Toys'R'Us seeks holiday dominance with 'hot toy' reservation

WAYNE, N.J. — Get them in early and often seems to be the motto for Toys”R”Us this year, as the toy retailer is hoping new initiatives will encourage customers shop for holiday toys well before December.

At a holiday preview event at Toys”R”Us’s flagship store in New York City, chairman and CEO, Jerry Storch, revealed a new program that would allow customers to reserve the hottest toys for the season, guaranteeing they would have them in time for the holidays. What’s the catch? Aside from having to put 20% down, reservations have to be made by Oct. 31, meaning that customers will have to act fast if they want to be sure they can get their hands on one of the 50 products Toys”R”Us deems as “hot” for the season. Once the reservation is made, customers will be notified via email when the products are available and will have until Dec. 16 to pick up their orders.

Lest anyone think they can cheat the system, Storch ensured the press in attendance that the reservations could only be done in person as to avoid any scams by offering the program online. He added that the retailer wanted to be sure it was only serious customers using the service and that no other retailer has done anything like this.

Concerns were raised over the company’s ability to meet the demands of the customers. To this end Storch acknowledged the possibility of not meeting some reservations, but noted, “We will make sure we won’t make a commitment we can’t keep. We are confident we can deliver on this.”

The news of the reservation program followed Toys”R”Us recent announcement of no-fee layaway. Similar to the hot toy program, orders placed through Oct. 31 will not be subjected to the $5 service fee, and customers have until Dec. 16 to pick up their orders.

Between the hot toy reservation program and no-fee early layaway service, it is clear Toys”R”Us is hoping to see an early boost in holiday sales. And while many customers will be enticed to take advantage of these offers, many more will still wait until the last minute in the hopes of scoring better deals.

But no matter when, where or how customers choose to shop this holiday season, Storch emphasized Toys”R”Us omnichannel approach and noted that customers have more than 80 ways to do business with the retailer. New initiatives including ship-to-store and pickup kiosks are designed to turn each store into a fulfillment center.

No matter what happens, however, based on past comps performance in the month of December, Storch is confident the positive growth trend will continue in 2012, noting that the retailer’s highly differentiated assortment, quality store exclusives and hot branded exclusives are what keep bringing