Around the Toy Aisle – Pre-Black Friday Edition

Walmart Toy AisleWith the full start of this year’s Christmas shopping starting next week with the Black Friday sales, I thought it would be fun to see what’s hitting the local stores.  Over two weeks I stopped at four Walmarts, three Targets and two Kohl’s stores, KMart, two Toys-R-Us and a Toys-R-Us Express, two Five Belows and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.  There were a few sales already in place and you could also find deals with coupons and free gift cards.

Toys-R-Us

Toys-R-Us Hasbro RC Republic Gunship CasesAbout two weeks ago I was in the Johnson City, NY store and was happy to find the new 2-packs of Class II Assault Vehicles (which will be on special this coming Black Friday) and picked up the Republic AV-7 Mobile Cannon and Obi-Wan Starfighter.  They also had the Lost Line of figures (probably 2 – 3 cases), the new exclusive Darth Maul Ultimate FX lightsaber and plenty of miscellaneous Star Wars toys from Transformers Crossovers to Class I to models and plush.  The oddest find was in the top stock; they had 59 cases of the Hasbro Radio Controlled Millennium Falcon.  That’s 118 toys, 119 when you add in the single vehicle that was on the end cap.  No idea what they’re doing with them since they aren’t in the Black Friday ad.

My local mall has a Toys-R-Us Express installed this year, after having skipped the last couple, and while they do have some interesting items, there isn’t a huge selection.  The two best pulls came in the form of the 2009 Hot Wheels Star Trek ships and a sale on the Lego Planet Series of Star Wars sets which, with coupon, were only $6.15.

The Horseheads, NY store was packed when I stopped and I also made the unfortunate mistake of wearing a red fleece vest the day I was there.  Every time I turned a corner I was stopped and asked for help.  Between interruptions there were some interesting things to see.

The store had received the Lost Line of Star Wars Vintage Collection figures along with the new 2-packs of Class II Attack Vehicles.  The huge Vintage Collection Millennium Falcon was on a shelf with the MTT, all of the exclusive multi-packs were in stock as was the Speeder Bike.  There was also a decent selection of older Clone Wars and Movie Heroes (and a few Saga Legends leftovers) figures, vehicles, battle packs, Class I Fleet Vehicles, models and plush vying for the cramped shelf space.

The various Marvel Movie lines dominated one end of the action figure aisle while Transformers anchored the other with the TRU exclusive Masterpiece Edition Thundercracker and Optimus Prime.  There was a decent selection of Transformers Prime Deluxe figures, including some of the newly released First Editions.  Generations Deluxe were on the pegs also and, on the day I was there, were on sale for Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off.

Lego was stocked to the rafters but the recently released Darth Maul minfig (free with $25 purchase) was nowhere to be found.  There were plenty of Series 8 and a few Series 7 minifigures scattered around and the Lord of the Rings sets had an end cap all to themselves.

With the release of the new Halo game, all Halo toys were 25% off and I picked up a 2-pack of Minimates, which I’ve recently developed a new appreciation for.  The DC Batman line from Mattel had a lot of aisle space and there were even a few leftover G.I. Joe: Retaliation toys to be had.

Toys-R-Us has been offering a lot of coupons and sales over the last couple of weeks and the sales are sure to get better as we approach Christmas.

Walmart

Walmart Obi-Wan Darth Maul Lightsaber 2-Pack ExclusiveWalmart has been hit and miss and with the toy aisles shrinking in most stores, it’s probably going to be more miss in the future.  At the local store there haven’t been any new Star Wars figures stocked since the Clone Wars wave with Commander Fox in it showed up unexpectedly a little over a month ago.  They aren’t carrying Class II vehicles anymore (besides what’s in the clearance aisle) and didn’t stock the MTT.  Their Class I Fleet Vehicles are stale…February stale.  The one recent highlight was an unexpected exclusive in the form of an Obi-Wan and Darth Maul Lightsaber 2-pack for $34.86.

