Stores aim to be top toy retailer amid absence of Toys R Us

Stores have been battling in the grocery wars, delivery wars and now toy wars just in time for the holidays.

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After Toys R Us shut its doors in June, retailers came out in droves to position themselves as the No. 1 destination for toys as the gift-giving season approached.

The toy industry brought in $7.9 billion during the first half of 2018, up 7 percent, according to retail research firm NPD Group. Retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon and Michael’s took the opportunity to capitalize on the bankruptcy of Toys “R” Us by adding more quantity and variety to their toy selections.

“The toy retail space has been bustling with activity, and this will continue through the end of 2018,” said Juli Lennett, senior vice president and industry adviser for toys at NPD Group. “Existing toy retailers have announced they will be dedicating more space and will carry more toys this holiday season both in-store and online. We’re also seeing new store formats emerge that are more experiential, and we will have new toy retailers entering the space.”

That experience is what will keep toy stores alive, said Riley Dugan, marketing professor at the University of Dayton.

“The emphasis should be on an experience,” he said. “If it’s just a big box store with lines and lines of toys, that’s going to be cool for kids but it won’t necessarily want to keep the parents coming back.”

And while Amazon continues to shake up all industries, including toys, the one thing it will never be able to do unless it opens a brick-and-mortar concept that would carry toys, is create some sort of entertaining experiential concept that keeps parents bringing their children back.

“If you can emphasize the shopping experience of maybe offering some kind of unique things associated with your store for children, I think that would really go a long way,” Dugan said.

Target is one of the retailers looking to absorb lost Toys R Us sales most aggressively, including using oversized Lego displays and interactive activity walks. It has more than doubled its options and added a quarter-million square feet to more than 500 stores.

Walmart also increased its in-store toy selections by 30 percent and its online toy assortment by 50 percent. The thousands of new and exclusive items are expected to make Walmart an even bigger destination for toys this year.

Though Toys R Us doesn’t have its own stores, Kroger will sell brands formerly exclusive to Toys R Us in Marketplace stores this holiday season through a partnership with Geoffries Toy Box, a division of Geoffrey LLC, which is a subsidiary of Toys R Us.

“We had the opportunity to bring some of these brands that we all know and love back to our stores and kind of bring Geoffrey home for the holidays,” said Kroger spokeswoman Erin Rholfes. “We’ve been really excited to see how everyone’s embracing Geoffrey’s Toy Box; I understand how sad everyone was when Geoffrey went away.”

Michaels craft stores also expanded their toy assortment and JCPenney added baby shops in Babies R Us’ absence.

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