Retailers continue to up toy game, even with the return of Toys “R” Us

Cathy Tapogna, owner of Blue Turtle Toys, wraps a present. One of the most popular items in the store are the Charlie Bears. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY
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Cathy Tapogna, owner of Blue Turtle Toys, wraps a present. One of the most popular items in the store are the Charlie Bears. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY

Retailers across the Dayton area are again trying to capture the toy sales left behind when Toys “R” Us closed its stores last year.

Walmart, Target, Michaels and several other stores are among the many retailers to jump on a bandwagon to grow their toy selections without Toys “R” Us stores again this holiday season.

The $28 billion U.S. toy industry picks up around the holidays. In previous years, nearly $1.4 billion in toy sales were at Toys “R” Us alone, which has recently relaunched its e-commerce operations.

“It’s a more uncertain fourth quarter than I’ve seen in a long time,” said Keith Anderson, senior vice president of strategy and insights at Profitero.

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Area retailers have tried to pick up some of those sales, including Oakwood’s Blue Turtle Toys owner Cathy Tapogna, who said she saw an increase in sales last holiday season over the previous year. Though the store was only in its second holiday season under Tapogna’s ownership, and that was part of the sales increase, she said Toys “R” Us’ closure likely also played a part.

More than a third of all sales at Blue Turtle Toys are in November and December, Tapogna said.

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“We carry a lot of toys that are made in Europe,” she said. “You really don’t know what you want until you come into our store. I think the toy sections in Walmart and Target are really just overwhelming…our staff is really helpful too.”

In preparation for the holiday, the locally-owned toy store has added seasonal help and increased hours. It’s now open on Saturday until 6 p.m. and will open on Sundays in November and December to accommodate and increase in shopping traffic.

The store will also open in the evenings by appointment only if customers can’t make it during normal hours, Tapogna said. Sales on a new category of toys run Sunday through Wednesday every week leading up to Christmas.

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“A lot of the emphasis now is on education toys. Our number two seller in the store is books…we just have a very small book section,” she said. “I think our biggest thing is customer service. We know about the products and we even gift wrap them too.”

Other stores have also tried to take advantage of the gap left by Toys “R” Us when it closed its 650 stores in June 2018.

Last year Target more than doubled its holiday toy assortment and added a quarter million square feet at more than 500 stores to house the toys. More than 100 stores had a total toy remodel that included oversized displays and interactive activity walks.

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Now Target is fulfilling toy orders from the recently-returned Toys “R” Us e-commerce venture, according to a statement.

“Target’s leadership in toys, digital and fulfillment are an unbeatable platform for Toys“R”Us to reconnect with their fans while we introduce them to the ease and convenience of shopping at Target,” said Nikhil Nayar, senior vice president of merchandising at Target.

»RELATED: Stores offer deals earlier to attract holiday shoppers

Walmart also boosted its in-store toy selections by 30 percent and online assortment by 50 percent last year. Earlier this year Walmart said customers can shop from a 25 percent increase in toys exclusive to Walmart and over 40 new toys from kid-influencer brands.

Michaels craft stores added to their toy selections and JCPenny added baby shops in the absence of Babies “R” Us.

Amazon has also played a big role in toy sales in the year and half without Toys “R” Us. For the first time last year the e-commerce giant printed a toy guide and sent it to millions of U.S. households.

Toy sales on Amazon.com surged 30 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a report from advisory group Edge by Ascential.

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