Wal-Mart is gearing up for the holidays, beginning in the toy aisle.
The big-box retailer on Wednesday released its list of what it believes will be the "hottest" toys on the market this year. It includes a much-anticipated release from Hatchimals, Fingerlings, a "Star Wars" Droid kit, a "Frozen"-branded sleigh and a "Paw Patrol" lookout tower.
Wal-Mart said it expects the top toy categories this year to be ones that include interactive elements or are collectible, those that make kids move, and items that bring characters from movies and TV shows to life.
This year, about 25 percent of the toys on sale at Wal-Mart stores and on Walmart.com will be "exclusive" to the retailer, Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys for Wal-Mart U.S., said on a call with members of the media. An exclusive item, like Wal-Mart's Radio Control DashCam, can't be purchased anywhere else.
Promising exclusivity is a tactic used by retailers to help lure shoppers to stores with the promise of a unique offering.
In total, Wal-Mart said it will offer more than 1,000 new toys, including more than 300 exclusives.
Toys R Us and Kmart are also among the retailers best known for rolling out exclusive toy deals, and for their special layaway programs during the holiday shopping season.
Starting on Sept. 1 — falling in line with the timing of last year — Wal-Mart launched its own layaway program, where shoppers can select items in stores, then pay for them over time and pick them up at a later date.
Wal-Mart's layaway program will last until Dec. 11, and there's no fee required to participate. The only requirement is that individual items must be $10 or greater, and total purchases must be $50 or more, Kehoe explained.
Retailers like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kmart and TJX have found layaway is a useful way to get shoppers to lock in their holiday purchases early, and keep them coming back throughout the season, as they make payments on the items.
Toys are a popular layaway item. Kehoe said the company expects just as many customers who used layaway to purchase toys last year, to do it again in 2017.
Shoppers are also searching for toy deals earlier in the year this year, according to research from the National Retail Federation. This provides yet another reason for retailers to get a jump-start on marketing and promotions.
Kehoe said the company is committed to staying in stock on popular toys throughout the holiday season.
"If we believe in it, and that's what the customer wants, we go after that."