Toys ‘R’ Us’ holiday plans: fewer pop-ups, more exclusives

New York City -- Toys “R” Us is cutting back on the number of temporary holiday stores it opens this year compared with last, but it is significantly expanding the number of exclusive products it offers, chairman and CEO Jerry Storch said at a press conference Wednesday. The retail chief’s bet on the hottest toy of the season: Animal Planet’s Air Swimmers line (helium-filled, radio-controlled flying fish), which will be available only at Toys “R” stores and via its website.

Storch said Toys “R” Us has not yet determined the exact number of holiday pop-ups it will open. It will be more than the 90 temporary locations it opened in 2009, but not as many as the 600 pop-ups it operated last year.

“Our focus is on getting better results from fewer stores,” Storch said.

However, the company is significantly increasing the number of temporary holiday stores it will open in Canada, and is testing the format in other countries.

Storch noted that Toys “R” Us has experienced five consecutive years of postive same-store sales in Christmas.  He emphasized that the chain competes more on product than it does on price.

"At Toys"R"Us, we believe that differentiation and innovation will set us apart and help us win with consumers this holiday season," Storch said. "Price matters, but kids want the right toy.”

To drive home its exclusive offerings, Toys “R” Us, for the first time ever, is launching a 44-page catalogue featuring about 350 items only available at Toys “R” Us. The chain is also beefing up its marketing, including TV commercials, to promote its exclusive products.

“Competitors can’t cut prices on items they don’t have,” Storch said.

The chain, whose e-commerce sales rose 30% in 2010, is also increasing its digital presence, increasing promotions on its Web site and Facebook and carry more products online.

"I am a huge believer in the Internet," Storch said.

The company also continues to focus on creating a seamless in-store and online shopping experience for customers. It has expanded its  "Buy Online, Pick Up In Store" program and the addition of a “Family and Friends Pick Up” component. In October, Toys “R” Us will begin to leverage inventory from its network of stores through a "Ship from Store" program to help fulfill its online orders.

The CEO declined to give any holiday predictions, saying only: “I believe Christmas will come and that customers will want to buy presents for their kids:”

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