J.C. Penney on Thursday announced that it is opening toy shops in all of its stores and doubling its assortment available online, with plans to expand even more by the holidays.
The dedicated areas, featuring toys for all ages, including dolls, action figures, racing cars, arts and crafts, board games, plushes and learning sets from leading brands like Hasbro, Mattel, Playmobil and Fisher Price, will be next to the Disney Collection inside J.C. Penney stores, according to a company press release.
The effort is based on customer feedback, which led the retailer to add new product categories, including bicycles, video games, outdoor trampolines, costumes and science kits, while sorting the product by age group. Toys available this fall are designed to help kids combine STEM principles with interactive play, based on schools’ interest in promoting science and math skills, the company said.
As toy sales surged last year, Macy’s added the category to its off-price Backstage pop-ups in full-line stores over the holidays, Hudson’s Bay added toys to its holiday merchandise and Kohl’s brought in the popular American Girl doll line for the season.
Add J.C. Penney to the list. The retailer's Chief Merchant, John Tighe, said in a statement Thursday that the new effort is actually a return to the expansive toy collection found years ago in J.C. Penney's holiday catalogs.
"J.C. Penney has a nostalgic history of selling sought-after toys in our early Christmas catalogs, so we brought toys back last holiday season to see if they would resonate once again," he said. "We were extremely pleased by the customer response and confidently made the decision to grow our toy assortment in stores and at JCPenney.com."
The retailer doesn't want to emphasize toy shopping just at the holidays, he added, but instead intends to create an offering that will bring shoppers to stores year-round. "We know that shoppers buy toys year-round and by creating a fun, inviting toy shop, with some of the biggest brands and hottest products, we will entice families to shop and spend more at J.C. Penney," he said. "Toys are an exciting product category for J.C. Penney and an in-store attraction that will drive traffic and sales as we continue to focus on increasing revenue per customer."
It's all a challenge for Toys "R" Us, which is looking overseas for growth, recently inking a deal to launch a webstore and expand its joint venture with longtime partner Fung Retailing in Asia. Last year, the company opened 29 U.S. stores, including 27 outlet and express stores, and closed 16. But internationally, Toys "R" Us fared better, opening 73 stores and closing 17.