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Walmart and Target seize on the first Black Friday without Toys 'R' Us

Target, Walmart, Amazon, and a spate of big retailers are pouncing on the first holiday shopping season in decades without Toys 'R' Us.

Toys 'R' Us closed its doors after 70 years in business earlier this year, leaving behind hundreds of stores and $10.5 billion in annual sales.

In Toys 'R' Us' absence, retailers eye an opportunity to capture market share and pump up toy sales. Their efforts will reach a fever pitch on Black Friday and into the holiday stretch.

"While toys [are] important all year long, it rises to a whole new level in the holidays," Mark Tritton, Target's chief merchandising officer, said on Tuesday.

Target (TGT) has added close to a quarter-million square feet of space dedicated to toys across 500 stores, remodeled toy aisles at 100 stores, and added new displays throughout the stores to raise awareness.

The company's toy sales increased 20% last quarter from the same time a year ago. Target anticipates more growth during the holiday stretch, when it typically makes half of its annual toy sales.

Walmart (WMT) has grown its new toy selection in all stores by 30% and 40% online. It recently rolled out a virtual "toy lab" playground that allows kids to play with 20 of the company's top toys.

"There's a lot of toy volume up for grabs this year, so we've bought broader and deeper in this category," Walmart's chief merchandising officer said last month.

Party City (PRTY) is opening 50 "Toy City" pop-up stores. Kohl's (KSS) has partnered with Lego and FAO Schwarz to sell products at stores. For its part, FAO Schwarz is coming back with a new 20,000-square-foot flagship in New York.

"Both of those brands are already off to a great start," Kohl's said on Wednesday.

Unlikelier names, including Dollar General (DG) and Foot Locker (FL), are making moves, too. Foot Locker is teaming up with Funko to sell LeBron James and other basketball stars' figurines. Bloomberg first reported the partnership on Monday.

So is Best Buy (BBY). Best Buy has expanded toy inventory at its 1,000 US stores. The company is betting that shoppers coming in to buy a new TV during the holidays might want to leave with Barbies or Legos, too.

Kroger (KR) is adding Geoffrey's Toy Box sections to sections to 600 stores this holiday. Sections will be stocked with 35 toys.

"We've got an arms race in the toy category," Moody's retail analyst Charlie O'Shea said last month.

Amazon is also trying to fill the void. It mailed out a toy catalog and is offering free shipping on toys with no minimum purchase, including to customers without Prime.

"We see Amazon as the biggest share taker post-Toys 'R' Us," Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink said in a research note earlier this month.


Global supply crunch pushes Walmart, rivals to hire own ships ahead of holiday season

The Flying Buttress once glided across the oceans carrying vital commodities like grain to all corners of the world.

Now it bears a different treasure: Paw Patrol Movie Towers, Batmobile Transformers and Baby Alive Lulu Achoo dolls.

The dry bulk cargo ship has been drafted into the service of retail giant Walmart, which is chartering its own vessels in an effort to beat the global supply chain disruptions that threaten to torpedo the retail industry’s make-or-break holiday season.

“Chartering vessels is just one example of investments we’ve made to move products as quickly as possible,” said Joe Metzger, U.S. executive vice president of supply-chain operations at Walmart, which has hired a number of vessels this year.

Click to play video: 'Global shipping container crisis hits Canadian retailers'Global shipping container crisis hits Canadian retailers

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The aim is to bypass log-jammed ports and secure scarce ship space at a time when COVID-19, as well as U.S.-China trade ructions, equipment shortages and extreme weather, have exposed the fragility of the globe-spanning supply lines we use for everything from food and fashion to drinks and diapers.

More than 60 container ships carrying clothing, furniture and electronics worth billions of dollars are stuck outside Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals, waiting to unload, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Pre-pandemic, it was unusual for more than one ship to be  in the  waiting lane at the No. 1 U.S. port complex, which handles more than half of all American imports.

