This past Christmas season, I noticed something rather disturbing and disheartening at toy retailers across the board. Pretty much every store I visited over the busy Christmas shopping season (and I went to a lot of them) seemed to have the same problem - empty shelves and pegs in the action figure aisles. Now I know that we are constantly being fed the line that the action figure and collectible figure market is in a major downward slide presently, and that's why it's become so hard to find product but I see a serious flaw in that logic. It seems to me that as a retail store (and I've spent a lot of time working in the retail industry) it would be most desireable to have merchandise on hand for potential purchasing during the busy and all-important holiday shopping season. It only makes sense - retail stores make most of their yearly sales during this time and the retail toy business always does the vast majority of it's business during this time. Why then, would I walk into a store that sells toys at this time and see aisle after aisle of fully stocked product (overstocked, in fact) in every aisle of the toy department (and storewide at TRU and Kay-Bee) except in the action figure aisle, where this past season I consistently found that most of the pegs and shelves were completely bare?
The way I see it, there can be only one of two reasons for this kind of thing to happen. One - action figures are actually selling quite well (in spite of retailers claims to the contrary) and most of them were simply caught with their pants down this past season having not ordered enough product to meet demand. Or two - all of the product that stores had stocked in the action/collectible figure aisles sold out quickly and consistently during the shopping season.
I am certain that I am not imagining this phenomenon. Literally - every store I went into between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve had the same situation: a glut of merchandise in the girls sections (Barbies, Bratz dolls, Strawberry Shortcake, Polly Pocket, etc.), the toddler's aisles (baby toys, plush, Disney items, etc.), the educational toys sections, the toy cars aisles, puzzles and games and all the rest, and yet a good forty to sixty percent on average of the peg and shelf space in the figure aisles was left bare. At TRU stores in my area (there are five of them) they even went so far as to stock entire endcaps - floor to ceiling - with 'Real Talkin' Bubba', a teddy bear! Was there no other place that particular item could've been stocked? Was it that popular a seller? Where people actually clamoring for Bubba's smooth southern charm that much that they were wandering into action figure aisles in a desperate bid to get their hands on him? Was there no other product that actually belonged in that section in stock that could've been placed there?
I ask you this fellow figure fans: How could toy retailers possibly know how well or poorly action figures are performing if they never had any in stock during the most brisk sales season of the year, and if they did have any in stock to know how well they performed financially then how can they explain the fact that none of it ever stayed on the shelves long enough for the shelves to look full? [As an aside: during my many years in the retail biz, if ever one of my superiors from either district or corporate came into the store during the holiday season and found any empty stock space, there was MAJOR hell to pay!]
My mom and grandmother have always demanded a Christmas list from me every year since I was first able to write. This year I gave them and my girlfriend a full page list - most of which would've been found in the action figure aisle. All three complained to me that they were unable to find nearly every item I had listed. I didn't ask for anything that was at all obscure; all of it should've been readily available at any Toy Retailer. For any retail buyers out there that are reading this, that equals MISSED SALES. In what world does a situation like this make any sense? Don't you folks want our money?!