A tale of two Walmarts

It's time to share some more coveted inside information that all toy collectors should know!

I know all too well that I'm a lucky bastard. My town is big enough that there are two Walmarts. If I'm willing to drive, there's one about 20 minutes north and 20 minutes south of here. If I go west, there are two Walmarts in that direction; if I go east, there are three more. Basically, I see a lot of different Walmarts, so I notice things other people don't - including the fact that not all Walmarts are created equal.

For instance, look at this Walmart:

The action figure area is one aisle long, with stuff on both sides. Pretty average, right? If this was your Walmart, you wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary, right?

Yeah, okay, well look at this one:

The action figures still cover both sides (I know it's hard to tell from this angle, but they do) - but they also get two aisle-lengths of floor space. You can see the gap about halfway down.

Those two stores are only a few miles apart, but one of them has twice the space handed over to toys? What sense does that make?

It happens because, as much as people love to hate on the store, Walmart caters its merchandise to its clientele. A store that does a brisk business in electronics will have a larger electronics department with a better selection; a store that doesn't have much grocery competition will grow to accommodate the food shoppers. And stores that do better toy sales will get better toys. This practice isn't just limited to Walmart, by the way: does your Toys Я Us carry DC Direct toys? Some do, but my local one never has - but it does stock a ton of Minimates when others don't seem to have any.

Now, clearly this is a self-perpetuating cycle: Walmart #8675309 may not sell very many shoes, but if the company never sends them any, their sales won't have the chance to improve, will they? Of course not! Managers have some say over this - if they think they can improve in an area, they can ask the Distribution Center to send them more product. But they have to think the demand is there, so they don't get stuck with stock that's going to sit around until clearance time.

It's not just a question of the amount of product these stores receive, but the actual kinds as well. Look at those two photos above: which store do you think got in the Crime Syndicate box set and the Green Lanterns? Which one do you think got in Captain America and Thor? Which one had the multiple complete sets of DCU Classics Series 5 that I picked up for everybody? Which one let me do this? When I look back at all the Walmart-exclusive toys I've gotten, 75% of them came from the "good" Walmart, but it's not just that: the first GI Joe Renegades/30th Anniversary toys I found were there, as well as some hard-to-find Star Wars figures, the DC Action League and the Young Justice deluxe sets. How about the comicbook Iron Monger figure that everybody went nuts for? Yeah, it was all at that store.

On the other hand, the "bad" Walmart did have some Joes that I still have yet to see elsewhere, like the ultra-rare Zombie Viper and a few others, and they have their Episode 1 display up already, so sometimes they are ahead of the curve. But not often.

When I said in the Thor and Captain America reviews that I found the figures at the more toy-friendly Walmart, people didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Well, now you do: not every Walmart has the same toy department, so if you've ever felt like your store doesn't get in the good stuff, you may be right...

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19 Responses to A tale of two Walmarts

  1. Monkey Boy says:

    If I feel like driving I can hit around 5 or 6 wal-marts, and while none of them is super great with toys, there are definitely differences. Two only have one side of an aisle devoted to action figures.

    • yo go re says:

      Yeah, they've both contracted a bit in the post-Christmas refractory period, but one is still noticeably better than the other...

  2. PrfktTear says:

    I could easily hit 4-5 Wal-Marts just driving on my way home from work. If I wanted to expand my radius a bit there are another five or so stores I could hit if I wanted to do a bit of driving. Some of them are clustered like Walmart #2904-Brockton, Walmart #2122-Avon, and Walmart #2227-Abington are all a stone's throw from each other. Sometimes if its late-night and I feel like driving I can hit up Walmart Supercenter #2021-Raynham and then its only about a twenty minute drive to Walmart Supercenter #2336-Plymouth.

    Not only do they vary in layout and merchandise selection but some of them even have a huge difference in pricing. One might be quick to clearance certain items while others hardly ever.

    While we're comparing big box stores, its funny how you can have so much disparity between Wal-Mart stores but most Targets are almost always the same.

