Toys "R" Us on Monday announced that it has revamped its e-commerce sites for its Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us retail units, according to a company blog post.
The sites feature redesigned aesthetics, streamlined and faster checkout, more user-friendly guideposts for bigger purchases, easier navigation by category and a revamp of the registry process; many of the changes were based on feedback from customers, according to the post.
The features aren’t widely available just yet to most; the company is trying it out with a few loyal customers before rolling out the changes to the greater public.
Toys "R" Us has struggled in recent years, seemingly unsure how to adapt to the shifting retail landscape. The retailer was slow to take on its own e-commerce operations, for example, first partnering (like Target) with Amazon for its online sales, then with GSI Commerce and later eBay, before bringing its e-commerce operations in-house just two years ago.
The new website, in addition to being easier for customers to use, will presumably also enable the retailer to improve its marketing and shopper data collection efforts.
"Our loyal customers are the driving force behind all that we do," a Toys "R" Us spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email. "With that in mind, we created a new webstore and registry with personalized options that we are truly excited about. The new registry delivers a more personalized experience for moms-to-be by launching new technology such as notifications and a dashboard to better meet their needs from day one. Additionally, we’ve streamlined the check-out process from five steps down to two for simple purchases."
Even the holidays were a challenge last year, a season in which there was decidedly more competition to contend with. As toy sales surged the previous year, Macy’s added the category to its off-price Backstage pop-ups in full-line stores over the holidays, Hudson’s Bay also added toys to its holiday merchandise and Kohl’s brought in the popular American Girl doll line for the season. Though toy sales were fairly healthy, many retailers turned to promotions to drive sales, which hit margins.
Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s Investors Service's lead retail analyst, noted in December that the company was on firm ground considering that its third quarter was slightly better than the year-ago period, but he warned that the toy retailer needed to run a tight ship over the holidays.
That didn't happen. Considering the weak holiday showing, O'Shea said the company had to contend with the extent of discounts’ destruction of margins. “Toys’ acknowledgement that the toy sector was highly-promotional over the core Holiday season fits into our assessment, and thus we are not surprised by the company’s topline challenges during the season,” he said in a note emailed to Retail Dive in January. “The other shoe to drop here, which will happen following the end of the quarter, will be how well margins held up, which will reflect the level of pricing and promotional discipline that Toys was able to employ during the season. This level of discipline will determine overall operating income performance, which is the key credit consideration.”
The rough results led the company to take cost-cutting measures, including trimming its workforce: In February, Toys "R" Us laid off some 250 people (between 10% and 15% of its staff) at its Wayne, NJ headquarters.