Other big retail players, such as Target, Home Depot , Costco and Dollar Tree, have said they are chartering ships to deal with the pandemic-driven slowdown of sea networks that handle 90% of the world’s trade.

Click to play video: 'PM Johnson says UK ensuring supply chains in place for Christmas amid fuel crisis'PM Johnson says UK ensuring supply chains in place for Christmas amid fuel crisis

Or, as Steve Ferreira of shipping consultancy Ocean Audit describes the escalating concern: “Containergeddon.”

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U.S. retailers’ traditional lifeline from Asia is freezing up due to a resurgence of COVID-19 in countries like Vietnam and Indonesia plus a power-supply crunch in China. The supply snarls coincide with booming demand as consumers spend more on goods than going out, and the festive shopping frenzy nears.

Burt Flickinger, managing director at retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group, said at least 20-25% of the goods stuck on ships were unlikely  to make it onto shelves in time for the Nov. 26 Black Friday kickoff for the holiday shopping season, a period when retailers make more than a third of their profits.

Route for great profit

The biggest chains are taking matters into their own hands.

In a typical year, Walmart would have moved those toys from China to Los Angeles in hundreds of 40-foot (12-meter) cargo boxes stacked like colorful Lego bricks on gigantic container vessels that serve multiple customers.

But 2021 is far from typical. Incoming cargo at the Port of Los Angeles is up 30% from last year’s record levels. Trucks and trains can’t remove it fast enough, leading to logjams, said the port’s Executive Director Gene Seroka, reflecting the surge in consumer demand.

“It’s like taking 10 lanes of freeway traffic and squeezing them into five,” Seroka said.

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Chartered ships that offer valuable cargo space and can sidestep the container terminals play a critical role in this second pandemic holiday season, particularly for time-sensitive goods like Christmas sweaters that won’t sell if they arrive too late.

Click to play video: 'Production slowdowns amid COVID-19, shipments to U.S. impact Canadian truck market'Production slowdowns amid COVID-19, shipments to U.S. impact Canadian truck market

The Flying Buttress, for example, entered Los Angeles waters on Aug. 21. It got stuck in a queue outside the port before it bypassed clogged terminals and unloaded its goods at a separately operated bulk cargo dock nearby on Aug. 31, according to Refinitiv data and shipping records.

During that voyage, Walmart circumvented the shortage of 40-foot containers typically used for global shipping by switching to bigger 53-foot containers that are almost exclusively used to move goods by truck and train within the United States.

Other companies are also playing the shipping game including Home Depot which said it was “creatively working to obtain additional capacity.”

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The home improvement retailer dodged the Los Angeles gridlock by sending its Great Profit charter ship nearly 125 miles south to the Port of San Diego.

On Sept. 15, the ship’s onboard cranes hoisted 7-foot Halloween “Spellcasting witches,” Christmas lights and other holiday decor onto docks there, said Ocean Audit CEO Ferreira, who helps shipping customers claw back overpayments.

“This is the home stretch. They’re doing whatever it takes” to win in an overheated market, he said of retailers.

Why port size matters

Yet there is a limit to such workarounds.

Great Profit moored at a terminal that handles everything from sugar to windmill blades but can only accommodate a maximum of 500 containers from one to two ships per month between now and the end of the year, said Greg Borossay, the port’s maritime business development principal.

That’s because San Diego, like many other U.S. seaports, doesn’t have the towering gantry cranes needed to pluck boxes from massive ships. Rail service is equipped for autos and other specialty cargo. And, roads in surrounding commercial and residential areas aren’t set up for the fleets of trucks needed to whisk thousands of containers to other parts of the country.

Click to play video: 'Container shortage means higher prices for B.C. consumers'Container shortage means higher prices for B.C. consumers

“We’d have a very unhappy community if we had 3,000 (boxes) coming off a ship,” Borossay added.

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Not all retailers will hire ships to support sales, and other factors could be significant in picking out potential winners and losers.

Clothing and accessory retailers have seen their inventories decline even as sales have accelerated, stoking worries about sell-outs, said Jason Miller, associate professor of logistics at Michigan State University’s business college.

