Toys R Us on Thursday said it has sent out its holiday catalog, the "Ultimate Guide to Play," which will also appear in Sunday newspapers Oct. 29. The toy retailer will post some Black Friday deals on Oct. 26 and keep them going through Nov. 18, including deals on items from the company’s Holiday Hot Toy List, according to a press release.
Those include some of this year’s most popular requests for Santa, including FurReal Roarin' Ivory the Playful Tiger, Doc McStuffins Baby All-in-One Nursery and Imaginext DC Super Friends Batbot Xtreme, the company said. The retailer is offering a price match guarantee and layaway plans as well.
Toys R Us is also hosting "Parents Night Out" events on Nov. 12 and Nov. 30, where shoppers can consult a designated shopping expert and see hot toy demonstrations, while also partaking in a hot chocolate bar, raffles and sweepstakes. Forty-two stores will also feature a play lab on Nov. 1, spaces where families can test out the hottest toys of the season.
America’s most prominent toy retailer has little wiggle room this holiday season in light of its bankruptcy filing last month, which has had some suppliers balking.
Last year, the company's all-important fourth quarter consolidated net sales fell $192 million year-over-year to $4.66 billion, due mainly to a decline in same-stores sales and store closures in the U.S., including the company’s Times Square flagship store in New York. The retailer had a strong start to the holidays last year, but in the weeks following Black Friday it faced sluggish sales and intense promotional activity.
When it came to toy sales in 2016, there was decidedly more competition to contend with, not least from Amazon, whose toy sales were some $4 billion, about 20% of the market, according to a client note from global investment banking firm Jeffries analyst Stephanie Wissink. More than half of those came during fewer than 60 selling days, and more than a third (35%) took place in December alone. As overall sales in the category surged last year, Macy’s added toys to its off-price Backstage pop-ups 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.
Perhaps that's why Toys R Us is limited its price-matching policy, suspending it during peak Black Friday days. " We think it's great that Toys R Us will donate $1 to Toys for Tots every time they match a competitor's price," Phillip Dengler, co-owner of holiday deals site BestBlackFriday.com, told Retail Dive in an email. "We also think it's great they will match Amazon. However, if you take a look at the 'We don't match' [disclaimer], it says, 'Any competitor’s advertised store or online pricing for Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.' So essentially Toys R Us will not match many of the best prices this season on Toys and Games."
The challenge from Amazon is poised to intensify in the category. While busy consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce to get their holiday shopping done, Amazon chugs along assisted by Alexa, which was enabled last season to help its Prime members shop for toys. As a result, the e-commerce giant is poised to benefit even more this year from the now-bankrupt toy retailer’s struggles, Jeffries said.
"The timing of all of this could not have been worse, as the company is in the process of building holiday inventory," Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon said in the bankruptcy filing, adding that Toys R Us generates 40% of its annual revenue in the weeks before Christmas.
Speaking to Retail Dive, Howard Davidowitz, chairman of New York City-based retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates, also called the filing's timing "badly, badly botched. They do more of a percentage at the holidays than anybody on the planet. Can you imagine that? What this means is — the trade cut them off — they can’t pay their bills."
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2017 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page and sign up for our holiday newsletter for more stories.