Bethany Clough

Toys R Us is gone. Who’s filling the void, and why there could be a holiday toy shortage

Central Valley stores gearing up for Black Friday sales

Kohl's in Clovis is among local retail outlets preparing for the Black Friday shopping rush by opening on Thursday evening and staying open continuously until midnight the following night.
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Kohl's in Clovis is among local retail outlets preparing for the Black Friday shopping rush by opening on Thursday evening and staying open continuously until midnight the following night.

Toys R Us stores had some of the biggest lines in town on Black Friday in years past.

But now that the retailer has closed all its stores nationwide, what’s going to happen this season? Where will people shop?

Expect a little chaos this year, as one toy industry expert predicts retailers will run out of hot toys. With Toys R Us gone, a herd of big retailers are jumping in on the toy category big time, expanding toy departments and offering steep deals for Black Friday.

Fresno also has a surprisingly long list of locally owned stores that are likely to attract some new customers with their wide array of gifts for kids.

As for the popular toys you see on TV – the L.O.L Surprise! toys with dolls and accessories hidden inside, Air Hogs Supernova mini drones controlled by kids’ hands, etc. – there could be a shortage this year, said Richard Gottlieb, founder and CEO of Global Toy Experts and publisher of Global Toy News in New York.

“If you want them you need to buy them early,” he said.

Kohl's in Clovis is among local retail outlets preparing for the Black Friday shopping rush by opening on Thursday evening and staying open continuously until midnight the following night.

Shoppers are used to waiting until late in the holiday shopping season for discounts, but they may be out of luck if they wait too long this year, he said.

That’s because Toys R Us always kept plenty of toys on the shelves, even after the busy holiday shopping season ended, he said. Other big retailers like Target and Walmart don’t operate that way. They’re more cautious and don’t want to be sitting on a bunch of unsold toys after the holidays.

“For those reasons, I think we’re going to see a shortage of hot toys,” Gottlieb said.

So if you’re looking for where to buy those toys now, or where to buy something else, here’s what’s happening with retailers in the Fresno area:

JCPenney has tripled the number of toys it’s carrying for the holidays on the first floor of its Fashion Fair store, said Daniela Zavala, assistant manager of merchandising. The store also added baby essentials (like cribs, pacifiers, etc.) about two months ago.

Expect L.O.L Surprise! toys, Mickey and Minnie Mouse-themed ATVs for kids and Nickelodeon toys and games. Board games like Scrabble and Monopoly will be discounted between 30 and 50 percent on Black Friday.

Professor Toy is a locally owned education toy store with locations in Fresno and Visalia.

The store carries “heliballs,” (the flying mini drone balls controlled by kids’ hands), and slime- and putty-related toys are popular, said general manager Lisa Trueblood. The Giddyup n’ Go Pony, a pony that kids ride and is powered by bouncing on it, is a good gift too, she said.

Also unusually popular: “Unicorn everything and anything, narwhal everything and anything, and llama everything and anything,” she said. That includes craft kits, stuffed animals and more.

What you might not find anywhere else: Science kits.

The Fresno Professor Toy is at 7897 N. Blackstone Ave. in the Villaggio Shopping Center near Nordstrom Rack. The Visalia store is at 3448 S. Mooney Blvd.

Kohl’s is hoping to grab a share of the customers that used to go to Toys R Us. The store has beefed up its toy department, which usually includes American Girl, Barbie and Hot Wheels.

This year, Kohl’s has added LEGO building sets, including ones from Jurassic World, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Disney princesses. FAO Schwarz toys are also new in the stores this year, including dolls, trains, stuffed animals and arts and craft sets.

HobbyTown USA, usually known for model airplanes, remote-control cars and rockets, is branching out in the wake of Toys R Us’s closure. The store has brought in Barbies, LEGO products and Nerf guns that shoot soft darts. There are also board games, art supplies, collectible horse figurines and Melissa & Doug products like wooden railway sets.

HobbyTown is at 102 E. Barstow Ave.

Toys are displayed in the FAO Schwarz section at Kohl’s in Clovis on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. As it gets ready for the Black Friday rush, the store is Kohl’s bumping up its toy section for the holidays in the wake of the recent Toys R Us closings. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Petunia’s Place is a bookstore but it also carries toys like puzzles and the classic Jellycat stuffed animals. Also popular are UGEARS — wooden mechanical models that kids build in the shapes of trains, motorcycles and jewelry boxes.

And of course, there are books for both children and adults, including “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, graphic novels and the “Who Was?” series of biographies covering everyone from George Washington to Elton John.

Petunia’s Place is at 6027 N. Palm Ave.

Pop Stop Collectibles sells action figures, comics and movie memorabilia. It has a big selection of collectible Funko Pops — those little vinyl figures with big heads that come in just about every character you can imagine.

Especially popular are the Funko Pops from The “Five Nights at Freddy’s” video game (which centers around a nighttime security guard working in a place like Chuck E. Cheese’s).

Star Wars and Spider-Man toys are also popular.

Pop Stop is at 1731 W. Bullard Ave. near Baskin-Robbins.

Crazy Squirrel Game Store sells all kinds of analog (meaning not video) games, including board games, card games, role-playing and storytelling games.

Popular right now? Dungeons & Dragons is making a comeback.

Also hugely popular is the KeyForge card games. With no two decks alike, players strive to be the first to forge three keys to unlock vaults. Owner Jennifer Ward said she thought she ordered enough of the game to get them through Christmas. They sold out in three days.

Crazy Squirrel is at 464 E. Bullard Ave.

Legends Comics & Games has two stores in the area. They sell comics, games and action figures, including the Funko Pops characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Rick and Morty.”

The highly sought after Transformers trading card game is particularly popular right now.

The Clovis Legends is at Sierra Vista Mall. The Fresno location is at 5412 N. Blackstone Ave., which recently moved there from Fashion Fair.

Dolls, Bears & More in Clovis sells just what its name says it does. It carries the Madame Alexander line of dolls, along with stuffed animals, including Hello Kitty plush toys. Popular this season are the Beanie Boos, little stuffed animals with big eyes ranging from narwhals to dragons.

The store is at 336 Pollasky Ave.

Target, Walmart and Amazon — The heavy hitters of the toy world will be battling it out for your dollar this season. All have bumped up toy offerings in stores and online. Be sure to check Black Friday deals to see which retailer has the best prices.

One interesting tidbit about Walmart in Fresno: The newly opened Walmart Supercenter at 4080 W. Shaw Ave. near Brawley Avenue has the biggest toy section in the Central Valley, according to the store manager.

The nearby Toys R Us closed when Walmart’s new location was under construction and they decided to make this store’s toy section bigger because of it.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough
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