A Target store in Illinois is fully-stocked with dolls and accessories. | Source: James Zahn/The Toy Book

For some big box stores and national chains, their ships have finally come in.

Despite months of worry regarding supply chain issues, including a lack of container space; price gouging on spot rates; labor concerns; logjams at ports; and issues with trucking and rail — not to mention inflation and rising raw materials costs — big box toy departments from coast to coast are filling up.

In the U.S., regional outages plagued retailers throughout much of the fall. Stores in the Midwest could be completely stocked with toys and games with no real, visible signs of a supply chain issue while other locations from the same company were wiped out in other states.

Independent toy stores and specialty retailers have been quick to adjust inventory levels and take advantage of resources such as the Toy Book’s Get List to find fast-ship, in-stock products to fill shelves from U.S. warehouses while some vendors, including Ty Inc. have stepped up efforts to keep the independents stocked.

Fresh toys at Walmart, Meijer, and Costco. | Source: James Zahn/The Toy Book


Still, hot toys are hot toys, and some items — such as Moose Toys’ Magic Mixies, Spin Master’s Bat-Tech Batcave, or MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise! OMG House of Surprises — may be hard to come by before Christmas as stock levels have gone from fluctuating to the well running dry. Similarly, LEGO shelves are bare at many Target locations, and a few basic staples, like the $1 mainline Hot Wheels vehicles from Mattel, are MIA at Walmart and Target alike.

Beginning in the days prior to Black Friday and leading into Cyber Week, Target and Walmart stores notably increased their inventory levels. Some Target stores visited by the Toy Book had full shelves with excess inventory piled directly on the floor. At Walmart, fresh pallet shippers packed with stocking stuffers under $20 began appearing as Midway displays at the beginning of December.

One big difference in 2021 as opposed to recent years is the shift back to brick-and-mortar.

Data released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Adobe Analytics confirmed that foot traffic at physical stores is rising while e-commerce is taking a dip. This year, Cyber Week sales numbers declined overall as both Black Friday and Cyber Monday took a hit.

As of Dec. 9, Amazon says it won’t have MGAE’s L.O.L. Surprise! OMG House of Surprises in stock for delivery until Jan. 15, 2022. | Source: Amazon/The Toy Book

Related: The Black Friday Shift Continues as Shoppers Return to Brick-and-Mortar Retail

In many cases, consumers can’t lean on digital shopping to find what they need as physical stores have a better selection and better inventory levels. And, by shopping in-store, consumers won’t have to worry about the potential for late or missing deliveries. As of this writing, I can’t order an L.O.L. Surprise! OMG House of Surprises from Amazon and have it by Christmas.

Last week, Build-A-Bear Workshop issued a statement pushing back against the supply chain issues and assuring consumers that its stores will be well-stocked for the weeks ahead.

“Our team has done a great job mitigating supply chain disruptions to keep our products moving as efficiently as possible with the goal of having plenty of furry friends available at our Workshop locations and at buildabear.com so we can continue to deliver the family tradition of creating heartfelt holiday memories for our guests,” says Sharon Price John, Build-A-Bear Workshop president and CEO.

Left: Games at Walgreens; Right: Overstock toys in the seasonal area at Meijer on Dec. 7, 2021 | Source: James Zahn/The Toy Book


Leading into the fall, some speculated that supply chain issues would lead to bare shelves and, ultimately, a lack of promotional pricing. As we’ve seen throughout November and into December, that is not the case at mass retail.

Black Friday and Cyber Week sales on toys ultimately proved to be pretty standard, and the continued arrival of fresh stock — some of which should’ve arrived in October — has led to pretty aggressive pricing in recent days. Meijer stores in the Midwest have done 25% off games and puzzles alongside buy-one/get-one (BOGO) offerings. Similarly, Target has done quite a bit of category-specific markdowns of 30%, along with BOGO buy one, get one 50% off and buy two toys, get one free on others. Walmart is also doing Rollbacks on select items, and even Toys “R” Us in its soft launch with Macy’s has been aggressive with pricing heading into the second week of December.

As the toy industry continues to prove, creative people find creative ways to mitigate problems and it’s all done in an effort to put smiles on faces — especially during the holiday season.

While the best assortment of this year’s hottest toys may now be in the hands of flippers on the secondary market, retailers across the country are packed with great toys for every interest, and new items are emerging all the time.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.