, you don't need to expand your department, you simply need to put items on sale more quickly.
So why has Walmart made our list then? The answer is plain and simple, Walmart Exclusives. That's right, the toy industry is feeding Walmart with exclusives that we want. When we hunt for the latest Marvel Legend or Star Wars: The Black Series action figures, we know there is a slim chance we may find something else we want. However, we clearly place Walmart at the bottom of our Top 5 list as it is usually is an afterthought, a moment of desperation, and usually just a waste of time.
Ah the next Walmart, honestly, has anyone else noticed how much Target (say with a French accent) as slipped? Their shelves are a mess and the toy department always looks as if a bomb went off. If they don't care anymore why did they sign deals with the Mego Corporation (as their exclusive retailer) and NECA (for full displays) to sell their toys and action figures? Target, you need to commit to these areas or else get rid of them all together.
Why do we still head to the Target? Again, it is for their exclusives. At first, they are few and far between, then a floodgate opens up and they have an overabundance of them. Certainly, when that particular exclusive lands, it lands hard and we can usually get them on sale. Target is also more likely to put new items out on a regular basis than Walmart. They do fall into the same trap of not rotating their stock (new items out on the floor, old items on sale), however, Target (subjected to the store manager's whim) will mark things down and move them out. Target also closes its doors at night, thus unboxed items are usually on the floor and available to be seen during business hours. More often than not we find what we want on a Target "boat", right out of the box.
3. Discount Retail Outlets
We went pretty broad on this one, Junkies. Why? Well, when we discussed this list at AFJ HQ, we realized that Target and Walmart are pretty much everywhere. However, in some parts of the country, there are no Five Belows, Ollie's Bargain Outlets, Ross, or Kohl's locations. Why do they make our list, then? It's always a crap shoot at places likes this. The best example right now is that Five Below has started to receive the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Marvel Legends. Initially, they were each $19.99 (MSRP). So getting them all would cost you over $139.99. Now that whole wave is $5.00 a piece. So if you wanted to complete with the Build-A-Figure by buying them all, it is now only $35.00. A wave you may have only bought one or two of becomes a lot more tantalizing at that price. Places like Ollie's Bargain Outlet (and more or less Kohl's and Ross) are the biggest gamble and part of the fun of hunting. Earlier in the year, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Muckman figure (pictured above), one of the most highly sought after and expensive rare figures in the line, started to appear. If you wanted him he was now $6.99 retail instead of $300 to $400 on eBay. In short, the opportunity for deals is very strong at the discount retail outlets.
Yes, they are a tad overpriced. We said it, you thought it. Now we can move on. Well before TRU was phoning it in, GameStop was satisfying the collector. How? They were getting Marvel Legends in before any other store. The new ones, the hard to find ones, the ones everyone wanted. Now GameStop is offering to pre-order the items you want (Pop!, Star Wars: The Black Series, and Marvel Legends). This makes it so easy to order what you want, look at it, and make the decision right then and there with the product in your had. Certainly, GameStop is charging a little more. Yet, how much are we spending in shipping costs (those of us without Amazon Prime), money in gas, driving around to various locations, and the additional wear and tear on ourselves trying to find the one thing everyone is posting they just got. It's like the getting reverse dopamine into your brain.
GameStop also has a shopper's incentive card "The Elite Pro" which offers a variety of discounts and deals. We've gotten better deals on the Elite Pro card in the past 3 months than we ever did with the TRU Rewards Card in its entirety. Another big reason we like GameStop so much is the size of their locations. They have to move product to accommodate for how much space they have, thus sales are readily available and rampant at times. Usually, you will find items discounted with additional savings on top of that. Each one may be different, but there are a lot of GameStops to choose from and that means there are a lot of opportunities to score.
1. Your Local Comic Book Shop
Let's face it, Junkies, it all started here. Why you love pop culture started with a place you took your allowance into and bought your escape from reality. You made friendships there and the owners usually knew who you were and what you liked. These business owners actually care and put forth the effort to make sure you get what you want. Without a doubt, you will pay a little more, but again, do the math: gas, travel, heartache... or pick up what you need for a few dollars more and have the additional satisfaction that you helped out a small business. We further appreciate the Local Comic Book Shop because it is here you have your best chance at getting the latest POP! Vinyl (if you are into that sort of thing) as well as the latest Diamond Select Toys and DC Collectibles releases. Comic Book Shops also have a steady supply of retro items. Far better than venturing to the damp and dank flea markets where scalpers run the show. It's a win-win when one patronizes one of these places.
Agree? Disagree? Junkies, we want to know your opinion. Please supply it in the comment section below. As for online shopping, we are currently acquiring that data. #AFJ4LIFE