In print toy cat­a­log, Ama­zon bets on clas­sics

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY TAY­LOR TELFORD

Wash­ing­ton Post

Ama­zon.com is gam­bling on glossi­ness and nos­tal­gia to draw in shop­pers with its first toy cat­a­log, in yet an­other brick-and-mor­tar strat­egy to snag its share of the hol­i­day toy sales.

The com­pany re­leased its “Hol­i­day of Play” cat­a­log on Wed­nes­day. It fea­tures 70 pages of de­lighted, co­zily-clad kids sur­rounded by toys, and will soon be mailed to mil­lions of cus­tomers this month. It show­cases the breadth of hol­i­day toy in­ven­tory, from clas­sics such as ac­tion fig­ures, board games and Bar­bies to high-end items such as Bose au­dio gear and PlayS­ta­tions.

When for­mer jug­ger­naut Toys R Us shut­tered its last stores ear­lier this year, it kicked off a scram­ble among brickand-mor­tar gi­ants such as Wal­mart, Tar­get and Kohl’s, along with on­line pow­er­houses such as Ama­zon, as all clam­ored for a piece of the na­tion’s $ 3.3 bil­lion toy mar­ket.

“Ama­zon is ex­cited to of­fer a new way for cus­tomers to shop for toys this hol­i­day sea­son,” the com­pany said in a state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

“Hol­i­day of Play” echoes of the fa­mil­iar style of the Toys R Us hol­i­day cat­a­logs, but with cer­tain mod­ern flour­ishes. You won’t find any prices on its pages; shop­pers have to go on­line to find out how much the prod­ucts ac­tu­ally cost. In­stead, a scan of a QR code places the item in the shop­per’s on­line cart, tak­ing them from page to pur­chase in sec­onds. Dig­i­tal ver­sions of the cat­a­log are avail­able on Kin­dle and in PDF form on­line.

The cat­a­log is just one weapon in Ama­zon’s hol­i­day arse­nal, along with its free ship­ping for all cus­tomers dur­ing the hol­i­days with no min­i­mum pur­chase re­quired. The lack of ex­plicit prices in the cat­a­log is in­ten­tional, leav­ing Ama­zon open to shift­ing its pric­ing to stay com­pet­i­tive as the sea­son heats up, said Linda Bolton Weiser, an an­a­lyst with D.A. David­son.

“At the hol­i­days re­tail­ers try to be nim­ble with pric­ing,” Weiser said. “This is al­low­ing them flex­i­bil­ity to be strate­gic if they want, in which case you don’t want to print the price up in the cat­a­log.”

Bolton Weiser noted that the prod­ucts in the cat­a­log are culled pri­mar­ily from the year’s hot toy lists and from stal­wart toy brands like Bar­bie, Fisher Price and Lego. There are no risky, un­known items fea­tured.

“If you’re go­ing for a mar­ket share grab, you do it with clas­sic brands that are go­ing to be highly pur­chased at the hol­i­days,” Bolton Weiser said. “It ben­e­fits the large toy mak­ers that have these big, clas­sic brands and disad­van­tages the smaller toy com­pa­nies.”

Although they might seem an­ti­quated, cat­a­logs are still a sur­pris­ingly suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing tool, ac­cord­ing to stud­ies from the Data & Mar­ket­ing as­so­ci­a­tion, which found that more than 100 mil­lion Amer­i­can adults made a pur­chase from a cat­a­log in 2016. They’re es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with mil­len­ni­als, who now wield some of the great­est buy­ing power in re­tail.

Other re­tail­ers are boast­ing big changes to show their com­mit­ment to hol­i­day toy sales. Wal­mart beefed up its “Top Rated By Kids” pro­gram and is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a group of 25 “kid­in­flu­encers” to cu­rate a list of the sea­son’s hottest toys. The com­pany is boost­ing its in-store toy mer­chan­dise by 30 per­cent and on­line toy mer­chan­dise by 40 per­cent. And it’s also host­ing 2000-odd events to pro­mote the new prod­ucts. Tar­get is ex­pand­ing, too, nearly dou­bling its new and ex­clu­sive toy lineup com­pared with last year. It has ex­panded its toy sec­tions and made re­mod­els in 100 stores.

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