Saturday, 10 March 2018

Toys'R'Us - A Farewell Tour

I've said before that I rarely visit bricks-and-mortar toy shops these days - maybe a quick visit to the (usually poorly stocked) TRU and Entertainer branches in Uxbridge if I'm seeing a movie there at the weekend - and my nearest 'warehouse-style' TRU is a tedious journey away - accessible by several different routes, but all almost equally lengthy. I'd pretty much given up on the latter a few years ago, because (a) I can get almost everything I want online, at Forbidden Planet or Orbital Comics, or at shows like the MCM London Comic Con and, of course, TFNation, and (b) it had got to the point where I virtually never saw anything new there anyway.

However, when I saw the announcement that Toys'R'Us were shutting down across the UK, I decided that deserved a trip not only the the Uxbridge branch, but to the long-neglected Brent Cross branch as well, to see what bargains were there to be had as they attempted to divest themselves of stock before closing their doors for the last time...

Uxbridge was the first port of call, as it's the simpler journey, and my girlfriend wanted to do some shopping in that direction anyway. The branch there only opened two or three years ago, following a brief appearance over the Christmas period a year or two before that. It's a fairly small branch, and the TransFormers selection always tended to be quite small, but I've bought things there before so it was sometimes worth a visit. Sadly, it was very slim pickings, and virtually all stuff that I've no interest in. The biggest shock was the sheer number of leftover Skullitrons there were from the meagre The Last Knight toyline. As an ugly repaint of a terrible toy - Steelbane - it's no surprise that no-one wanted it... but why on Earth did Hasbro produce so damned many? I'm ambivalent about its paint job... it evokes rusty, corroded metal well enough, though it did prompt my girlfriend to joke "did they forget to clean the mold?" but, by all accounts, it's a floppy mess of a toy, and I don't understand why robots which have faces made up of shifting, interlocking metal plates would then have a toothsome 'skull' beneath. They did something similar with The Fallen in Revenge of the Fallen, where his 'face' turned out to be effectively just a mask, but that never made sense to me either.

I didn't leave empty handed, however. They had a single RID2015 'Clash of the TransFormers' Paralon - a very purple repaint of RID2015's Scorponok with a head modelled after Scorponok from the old Beast Wars TV series - and my girlfriend noticed a Lego set of the Space Shuttle - a vehicle which came into active service a few years after I was born, and for which I will always have a certain fondness - so I picked up both. The Lego set is very much for the both of us, because Courtney recently bought herself the Lego Women of NASA set featuring a miniature shuttle along with figures of astronauts Mae Jemison and Sally Ride... So now we can have a Lego reality in which the two actually fly a mission together, along with the unnamed astronaut figure included... who will be named either Matt Damon or Sandra Bullock, depending on how we feel once the shuttle is built. Weirdly, the receipt shows two discounts being applied - 20%, then an additional 10% - and the pair came in just under £40. Not bad... but then, TRU tend to keep their prices stable long after everyone else has started discounting, and their idea of a 'sale' is often little different from their usual pricing - almost as if things are "on sale" only in the sense of "being available to buy".

Courtney then headed home, but I headed on to Wembley and, from there, to Brent Cross for a quick lunch before braving the TRU warehouse opposite. Sadly, the stock was much the same - a clear surfeit of Skullitron, with something of an excess of Infernocus as well. The latter was almost tempting for the minuscule Quintessa figure... but it'd have been daft to buy an ugly, oversized mess of a repurposed gestalt just to acquire a small, poorly detailed, unpainted, translucent blue figurine of a character I don't really see the purpose of. Other than that, their movie figures were of the smaller size classes, though they did have a couple of the TLK reworking of Generations Stealth Bomber Megatron, but I already own the original and the TLK version isn't that much different. They also had one Titans Return Seaspray, but I'm not overly fussed by a lot of these new reworkings of G1 Mini-Autobots, all of which seem to have turned up because the Third Parties have been doing them for years.

So disappointing was this leg of the visit that I decided to get the first bus toward Staples Corner, so I could visit Smyth's before heading home... But, sadly, even that was disappointing. Very little beyond the first wave of The Last Knight toys, of the few Titans Return toys they had, the most recent was Trypticon (mildly discounted to £125-ish), and no Power of the Primes stuff at all as far as I could see.

But I'd done what I set out to do this morning - paid my final respects to Toys'R'Us - so, while I clearly arrived a few days too late to really make the most of the closing down 'sale', I came away with a couple of cool bits and bobs.

It'll be interesting to see what happens next with the likes of Smyths and The Entertainer now... and particularly what Hasbro Europe plans to do with the recent US TRU store exclusives.

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