Toy Retail Innovations: Walmart Launches ‘Toy Lab’; Target Teams With Toys R Us

Retailers Innovate With Toys This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year: toy-buying season. Things have changed for that retail and consumer tradition, though, and toys serve as a constant source of commerce innovation.

Toy Lab

The big retail chains offer an example of that. Take Walmart.

To let children try out this year’s most in-demand toys from their computers or tablets, Walmart and choice-driven entertainment company eko unveiled the Walmart Toy Lab for this year’s holiday season. The offering combines play for kids with convenience for parents during the holiday rush, according to an announcement.

Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president of toys, said in the announcement, “Being a retailer isn’t simply about selling items anymore – it’s about creating an experience for our customers. The Walmart Toy Lab is a way for us to create a digital experience for kids to really see our hottest toys in action as we enter the holiday season.”

With the offering, children can enter the Walmart Toy Lab and become toy testers in a workshop that is described as “bright” and “fantastical.” Kids can use a “Funtroller” alongside two hosts to experiment, look at or play with the hottest toys of the season. They can try out the toys – from coaxing a creature out of the How to Train Your Hatching Dragon to cruising on a Hover-1 Kart hoverboard – before putting them onto their wish lists.

Ivy Sheibar, chief brand officer of eko, said in the announcement, “KidHQ is filling a gap left behind by shuttered toy stores and old-school catalogs, and in the process is reinventing how brands connect with people.”

She continued, “I have young children and know firsthand that kids have grown accustomed to interacting and playing with technology. KidHQ fulfills these expectations by inviting kids to choose what happens next throughout the experience rather than passively consuming content. At eko, we believe it’s the future for entertainment and brands alike.”

Online Efforts

Target, too, is trying to gain an edge when it comes to toys this holiday season.

To help it relaunch, Target is teaming up with Toys R Us brand parent company Tru Kids. The arrangement will allow Toys R Us to regain an online presence and could bolster Target’s toy business before the holidays, CNBC reported.

Tru Kids CEO Richard Barry said, per the report, that Target was ultimately picked to power the website due to its formidable supply chain, impressive toy business and understanding of the toys. “We spoke to a lot of different folks as we went through this process,” Barry said. “What inspired me about Target was their investment in the category.”

When shoppers visit, they will be sent to to finish their transactions after they choose “buy.” Barry also noted that the new website isn’t only for purchases: Tru Kids aims to have serve as an educational tool for kids and a resource for parents looking for the newest toys to purchase.

The site, for instance, will have offerings such as top toy lists, videos and reviews. Barry said, according to the report, “We have completely reimagined [the website] … to a site [that] is immersive and heavily content-oriented.”

Not only that, but to change the way consumers buy age-appropriate toys, subscription services are focusing on offering specialized collections of play items designed for specific stages of a baby’s life. The core business for Lovevery, for instance, is play kits for little ones from newborn age to 24 months old. Co-founder and President Rod Morris said the company sees the play kits as a one-click solution: “We pare down and serve up the best of it,” he told PYMNTS in an interview. As a result, there is “no need to purchase a slew of excessive toys,” as everything a consumer would need for their children comes with that kit.

Toys may be a staple of the holiday shopping season, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change.


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