  3. Pete says:

    The weird thing for me is--the same Walmart that let me snag that entire Giant Man series back in the day? Was a "good" Walmart then, but now it's a "bad" one--the action figure aisle is short (maybe 15 feet long), on the end by the bikes, so there's only one side, and the only thing there is Transformers and Star Wars, with whatever the flavor of gimmicky kids toy of the month is. There's zero Mattel DC or even Hasbro Marvel stuff. One day it just up and got terrible.

    • yo go re says:

      One of mine did that: the one to the south used to be good, which would make it worth driving down there every few months. Now it's gotten so bad that the last time I was driving by on my way from somewhere else, I didn't even bother to stop...

    • monkey boy says:

      yeah, there's a wal-mart that's about 2 minutes from my work so sometimes i stop there on my break when i need something, but i'm inevitably disappointed when i swing by the miniscule toy section that doesn't even have GI joes. only one side of an aisle is action figure related, across from that are hot wheels cars and stuff.

  4. Pete says:

    I should add too that even the "good" Walmarts around here don't have shelves that are that full of product.

  5. Nazgul says:

    Just to compare notes here, my tiny little spit of a town has one walmart, and action figures get maybe 2/3 of one side of an aisle. Same thing for Lego Mega-bloks and Kre-o, who all have to share that 2/3. Thing is, they tend to get new product relatively quickly, usually faster than the one that's a bit of a pain to get to in the next town over, that has at least seven HUGE aisles of toys.

    You know what the real problem with Wal-mart is? The employees, from the managers down. I used to work overnights in toys, and the managers CONSTANTLY ordered too much product, which they forced us to cram on the shelves (which is against policy, but you would be fired if you didn't). Well, the reason they ordered too much is because Wal-mart automatically orders new cases when they sell so much of a product. The aisle managers also order new cases of products that have an empty placement. When those products that SHOULDN'T be on the shelf in the first place start selling, you just keep getting more, and more, and more.

    That's why smaller stores tend to get the vanishing last waves, and the newer stock faster: less product means less chance of ridiculous over ordering.

    • yo go re says:

      That's a good point: but you have to be there at just the right second to find those holy grails. For instance, I'm still looking for Renegades Storm Shadow. Haven't seen him on pegs once...

  6. Professor says:

    I wish I had multiple Walmarts in my area. I have one, which falls under the "bad" category. Then I have one only slightly better 30 minutes away. My Walmart is so so bad they barely keep their grocery section stocks. As for toys actions figure get 20 feet of space that's it. MY Walmart doesn't carry DC Universe, Marvel Universe, G.I.Joe, and numerous others. Heck, they don't even carry 3 3/4 inch Spider-man line. As for the stocking to clientele if that is true for Walmart then my local Walmart is screwing the pooch on that one. The local Walmart opened up about 4 and half years ago to much fanfare etc. Everyone in town demanded a craft section with fabric etc. sewing and whatnot are huge in my area. No craft section or fabric, hell they don't even carry thread and needles anymore much to constant complaint. Everyone has to drive 30 minutes north to the slightly better Walmart that everyone agrees is dirty and has poor service. I wish I had a good Walmart in the area or even just other stores... Closet Target, Toys'R'Us, Wegmans, etc. is about 1 hour and 10 minutes away.

  7. Anthony S. says:

    I wish i had just one walmart in my area! the closest one is a 2 hour drive!!!

  8. Dead Man Walking says:

    Wait, so this article was about how some Walmarts have a lot of toys and some don't?

  9. Wargreymon says:

    Yea, I have one Walmart within an hour of my town but it is a "bad" Walmart. They dont stock Marvel Legends or DCUC, all that are on pegs are the seemingly horrible 3 3/4 Avengers stuff. The two Targets and one TRU in my area hasn't restocked Legends for two months and scalpers are crazy desparate here...I have't found any ML series 1 fig. besides ML modern thor and hope! Does anyone have any RoML S1 figures besides thor and hope? Does anyone else in the US have the same prob.?

  10. PrfktTear says:

    I went to Wal-Mart a few weeks back and found Capt America and Thor 6" movie figures in the clearance aisle for $7.50... well, as it was I was broke, so I passed. I got paid on Friday and went back and lo & behold some Easter magic must have been at play because the prices had "risen" to $11.00!!!

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