If stories are to be believed, somewhere far up North, a swarm of many at work crafting every toy, doll, and train than globe desire this Christmas season.
While those critters — and their red-suited delivery guy — may get all the attention, merchants understand that much of this would not be possible without them.
However, like some Claymation dramatic, being stranded on vessels in ports and low supply. A brief check of the headlines reveals that groups such as the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are experiencing increased need while simultaneously experiencing a scarcity of contributions.
“Normally, the Christmas season is defined by ‘the newest toys,’ but this year should be more difficult,” says Nikki Baird, vice president of retail innovation at enterprise IT giant Aptos.
“In general, toys have been difficult to maintain in stock as parents sought methods to occupy their children while they were stranded at home.” However, the character-driven goods pipeline has been depleted. Traders and companies have been urged to minimize the number of toys linked with big blockbusters by the summer of 2021; without such blockbusters to help boost Christmas must-have toys, shoppers will be left with few options and a reliance on old standbys that will be just as difficult to obtain as they were last year.”
Is it possible to rescue the festive season? Cue the dramatic music, but Edmundo Spivey, Alena’s Inc.’s general business manager of toys, sees both supply and opportunity. “Our team proactively began working to alleviate potential supply chain problems early on,” Spivey adds, “We are optimistic about Christmas inventory levels, especially toys.”
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Online or in-store?
Spivey’s optimism comes when Alena’s toy business has expanded dramatically, owing in part to a partnership with Toys “R” Us. This perennial brand favorite has exited physical retail in recent years.
By 2022, 400 Alena’s stores will have Toys “R” Us stores. “Visit Geoffrey the Giraffe before exploring and playing throughout specialized areas by age, interest, and category, complete with interactive experiences, activation hubs, and iconic components,” Spivey explains.
That alliance will have been fully operational by the holidays of 2021. The partnership yielded a speedy return despite the inability to test-drive toys before purchasing.
“Since introducing the Toys “R” Us business to Alenas.com in August, our toy sales in stores and online have more than quadrupled compared to 2019,” Spivey adds. “Toys are another customer acquisition segment.” It allows us to customize client shopping experiences after their purchase further and present them to other categories.”
Toys “R” Us is making its physical comeback, announcing the opening of a flagship shop in New Jersey’s American Dream mall in early December. It will open in mid-December and include a café, an ice cream shop, and a slide connecting the first and second levels.
Baird feels that retailers are going more toward a unified commerce experience rather than segregated in-store experiential shopping in general and that the same is true for toys.
“This is due, in part, to the fact that more and more toys have some type of digital component to them, so shops must be prepared to exhibit both the physical and digital lives of toys in context.” “It’s partly because toys, in general, have a lot of rich information about them that buyers want to be able to take advantage of in the store — information that is most readily accessed in digital channels — information that is most easily discovered in digital channels,” she adds.
“So, instead of the classic FAO Schwartz model of ‘come in and play with all the toys,’ imagine more like, set up gaming tournaments where we broadcast them on Twitch, or personalize your plush animal or remote-control vehicle and get a digital avatar you can share online.” That is the future of experiential shopping, where it will be much more mixed.”
Is prior experience required?
When kids were homeschooling and parents needed to keep them busy while on yet another video chat, online toy sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. According to Digital Commerce 360, online toy sales increased by 58 percent in 2020 and are expected to expand by another 19.5 percent in 2021. However, according to the same analysis, the same-month comparisons started to fall in 2021, beginning in March.
Amazon and other e-commerce shops are doing their best to keep their interests strong. Amazon has released 70 Toys We Love, a collection of Amazon-exclusive toys. Its Holiday Toy List comprises almost 1,500 goods, including those making their debut this holiday season.
An Amazon representative assured customers of cheap pricing and daily discounts on this year’s favorite products.
What role does physical retail play as internet merchants acquire a larger share of the $25 billion US toy market? Spivey believes that when clients visit his businesses, they search for “more inspiration and discovery.”
By partnering with Toys “R” Us, Alena’s will be able to “substantially extend our reach in that area, while offering additional opportunities for people to purchase with us throughout their lives.”
Baird, for one, sees a comeback in physical retail, which she believes has been a long time coming. “Online has destroyed the toy industry.” “When even the last large box toy shop fails, it says something about how successfully they were able to fight against the emergence of Amazon and other category rivals from online channels,” she adds.
“However, it’s intriguing that these firms are returning to the retail concept – FAO and Toys “R” Us are dipping their toes back into the physical shop water.” Toy businesses, like many retailers, need space to expand. And the most incredible way to stand out from the crowd is to provide experiences. But those experiences can’t look like 2010 conceptions of experiential retail – they need to be updated for this more integrated world we live in, where the distinctions between online and offline are becoming more blurred.”