General merchandise retailers like Walmart and Target, on the other hand have done a better job of keeping inventory on pace with sales, he added.

Paying $20,000 per container

The global supply crunch is providing lucrative opportunities for bulk cargo ship operators, though; they are cashing in on a record spike in container shipping rates that has sent freight costs above $20,000 per box on the biggest liner vessels.

Global container shipping players like AP Moller Maersk and Hapag Lloyd, are flush with cash from the soaring rates. Major lines are “putting in every ship we can find,” Hapag Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen said.

Several shipping sources said other firms were snapping up second-hand container vessels of all sizes.

Hong Kong-based Taylor Maritime, which according to shipping databases manages the Flying Buttress, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Dry bulk transporters have a short window of time to prepare decks to safely secure and carry cargo boxes. They typically transport commodities in below-deck cargo holds.

Genco Shipping & Trading is seeking approval from its ship safety certifier to prepare some of its own dry bulk vessels to carry containers.

Genco isn’t going all-in on container shipping, said CEO John Wobensmith, who called the project “opportunistic.”

Separately, agribusiness giant Cargill said it is looking into using some of the dry bulk ships it charters to instead hold containers, if only as a temporary solution, to “alleviate bottlenecks.”

— Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Jonathan Saul in London and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by PJ Huffstutter in Chicago

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Your kids can eat, sleep and study Space Jam: A New Legacy (Photo: Walmart)

When it comes to pop culture, you can never truly guess which crazes will have staying power and which will just fade into obscurity. Sometimes, you even discover that memorable (and non-Tik Tok-related!) things from your childhood are embraced by your own kids.

That's precisely the case with Space Jam: A New Legacy, the long-anticipated reboot of a 1996 classic — 25 years in the making — that's currently in theaters and on HBO Max. The live action/animated hybrid has LeBron James picking up where Michael Jordan left off. And just like its predecessor, it's a Looney Tunes film. 

Space Jam: A New Legacy isn't just offering up nostalgia for millennials, though. It's something joyously fun for multiple generations to bond over. With back-to-school around the corner (sorry!), now's the time to get your kids ready for all that schoolyard Tune Squad talk with Space Jam–inspired bedspreads, notebooks, fruit snacks and toys — all available at Walmart.

Want to score free shipping on your Space Jam goodies? Make sure you’re signed up for Walmart+. Not yet a member? You can get yourself a free 15-day trial here, and a quick three-question survey will add on an additional two more weeks for a solid month's use. (And by the way, those without Walmart+ still get free shipping on orders of $35 or more.)

Here are some of the best Space Jam: A New Legacy items the mega-retailer is offering to help you pass on a childhood favorite to a new generation of Looney Tunes lovers.

5-inch Baller Action Figure

Finally, action figures worthy of the legendary franchise that is Space Jam. (Photo: Walmart)

If you remember the old Playmates toys for the original Space Jam had a lot of design detail but not a whole lot of movable parts, making them fine for display but pretty useless for playtime.

This time, Melbourne-based Moose Toys were brought in to produce the action figures for Space Jam: A New Legacy, and their 5-inch Ballers line was designed with pose-ability and playability in mind. Each figure comes individually packaged with Acme accessories, so kids can create their own Space Jam: A New Legacy stories.

Shop it: 5-inch Baller Action Figure, $10,

Marvin the Martian Ultimate Tune Squad 12" Action Figure

*Here's* the kaboom! (Photo: Walmart)

Marvin the Martian got pretty short-changed in the original Space Jam. Relegated largely to the role of referee in the original film, this toy indicates that Marvin will finally get a chance to unleash mech-suit mayhem on the villainous Al G. Rhythm and his Goon Squad. 

Standing at 12 inches tall, the Marvin the Martian Ultimate Tune Squad Action Figure features button-activated phrases and sounds, and a claw that opens and closes to grasp the included plastic basketball.

