Dive Brief:

  • Walmart is reviving its online venue that lets kids take a closer look at popular toys ahead of the 2019 holiday season.
  • The retailer partnered with interactive entertainment company Eko to launch the site, dubbed Walmart Toys Lab. The two companies formed a joint venture last year to create interactive programming, and originally launched the toy lab last holiday season. 
  • Kids can use the site to look at, test or play with toys via a virtual controller. About 20 toys are available through the site at the moment, including Frozen 2, Barbie and Star Wars licensed products. Another 20 are set to be added by November, the companies said. 

Dive Insight:

With the big box version of Toys R Us gone, the fight among the big players for holiday toy market share is heating up this season. 

This year so far Walmart has announced a 25% increase in toy exclusives in stores and online and over 40 new toys from kid-influencer brands, as well as an expanded “hottest toys” list. That builds on the retailer’s efforts last year, which saw Walmart dramatically expand its toy assortment for the holiday season, the first after Toys R Us’ liquidation. 

Walmart will have to fight Target and Amazon to fill the Toys R Us void, as it did last year. According to a report by Criteo, survey data shows that former Toys R Us shoppers favor Amazon with the retailer gone, followed by Walmart and Target. For those who prefer convenient store locations, Walmart and Target are the preferred choice. That may be why Walmart has added in-store events and demos to push toys.

Target has made similar moves into the category. This year the retailer added Disney-themed shops within its stores, that include toys exclusive outside of Disney’s own stores. Target also recently partnered with the revived Toys R Us.

The re-launched toysrus.com website now offers product reviews and interactive elements to market toys and engage consumers. The site sends visitors who want to make purchases to Target’s product pages and leaves the mass merchant to fulfill and ship the orders from its own assortment. That partnership gives Target additional marketing reach online and offers the revived Toys R Us brand a major retail partner to supply product. 

As customers adjust to a world without the old Toys R Us, and the more than $1 billion in toy sales it left behind in the U.S., this year could prove to be crucial for the major players as they race to solidify their market position.