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...