Consumer Nation

Toy Price Wars Rage On, but Now There's an App for That

Ah, the steely concentration of a child poring over a toy catalog, working on the perfect holiday wish list. There's nothing quite like it, except for, perhaps, the steely concentration of Mom or Dad poring over the same toy catalog trying to figure out how to make those wishes come true on a budget. Well, now there's an App for that.

Source: Toys R Us

Toys 'R Us will unveil it's annual holiday toy catalog on Sunday, Nov. 1, and yes, there will be a version for Apple's iPhone.

Can't wait? Facebook friends of the official Toys 'R Us page will be able to begin previewing the toy catalog as early as Friday, but the full catalog won't be available on the until Sunday, when it also will be delivered in newspapers nationwide.

With the toy price warswith Wal-Mart Stores and Target raging on, Toys 'R Us is boasting this year's edition will offer shoppers as much as $5,500 in savings. True to the tone of this holiday season, that is $500 more than they were bragging about last year.

Although some industry analysts are suggesting consumers may be willing to loosen their pursestrings a little, no one is debating that shoppers will spend freely. Deals are important, and the company will be offering $10 gift cards with purchases of $75 or more.

Gifts with purchases are also an important theme. In addition to $10 gift cards for shoppers who buy some iPod models or make Disney movie purchases of more than $40, the retailer also is offering backpacks, tins of crayons, board games and other items with select purchases.

The bargains also get under way early. Retailers are trying to coax shoppers into the store early in the holiday shopping season in order to make sure they grab a piece of a tight holiday budget. Toys 'R Us and Sears both made headlines for offering Christmas in July deals this summer. Select deals from the catalog will be offered beginning Nov. 1 and some deals will be available through Thursday, Nov. 26.

The iPhone App, which allows shoppers to not only see the catalog, but also make Wish Lists and view customer reviews, will be available for download at the iTunes Web sitestarting on Sunday.

"We...realize that our customers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices as a way to obtain information, and we expect this App to be a hit with our customers," said a Toys 'R Us spokesman.

The Wish List is a new gift registry service that was recently rolled out in stores to allow customers to build lists of items they want to receive. The free service will continue after the holidays so it can be used for birthdays and other occasions.

One element that may be fun for kids is the ability to bring the catalog to the store, and scan the items, and even email a Wish List to Santa.

The 2009 Biggest Big Book also will include items from FAO Schwarz, which the company acquired in May. FAO Schwarz is known for its high-end toys and its famous toy store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On Monday, Toys 'R Us announced it would relaunch the FAO Schwarz Web site, publish its toy catalog, and include FAO Schwarz boutiques inside 585 Toys 'R Us stores nationwide. This brings the brand closer to fans who can't make it to New York or to Las Vegas, where there is also a store inside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

Still, the boutiques will be price conscious, and feature a numbe of toys priced from $2.99 to $64.99, and will include some of the traditional FAO items the retailer sold annually such as its holiday ornament and its collectible bear. But for the full range of products, shoppers will need to go to

It will be interesting to see how consumers will take to this concept. One question that analysts will be watching is to see if the FAO brand loses any of its high-end luster from being housed within a mass merchant like Toys 'R Us.

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