Batman, Avengers and Spider-Man dominate the toy aisle at this time with Transformers shoehorned in.  All of my store’s action figures fit on one side of the action figure aisle, with about 20 feet of shelf space.  Lego fairs better, nearly a whole 40 foot aisle with some on both sides, next to the Mega Bloks and KRE-O toys.  They have a decent selection of Star Wars sets along with all of the Lord of the Rings offerings and most of the City sets.

The Horseheads store isn’t much better space wise, but they did have some leftover Lost Line Star Wars figures and I actually found the Aayla, Nom Anor, Wedge Antilles, Kithaba, Evazan and 501st Clone Trooper figures on the pegs.  There was nothing of note on the Movie Heroes, Clone Wars or Class I lines, and they didn’t have Class II vehicles either.  I should note that both stores did have leftover Discover the Force exclusives, and the Horseheads store had still had some of the harder to find characters like G8-R3 and Aurra Sing.

Marvel movie lines, Batman (which had a 4-way aisle display) and Lego all were well represented and if you like Hot Wheels, the huge dump bin (Horseheads) and the end cap display (Ithaca) augmenting the regular peg space was sure to have what you were looking for.

Both stores in the Binghamton, NY area were pretty much the same.  They have had some wave 2 Movie Heroes figures and that’s the only place at retail that I’ve seen the light-up Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn figures.  Unfortunately, missed the Jar Jar and Padme figures from the wave.  Not much else stands out but I did spot the Republic Dropship at one store.

Target

Target has been in bad shape all year.  Locally we’ve seen three stockings of the Darth Malgus, Anakin, Luke and Imperial Navy Commander wave three times but we totally missed the Deleted Scenes wave and there’s no expectation of seeing the Aayla, Tarkin or Lost Line cases here.  Class I Fleet Vehicles did see one restock with the Republic Dropship, but has mostly suffered from Episode I overload.  Class II vehicles keep getting restocked but they’ve all been Prequel Vintage Collection or wave 1 Podracer cases.  That’s why we have no Naboo Fighter.

Lego has been in stock, including this year’s Advent Calendars, and there have been some good sales with coupons and a $10 gift card with purchase.

Again, the action figure aisle is dominated by Marvel movie properties and Batman, but Halo has also enjoyed an expanded presence with the new micro lines from McFarlane Toys.

Horseheads didn’t have anything I can’t find locally but did beat my store, by a couple of days, in stocking the Christmas seasonal section.  Look for holiday bobbles, Fighter Pods 2-packs and lightsaber-themed lip balm on the Star Wars front.  Probably the best buy this year is the bagged Lego Batmobile set.  It’s a clean, excellent looking build and for $4, you can’t go wrong.

The Vestal, NY store offered up a Republic Dropship and taking advantage of the Lego $10 gift card offer, came home for only $8 out of pocket.  I picked up the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar to get the deal so look forward to daily posts again this year as I open it in December.

KMart

The Toys-R-Us Millennium Falcon, Ewok mulitipack and Speeder Bike set are very nice but I think KMart wins this year’s exclusives game.  With the AT-ST and 2-packs of Ewoks and AT-ST Drivers, their exclusive offerings form a cohesive set when purchased together.  For the last week or so they’ve been on sale (2-packs for $12.99 and AT-ST for $29.99) which, if purchased together, puts them in the area of the Ultimate Battle Packs Target has had in the past.

The Horseheads store also has seen both the Tarkin and Lost Line waves, with a few leftovers in stock, along with Class I and II vehicles.  Their Marvel movie offerings are smaller than either Walmart or Target but they do have a decent size slot for Batman.  Lego is stocked, but they usually only have one or two of the larger sets and mainly keep things under $50.

Although I’ve pulled some excellent finds out of this store, especially on older merchandise, there wasn’t as much to look for this time around.

Kohl’s

I normally don’t shop at Kohl’s very often, unless I’m looking for something specific, but when the holidays roll around it’s always worth checking out their toy section.  The store is also known for sending out free $10 gift cards, which I had in this case, so I put it on my list this week.

