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Target on Tuesday announced its plans to roll out a new toy experience in stores and online just in time for the holiday season and ahead of the first Christmas since Toys R Us liquidated its business.
The retailer said it will make a handful of major changes within the toy category, including devoting more aisles to selling toys and hosting play days in stores. Like many retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, Target is hoping to take advantage of the share of the toy market that is now up for grabs.
First, Target said it plans to add a quarter-million square feet of space dedicated to toys across more than 500 stores by Nov. 2. The company said the extra space will be "absolutely permanent," lasting beyond the gifting season.
Target will give a fuller remodel to 100 stores, which will allow those locations to showcase larger items, including electric ride-on vehicles, playhouses and outdoor play sets, the company said. Within those aisles, the company will also have more than 2,500 "new and exclusive" toys for sale — nearly double what it offered in 2017.
Then, Target will also host 25,000 "hours of joy" events across stores later this year, allowing kids to test out the latest toys and meet fictional characters. The goal for bricks-and-mortar companies this holiday season is to make shopping more experiential, giving people a reason to come inside rather than shopping for merchandise online. Walmart similarly plans to host events in stores for kids.
Online, Target promises to make it easier for customers to search for "the perfect toys for every kid on their list."
Target said it will release 22 million gifting catalogs in homes and stores, featuring 15 percent more toy pages compared with last year. Customers will be able to scan items from the catalog using Target's mobile app, where they can find more information about the product and easily add the item to their cart, the company said.
"For many guests, finding the perfect toy to wrap up and give their little loved ones this holiday is going to be their top priority. We want them to know that Target is here to help," said Mark Tritton, Target's executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.
When Toys R Us closed its doors for good over the summer, it created a window of opportunity in the toy space, and several retail giants have already capitalized on the collapse.
Target has been on a roll for a while, with toy sales growing for 17 consecutive quarters, according to Tritton.
In late August, Walmart announced it will grow its assortment of toys in stores by 30 percent this holiday season. The big-box retailer also announced 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.
Amazon, another major competitor in the space, announced its top toy list in August and is expected to hand out toy catalogs at Whole Foods grocery stores later this year to promote them.
Party City, meanwhile, is opening 50 "Toy City" stores this holiday season, set to sit alongside its Halloween pop-up shops. The company also said it plans to permanently add more toys to its Party City locations. And Kohl's, Five Below and J.C. Penney have also said they plan to sell more toys this year.
This holiday season will be an important one for Target. The company is getting back to its "cheap chic" roots, but now must prove it can maintain that momentum. It has recently added a slew of new delivery options that will be put to the test later this year during peak traffic.