By Sam Lewis
Omni-channel options, loyalty rewards, and revamped stores are all part of toy retailer’s plans
It's only early September, but already it seems Santa’s elves are hard at work, preparing for the holiday season. This week, Kmart aired its first, and the season’s earliest, holiday television commercial. Toys “R” Us’ effort isn’t trailing far behind, as September 12 brought its announcement to improve some of its brick-and-mortar stores, revamp the customer experience, and revealed some new initiatives, including cash back on purchases and free layaway for the upcoming holiday season. “As the holiday shopping season gets underway, our seasoned leadership team is executing an aggressive plan to fortify the rightful place of Toys "R" Us as the toy authority,” says Richard Barry, executive vice president and CMO of Toys “R” Us.
The toy retailer will be adapting a store-in-store model, which has been very successful for retailers like Best Buy. Toys “R” Us will have areas for merchandise like tablets, educational aids, party supplies, and what’s expected to be huge this holiday season, construction toys, like LEGOS and Mega Bloks. In-store areas, like video games, will see reductions in allotted space to make room for these new store-in-store areas. The company will also expand its tablet selection in every store to around 25 different tablets, as opposed to less than 10 last year. Toys “R” Us will also be selling its own tablet, called the Tabeo2, which is an upgraded version of the previous year’s version. Shoppers can expect to begin seeing changes to brick-and-mortar Toys “R” Us stores this October.
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Shoppers can also expect to see many new omni-channel offerings from Toys “R” Us. Realizing the enormous growth of e-commerce in the past several years, the toy retailer has made improvements to existing omni-channel offerings, and added some new ones. Online shoppers can now “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store” within one hour, a big improvement over the effort’s previous three hour wait time. If online shoppers can’t find an item available in-store, they can take advantage of the company’s “Ship to Store” program. The improved program now has items purchased online and shipped to a Toys “R” Us store available for pickup in 5 to 10 days, opposed to the old guidelines of 7 to 14 days. “Wish List” kiosks and additional pickup locations will be added to stores this fall, making the shopping process faster and easier. Also in the kiosk initiative is the new “Ready for Pickup” email, alerting customers that their order is ready, and will include an in-store map directing customers to the pickup kiosk where customers will retrieve their orders.
And let us not forget about holiday promotions, price matching, and rewards programs. This holiday season, Toys “R” Us will be offering shoppers opportunities to take advantage of all three. First, free layaway will be made available for customers through December 15. This is an important incentive as shoppers aren’t always looking for deals; they also look for ways for retailers to assist in increasing holiday budgets. In addition, the company will allow customers to make online payments after initial in-store orders are made. The company’s loyalty program, Rewards “R” US, will give shoppers the chance to earn 10 percent back, up to $100, on qualifying toy purchases made prior to Halloween. The payment will be made via e-gift card in November, in time to complete additional holiday shopping. A price match guarantee has also been announced, guaranteeing to match any competitor’s, other than Amazon Marketplace, pricing. Lastly, the company’s return policy has been extended, allowing holiday purchases to be returned through January 25.
Toys “R” Us is in a tight place, as the niche retail market of toys has faded out due to big retailers diving into the market. Walmart and Target can offer shoppers many of the same toys and a wide selection of merchandise, which has given them a big advantage. By creating stores-inside-the store, Toys “R” Us is re-creating the idea that toy stores are a destination for kids, which gave the company such big success in the 1980s and 90s. Partnered by improvements to existing — and additions of new — omni-channel options, the company is securing its place as “the toy retailer” for holiday shoppers worldwide.