Major retailers are stepping in to fill the void left by Toys R Us: Walmart, in particular, is growing its toy assortment by 30 percent in its brick-and-mortar stores, and by 40 percent online. To that end, the retailer is rolling out “thousands” of additional items to give customers more options. In a press release announcing the move, Walmart’s vice president of toys, Anne Marie Kehoe, said that the retailer has always been a place to find toys, but is now “making even bigger investments in the category to ensure [it has] the widest selection of toys at the best prices.”
Within its brick-and-mortar stores, the company plans to roll out events and demos for its customers. To that end, the company is planning a “National Play Day” in September in over 1,500 of its locations. During those events, children will be able to play with toys, take home booklets and take pictures. In addition, the company is planning demos to highlight toys from brands such as Transformers, Barbie and Ryan’s World, and roadshows for Hot Wheels and Nerf. For recommendations, the company had “hundreds of youngsters” test out toys to create a “Top Rated by Kids” list.
In terms of eCommerce, Walmart is stepping up its marketing efforts: Toy influencers, such as Gavin Raygoza, Kenzie Mitchell, Clara Lukasiak and Gabe and Garrett, plan to bring reviews, advice and recommendations to Walmart’s website. In addition, the retailer plans to offer a selection of toys that will be curated by characters, ages or brands. Chris Sponiar, general manager of toys and seasonal for Walmart eCommerce U.S., said, “This year is all about an unmatched experience on Walmart.com.” In terms of receiving orders, customers can pick up orders same-day in store, or use two-day shipping.
The Toy Store As A Pop-Up Shop
Beyond Walmart’s expanded toy efforts, Party City is also getting into the toy business. In June, as a bankrupt Toys R Us finished shuttering its last stores, Party City said that it will open about 50 Toy City pop-up stores in September, which will run through the holiday season. And, much like Walmart, Party City is also planning on a concurrent expansion of toy offerings online.
The toy shops will roll out along with its Halloween City pop-up shops and will be targeted toward “optimal” markets with “attractive leasing opportunities.” Given the struggles some segments of physical retail have experienced in recent years, many retailers have sought to negotiate favorable rates to fill vacant spots.
Not only has the shuttering of Toys R Us left a fairly large hole in the center of the market for toys, but it’s also left behind a fleet of large, empty store locations. Party City believes it can fill in some of that void — despite competition from firms like Walmart, Amazon, Target, Dollar General, Barnes & Noble and Five Below. In a note to clients earlier this year, Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink said, “Throughout the retail reporting cycle, we’ve heard from a number of large and mid-sized retail chains that they expect to step in to compete in toys in a more meaningful way post-Toys R Us.”
In another move that appears to fill a Toys R Us void, Amazon plans to print a holiday catalog of its own. (Toys R Us had, after all, published its “Big Book” toy catalog that was an autumn staple for families nationwide.) Amazon’s toy catalog will reportedly be handed out at Whole Foods locations and will be sent out in the mail to customers. According to reports, it will be about 100 pages and will arrive toward the end of October — plenty of time for children nationwide to build a thorough and comprehensive wish list.
Toys R Us certainly left a hole in the market, but how big a hole did it leave, and will retailers be able to fill it? That remains to be seen, but it should be noted that toy sales have still been pretty strong this year: The NPD Group found that toy industry sales topped $18.4 billion for the first half of the year, marking an increase of 4 percent from last year.