Locally I didn’t spot anything, although I only looked in the toy aisle, but the Horseheads store had a few leftover Clone Wars and Movie Heroes figures.  I passed on those and instead tracked down their holiday ornament section where I spotted a couple Hallmark Star Wars offerings.  They had the TIE Interceptor and General Grievous along with ornaments from other properties (the Back to the Future DeLorian, for example).  For $10 off, the Grievous was a good buy.

Five Below

Five Below is an interesting store with their mix of discount toys and books next to newly released trading cards and Lego sets offset by a large candy offering, sporting goods and jewelry.  For the second time, Five Below has been the recipient of a decent selection of Vintage Collection action figures priced at an acceptable $5.00.

This time around it was the 2011 Wave 2 case which included the AT-RT Driver, Dagobah Landing Luke Skywalker, AOTC Clone Trooper, General Lando, Weequay and Fi-Ek Sirch along with some repacked figures.

But the most interesting thing about this release is the Revenge of the Sith Clone Trooper (Utapau).  When this was originally released in early 2011, the figure suffered from a helmet that was turning green in the packaging.  it was molded from a softer plastic and the deco was a little off.  The Clone Trooper showing up at Five Below has a new helmet and the bubble has been resealed to the card back with tape.  Apparently, Hasbro made a change to later cases of this wave but they never hit normal retail.  At $5, if you like the 212th Utapau Clone Trooper deco, see if you can find a Five Below near you.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet

If you’re a fan of Transformers or Iron Man, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is sitting on a lot of toys you might be interested in.  They’ve also been the outlet for some missing G.I. Joe vehicles but recently, if you’re a Star Wars fan, the most you’re likely to find are a few books for the kids.

Still, Ollie’s has added a lot of stock for the holiday shopping season and you’re likely to find some older Hot Wheels toys, Marvel movie figures for Captain America, Thor and Iron Man 2, Transformers and Green Lantern.  The local store also has a decent selection of Young Justice figures and some 12″ Matty Collector figures of Superman and Lex Luthor.

Wrap Up

There aren’t a lot of upcoming Star Wars offerings for Black Friday, the best being the 8-packs of Star Wars and Avengers figures for $25 at Walmart, but with the Lost Line hitting Walmart and Toys-R-Us and the Malgus wave making a late appearance at Target, we could possibly see some stuff break loose as parents start looking for things to fill Christmas wish lists.  If nothing else, the sales coming this Friday will drive traffic to stores and pegs of toys, no matter how stale to collectors, will start to move.

The Vintage Collection is coming to an end and the packaging is changing on Movie Heroes and Clone Wars so what doesn’t sell will probably hit clearance.  While we’ve suggested in years past that waiting for the clearance might not be a bad idea, this year it’s harder to judge.  It’s probably a safe bet the Phantom Menace figures will most like make it to the discounts, figures from other movies in the Saga will probably go early, as will the Clone Wars toys.  We also wouldn’t recommend waiting on store exclusives, even the Millennium Falcon.  Full price on that may be tough to pull off, but Toys-R-Us will be offering up all sorts of general discounts that could be applied to it and if they played it safe on the order, it could disappear for the holidays.

We also wouldn’t recommend waiting for the sale this week on the Toys-R-Us 2-packs of Class II vehicles.  If you see the Mandalorian Transport and want it, buy it.  It’s worth it even at $40 and you can either decide you got a “free” vehicle or, if you’re like me, count it as two $20 vehicles (since I didn’t have the Starfighter it’s packed with).

It now appears that the 8-packs at Walmart will have older Saga Legends figures, newer (wave 1, anyway) Movie Heroes and Clone Wars figures in them.  According to the report on YakFace.com, those Clone Wars offerings even include the hard to find Wolffe, Scuba Ahsoka, Aayla and Boss.  Again, if you want them, may not want to wait on those sales unless you can be at the store at opening.

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