There is someone at Target who specifically goes through the toy section aisle by aisle looking for low inventory counts on a regular basis. They are trained in what they do (contrary to Jesse's comments about all retail staff not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground) and they will zero out inventory as E mentioned to reset counts when they feel it is needed. The automated system is there to simplify the process and take care of 95% of the work, but there needs to be someone checking on it and able to correct it when needed.
I question to what extent they know their jobs, depending on what level they are I guess, yes... These are likely the people who say, "spread it out" on the 3 different rows of pegs to make it look fuller than the individual line's numbers are showing. Which I don't blame them either Justin, that's not really their job to know the 3 lines specifically... In many store systems people who do jobs like that aren't paid much more than the average floor employee. I really don't blame retailing employees totally, or at all in many cases. They're at the mercy of the systems they work in generally.
Like I said, this is what I did right out of school... Too many years of retailing really, which drove me away from it because it's nutty at times, and not very appreciated generally. Merchandisers are usually replaced with a "department head" (or other similar title) now though, which isn't a replacement at all when you compare the two realistically.
I don't know Target's system thoroughly though, I've admitted... Wal-Mart's I'm more familiar with. Target seems a bit more efficient, I think, and it's generally similar. At WM's there isn't a large group of people with the authority to screw with inventory. THat's left to management only, and major changes (not loss adjustment) are done through district. Dept. heads can bring things up, but management can shoot it down... And they answer to district who can shoot their decision to change inventory for re-ordering purposes. It's not that people CAN'T do it, it's that they don't do it for the things people are suggesting (getting new stuff on the pegs because the auto-order isn't doing it to their satisfaction, collector complaints, etc.). That generally takes a district manager's approval. Is it the same at Target? Maybe not I guess, but I just have doubt that it is dramatically different.
I don't know about Wal-Mart or other retailers, but I would be shocked if they didn't have a similar process in place. I've met some very helpful and intelligent sales people at WM who have gone the distance to help me out, so Jesse, I find your comments indicating that they are all untrained ignorants to be pretty offensive. Kind of ironic that you are calling them ignorant then talking out your ass about inventory management systems you know nothing about.
It's equally ironic you just said I'm talking out my ass about it, considering I do know about WM and a variety of other retailers... My background just says differently, and I'll leave it at that I guess. I've had some very, very helpful employees at WM, Target, and anywhere I shop myself as well. My comments aren't meant to be offensive more than they are meant to say, "don't blame retail employees, as they're not experts and don't have the ability to fix things the way you want them". But that's been my experiences in the industry before I quit for the better.
My experince with Target has mostly been limited in that I've studied their business model several times in the past because of its competitive efficiency though, and successes compared to other retailers, in particular logistical issues... maybe they've got a system with a much wider birth on inventory alterations, distribution fixes, and a general ease on who can access and change these things, and things of course change in 11 or 12 years time I guess. Still though, loss replenishment's one thing, but we're not talking about theft... We're talking about a major adjustment to inventory replenishment issues at individual stores. These things are not the same, and they require a bit more than the average floor employee or department head. Usually it takes management contacting district/distribution centers... that's why Hasbro's, "working with retailers" to fix it, and all that jazz.
People did the same thing with inventorying at Penney's and they were called MA's (merchandiser's assistant). They helped the store merchandiser control inventories for each department on a more micro-managed level, but they held no real power either. They didn't even handle scheduling for their departments. It's not a knock on them, they aren't experts, but they helped keep the merchandise stock flowing and things replenished steadily, and they always knew their section best compared to upper management save for the merchandiser for that group of departments... they were basically sales floor associates though. They couldn't fix distribution issues like we're seeing... Penneys is way different than Target though. But still, the sudden ( or complete?) depletion in the system at (at least) stores I imagine requires a reason and in my experiences it cannot be accomplished without one being given to the powers that be.
Now are these people "merchandising specialists" who are expressly trained in knowing the nuances of every item in the toy section inside and out? Of course not. But they don't need to be a specialist in toys to understand that empty space on the shelves should be scanned and investigated and are trained to do that fairly simple task.
And I hope they've had these months to sort this all out then. I'd imagine it's shown on their inventory sheets for their department now for a while that one of the STar Wars lines is sorely hurting, as all 3 will show separately on a sheet since they're 3 separate numbers...
The problem with Star Wars is that you can't easily tell the three different lines apart. I don't blame retail people for that - there are numerous UPCs per DPCI code and a slight color change on the packaging is all that they have to go by. They are told to front face all the pegs when cleaning up the aisles, and if they can't tell the figures apart, then they're going to be putting Legends and CW figs on the Legacy pegs - they're just trying to do their job. Hasbro obviously realizes this is a problem as they've already commented that they will be making the packaging more distinctive next year.
And as noted above, a department head should have a sheet showing them, 3 different lines. This is what Hasbro's talking about when they say that it's three separate lines and that retail knows that. It's obviously real tough to discern visually in an aisle, but it's much less complex on a store's inventory sheet for that aisle. It may even break it down by # on a visual mock-up to the aisle's display, similar to a plan-o-gram, so the employee can see that column 1 has 4 pegs and 24 figures (or whatever, this is all hypothetical), column 2 with 4 pegs has 2 figures, and column 3 has 30 figures (or whatever, that's somewhat simplified).
I agree totally, it's not the retail employee's fault on the floor that theyr'e told to get the section cleaned up and not leave pegs empty, that's pretty standard stuff and in some cases it is even part of OSHA regulations, but if department heads are following up on inventory counts and things to help the management, they certainly get a comparison and see 0, or whatever, for an active number as being in stock on the floor, and that's where they're hopefully fixing that by working with management... THough why the inventorying system is NOT re-ordering is odd, and for a very long time now it seems. If it's down so low (I saw a Target today down to one peg of Legacy stuff total). That's usually a sign either the re-order point's been lowered because sales have stagnated, or there's a flaw in the system itself I suppose, or there's a distribution issue from the manufacturer, which Hasbro's denying.
I've personally thought it's been more in the middle... re-order points have been lowered or frozen because of stagnant sales. Retailers are backing off. Store managers can be lectured all day by collectors on an issue like that, but it'll take more than someone upset they can't buy the latest Legacy case to fix that kind of a problem, as a manager can't tell district "I want more Legacy stuff", when district's the one who stopped it for something they feel is a legitimate reason. That's where Hasbro reps should be coming into play, and helping break the logjam. That's also why Hasbro would take anything back, as well... Retail said, "no", and Hasbro has had to react.
Sadly, by my estimation locally though (and some others as well it seems), some of the OLD cases were still in the pipelines with WM and Target both, and so some older figures that Hasbro cleared out have returned.... back to square one.