Walmart flexes holiday muscle, counters TRU initiative

Walmart unveiled its top toy list Friday morning and couldn’t resist taking a shot at Toys "R" Us which launched a toy reservation program earlier in the week.

Walmart said its layaway program and top toy offering gives parents the confidence to shop now for the toys kids want at every day low prices. And in an obvious dig at Toys "R" Us, the press release for Walmart’s top 20 toys declared, "no reservations required: America’s largest toy seller’s hassle-free layaway program begins this Sunday."

"As the largest seller of toys in the U.S., we know what parents are looking for," said Anne Marie Kehoe, vp of toys for Walmart U.S. "Whether bikes, dolls or action figures, we’re committed to having the toys kids want on our shelves at prices their parents can afford all season long. We carefully crafted our top 20 toys list to provide the right assortment for all kids. Making the list available now gives parents the chance to get toys early and take advantage of layaway with no gimmicks."

Walmart’s announcement followed a Toy’s "R" Us event held at the retailer’s New York City flagship stores where CEO Gerry Storch sought to position his company as the holiday toy authority and unveiled a new "hot toy" reservation program. Toys "R" Us includes 50 items on what it called its much-anticipated hot toy list that serves as the official guide to Christmas toy buying. The company also said it would begin a new service to ship orders placed online to stores, something Walmart has been doing for years.

The dueling hot toy lists follow a similar fracas from prior weeks after Walmart came out with some revisions to its layaway program, including increased fees and an expanded assortment of eligible products. Toys "R" Us countered with a free layaway program which Walmart then countered by announcing it had "rolled back" its layaway fees.

It is shaping up to be the most competitive holiday season ever and it is only mid-September. Already there is plenty of drama in the toy category and with Target and Amazon.com yet to enter the fray more fireworks are surely ahead.