Shop it: Marvin the Martian Ultimate Tune Squad 12" Action Figure, $20,

Stretchy Goo Filled Action Figure- Tasmanian Devil

Take this Taz for a

Somehow, amid all the toys produced for the original film, there was not a single stretchy figure. Thankfully, that omission has been rectified this time. 

Moose Toys has expanded their popular Heroes of Goo Jit Zu stretchy-toy line to incorporate three characters from the world of Space Jam: A New Legacy: Bugs Bunny, LeBron James and, of course, the always chaotic Tasmanian Devil. Kids can squish, squonk, stretch and swing these Stretchy Goo Filled Action Figures to their hearts' delight. 

Shop it: Stretchy Goo Filled Action Figure- Tasmanian Devil, $10,

Deluxe LeBron James Big Fig

At a foot tall and loaded with accessories, this really is the, er, Acme of movie tie-in merch. (Photo: Walmart)

"Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!" isn't just one of the eight phrases and film sounds available at the push of a button with the Deluxe LeBron James Big Fig; it's also what your kids will say when they see this impressive Ultimate Toon Squad edition of The Akron Hammer. 

With seven points of articulation and four accessories including an Acme mallet, Acme blocker, basket boom and, of course, a basketball, this 12-inch titan of the NBA is for hoops heads and cartoon-loving kids alike. 

Shop it: Deluxe LeBron James Big Fig, $20,

Space Jam: A New Legacy Fruit Snacks

Even all-star athletes need to refuel (Photo: Walmart)

When you've got a kids' movie full of cartoon characters, candy is an obvious, almost necessary piece of merchandise to produce. The folks at Betty Crocker, who have spent decades perfecting the fruit snack, brought their fun shapes and naturally flavored fruity-bites together with the characters from Space Jam: A New Legacy

With 8 different shapes including Daffy, Bugs, and LeBron, these fruit snacks will be a great addition to your kid's lunchbox. And at only 80 calories per pouch, you can even justify sneaking a few yourself.

Shop it:Space Jam: A New Legacy Fruit Snacks, $4,

Space Jam: A New Legacy Stationary Bundle

Back-to-school never looked so cool (Photo: Walmart)

Did you have one of the many Space Jam Study Sets back in 1996? Bugs Bunny's smirk on a pencil sharpener? That angry Nerdluck eraser? Or perhaps you were more old-school, sporting Jordan on a Chicago Bulls school supply set — even if you knew nothing about Chicago.

Now, your kid can go back to school in style, too, with this affordable stationary bundle sporting the Tune Squad stars. With a three-ring binder, folder and notebook, this set gives your young scholar-athlete everything they need to hang on to handouts, take notes and even draw up plays for their own basketball games. 

Shop it: Space Jam: A New Legacy Stationary Bundle, $5,

Kids Reversible Comforter with Sham

Lay down and dream of layups! (Photo: Walmart)

Which Space Jam bedsheets did you have back in the day? Those white, star-spangled top sheets with the Nerdlucks and Mr. Swackhammer? The sky-blue, basketball net–patterned sheets with the Tune Squad scattered across? 

Whichever you had, it may well have meant the world to you back in '96, and the same can now be true for your kids with this reversible comforter. Sporting both a bold and brash LeBron, Bugs and Taz layout and a more subtle basketball logo design, this simple bed set gives your kid the ability to customize their space while showing off their favorite characters.

Shop it:Kids Reversible Comforter with Sham, $30,

Taz Pillow Buddy

The cuddliest creature of chaos in all of cartoons (Photo: Walmart)

Taz was everywhere in the '90s, with his own TV show, Taz-Mania, video games for the Sega Genesis and T-shirts that had Taz doing everything from fishing to bowling to...threatening you with holiday cheer. 

Teach your kids a love of this agent-of-chaos with a cuddly Pillow Buddy. This perfectly snuggle-sized plush is soft but durable, making him the ideal companion for both playtime and nap time. The classic destructive force from the Looney Tunes will be a great and lasting companion to your own little whirlwind.

Shop it: Taz Pillow Buddy, $16,

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