Walmart Steps Up Toy Push As Toys R Us Faces Bankruptcy

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Walmart is stepping up focus on toys for the holidays as one of its primary rivals Toys R Us goes through bankruptcy. The giant retailer is tripling its toy assortment available online this year and kicking off a series of 20,000 holiday parties at its supercenters with Nov. 4 "Toys That Rock" parties where kids can try out toys in stores.

Walmart has ample supplies this year of last year's biggest hit toy, Hatchimals, and so far is keeping up with brisk customer demand for what looks to be this year's greatest hit—Fingerlings, said Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies in a media call. With Fingerlings, though, he says supplies are selling out about as fast as they hit shelves in some stores.

"Fingerlings is hot, and remains hot, and I think our toy team did a good job of jumping on it first," Bratspies says. "I think we've got a pretty good supply laid in for the season."

Walmart is also hoping to duplicate success from last year's exclusive Disney Princess Carriage with a similar motorized Frozen Sleigh for kids 2-7, which moves along at a top speed of 5 miles per hour. The Frozen sleigh costs $298, down from $398 for last year's Princess Carriage.

The in-store parties are a new wrinkle for Walmart, starting with this weekend's toy parties, where people will get the retailer's toy catalog along with sticker sheets kids can use to mark what they want, after sampling toys that will be on display in store for them to try. Walmart will also have 24,000 Santa visits at stores over the holidays.

While the focus of its ads will remain heavily on e-commerce, Walmart is looking to improve in-store shopping in several ways, says U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Tony Rogers. Besides the toy parties, a first for Walmart, earth's biggest retailer will host similar events focused on party supplies and gifts in December.

Walmart also is adding more Holiday Helpers, building on last year's program that steered people to the shortest checkout lines. This year the helpers will also help with in-store pickup of e-commerce orders and provide customer service in toys and electronics, Rogers says

Overall e-commerce will be a key theme of holiday ads breaking this week, led by Publicis Groupe Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and Publicis, New York. They continue Walmart's "Life's Greatest Hits" theme with rock anthems that include Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" to feature this first holiday with free two-day delivery from Walmart on orders over $35, or Tag Team's "Whoomp There It Is" for Rollbacks that also begin Nov. 4.

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