It's a land grab for Toys R Us market share.
Walmart said Thursday it is expanding its assortment of toys by 30 percent at all brick-and-mortar locations this holiday season, and it will offer 40 percent more toys on Walmart.com. At some locations, the physical space dedicated to toys also will be larger, Walmart said Thursday at a briefing with the media in New York. In those locations, Walmart will shift space allotted for seasonal goods, like back-to-school merchandise, to toys.
Walmart's goal is to "show customers the best place to shop for toys is Walmart," said Anne Marie Kehoe, the vice president of the retailer's U.S. toy business.
The aggressive push comes after hundreds of Toys R Us stores were shuttered earlier this year, leaving a window for other retailers to step in and take market share. Last year, toy sales rose 1 percent to $20.7 billion from 2016, according to market researcher NPD Group. Sales in the first half of 2018 jumped 7 percent to $7.9 billion, NPD said.
Many companies, including Walmart, have already laid out strategies to do just that — even companies that aren't typically known for their toy sales. Party City — not a traditional toy retailer — is opening 50 Toy City stores this holiday season, which will sit alongside its Halloween pop-up shops. The company also said it plans to permanently add more toys to its Party City locations.
"We continue to see Amazon as the biggest share taker post-[Toys R Us]," Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink said in a research note. The e-commerce giant accounted for a high-teens percentage of U.S. toy sales in 2017, she said.
Amazon has already jumped in, releasing its top toy list this week — 10 days earlier than it did last year. It also is expected to soon start handing out holiday toy catalogs at Whole Foods grocery stores and sending them to Prime households, marketing its expanded assortment in a way that it's never done before.
Wissink also said she wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon "send catalogs to non-Prime households offering free 60 day Prime trials during Nov.-Dec.," to grow Amazon's share of the toy market further this holiday season.
In March, Wissink said that Toys R Us had accounted for about 15 to 20 percent of all U.S. toy sales last year.
Target has meanwhile said it plans to push more toys this holiday season. Some analysts have predicted Target will be the biggest winner following the death of Toys R Us, considering many Toys R Us stores were located close to Target stores.
"We are investing in categories like toy and baby where we know we have this big opportunity ahead of us," Target CEO Brian Cornell told CNBC after the retailer reported quarterly earnings last week. "We are going to make sure we are taking more than our fair share of that market share."
Kohl's also mentioned its opportunity in toys, during its earnings conference call last week.
"While we're not the biggest player in toy, we have a bit of a curated assortment," Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass said. "We're bringing in two powerful brands this holiday, Lego and FAO Schwarz, so that will give us a real boost to our toy business."
Back at Walmart, the company said Thursday it plans to hold more than 2,000 "retail-tainment" events in its stores this year — up from less than 500 last year — to promote new toys. On Sept. 8, Walmart will host a National Play Day in more than 1,500 of its stores to give kids the chance to play with some of its top toys for 2018.
Walmart's layaway service for the holiday season will start this Friday, earlier than it did last year.