Though Target’s physical U.S. stores have been one of the few places that people could somewhat reliably secure Pokémon cards during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, collectors will soon have to look elsewhere to get their hands on the in-demand merch.
For the past few months, Pokémon cards have been in short supply throughout the United States and in other territories thanks to a pandemic-era resurgence in popularity that was coupled with distribution disruptions similarly tied to the pandemic. With many stores’ online systems quickly being inundated the moment products were available, some people have taken to lining up outside of physical stores like Target in order to get at the cards as soon as doors are open.
Stores placed limits on the number you could purchase and even had to place merchandise in secure locations — but now that’s changing. “The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement when contacted by Gizmodo. “Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokémon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14.”
Drastic as the decision may seem, particularly given that Pokémon cards aren’t the only things people wait in line for hours to buy, it comes days following a fight in a Brookfield, Wisconsin Target’s parking lot in which four people attacked a man, who then pulled his legally-owned gun on his assailants, prompting them to flee before later being arrested by the police. Target’s decision also comes just weeks after the company implemented new policies to curtail people camping out overnight at their stores. Beyond telling people not to line up like this, an alleged note to employees asked them to consider calling the police in order to force people to disperse.
Going forward, Target U.S. plans to still sell Pokémon cards online and through its app, and because this policy change is in response to an ongoing situation, the company plans to reevaluate its stance at some point in the future. It’s likely cards will return to physical Target stores, and it’s somewhat easy to understand the logic the company’s working with here — the company doesn’t want the potential bad press or even lawsuits over Pokémon. However, the move is likely to make it that much more difficult for people to actually buy the cards they’re looking for, particularly in underserved communities where big box stores like Target are the only places collectibles are (usually) readily available.
It’ll be interesting to see how this continues to play out as the Pokémon Company continues to celebrate the franchise’s 25th anniversary throughout the year with more waves of limited-edition collectibles that are guaranteed to be hot commodities. With more stores’ hours returning to normal as a result of the country’s gradual reopening, there’s a possibility this could all even out, as the larger issue of shortages isn’t only due to a lot of people wanting shiny pieces of cardboard.