TOY WARS: Walmart and Target are duking it out to take Toys R Us’ place as the holiday-shopping season looms

Target customers are expected to have more space to shop for toys in many of the chain’s stores. Getty/Joe Raedle
  • Target on Tuesday announced a new initiative to expand both its assortment of toys and the space it uses to sell toys in stores ahead of the holiday shopping season.
  • It follows Walmart‘s announcement in August that it too would be expanding assortment and adding the number of shelves allotted for toys in some stores.
  • In both cases, the changes are meant to be permanent.
  • The stores are gearing up for a war over Toys R Us‘ former shoppers after the toy-store chain’s bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation.
  • They will have to fend off Amazon as well.

Target is jumping into the fray and joining a group of retailers making a play for toy shoppers this holiday season.

The big-box store on Tuesday announced a new initiative to increase both the space it allots to selling toys in stores and the assortment of toys it carries.

In a press release, it touts that it will have “2,500 new and exclusive toys” with 250,000 additional square feet of floor space spread throughout 500 stores. These stores will also be getting a remodel with more space for items like outdoor play sets and ride-on toys. About 100 of those stores will have a new layout for the toy section with larger displays. These changes are meant to be permanent and last after the holidays.

New events are also being planned for stores throughout the season, and an expanded toy catalogue is set to be mailed out soon.

Online, a new “Toy Hub” seeks to help shoppers explore the expanded selection.

This follows a similar announcement from Walmart in late August. Walmart says it is expanding its toy selection by 40% online, while 30% of the toys it’s stocking in stores will be brand-new. Walmart also plans to make room for more toys in stores, in some cases adding more aisles to stock them.

Walmart is tripling the number of in-store events it is planning, including toy demonstrations and other events.

Layaway started August 31, earlier than in past years. Walmart overhauled the program to ensure that if the price of the toy drops before it is picked up, the customer gets the cheaper price automatically.

Toys are an especially competitive category this year as retailers fight over the billions of dollars Toys R Us did in sales in 2017. But, they will have to fend off Amazon first.

Analysts are already forecasting a strong holiday season for retailers, with most overall sales growth estimates in the high single digits or low double digits. But it’s even better news for e-commerce players like Amazon.

Most of this year’s growth is likely to come from online sales, as Forrester Research is predicting 14% sales growth online but only 1.7% growth in stores. Analysts estimated that Amazon took nearly half of all online retail sales in 2017 and that it would take even more this year.

Forrester estimates that online holiday sales will account for more than 32% all online sales for the year.