Re­tail­ers up­ping their game af­ter Toys R Us clo­sures


NEW YORK — When Toys R Us closed its doors, cus­tomers mourned the loss of a beloved brand that con­jured mem­o­ries of their own child­hood.

Re­tail­ers, on the other hand, saw an op­por­tu­nity.

Rather than cede any more ground to on­line be­he­moth Ama­zon, com­pa­nies like Tar­get, Wal­mart and Party City ramped up their of­fer­ings. Now, ahead of the piv­otal hol­i­day sea­son, they’re go­ing even fur­ther by fo­cus­ing on mak­ing their stores a dynamic shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. That means cre­at­ing play ar­eas for kids, of­fer­ing demos of new toys and stag­ing events like scav­enger hunts in the stores.

Re­tail­ers are try­ing to grab a piece of the nearly $3 bil­lion left on the ta­ble by Toys R Us, or 12 per­cent of the U.S. toy mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to NPD Group Inc., a mar­ket re­search group.

Last month, Party City opened 50 Toy City pop-up shops that fea­ture six-by-eight­foot Lego di­nosaurs and other in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays. Wal­mart says 30 per­cent of its hol­i­day toy as­sort­ment will be new. It will also of­fer 40 per­cent more toys on Wal­ from a year ago. In Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, the com­pany’s toy area will be re­branded as “Amer­ica’s Best Toy Shop.”

Start­ing in late Oc­to­ber, Tar­get will de­vote ex­tra space at 500 stores lo­cated near for­mer Toys R Us stores for big­ger toys like elec­tric cars, play­houses and mu­si­cal in­stru­ments as well as adding nearly 200 more prod­ucts. And 100 Tar­get stores will see new lay­outs and fix­tures in the toy area. The com­pany is also ex­pand­ing the num­ber of kids’ events it hosts. Most re­cently, it had a Lego Minecraft event that fea­tured a scav­enger hunt.

“It’s all about the demon­stra­tions, the hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Jim Sil­ver, ed­i­torin-chief of TTPM, a toy re­view site. “When you get your hands on a toy and you can touch and feel, it does lead to greater sales. And those are the ex­pe­ri­ences that shop­pers en­joy.”

Mean­while, Ama­zon is re­port­edly plan­ning a toy cat­a­log to be dis­trib­uted at its Whole Foods stores. The com­pany de­clined to com­ment on the cat­a­log, but an­a­lysts say Ama­zon could grow its mar­ket share in toys from 15 per­cent to 20 per­cent this year.

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