Monday, September 17, 2012

Toys R Us offers parents a jump-start on Santa...

 99 days – the “Countdown to Christmas” is officially down to double-digits.

And in the far back reaches of some of our favorite Big Box retailers, a section or two of aisle way is already dedicated to red and green.
Ah yes, the greeting cards are always first to arrive...
“But I’m still wearing shorts and laying poolside!”

Yeah, yeah – we know for most of you, it’s “too much, too soon.”  Just try to bear with our excitement, will you? This year, Toys R Us seems to be celebrating us “Christmas can never start too early” nut-jobs.

The tycoon toy-eria is set to unveil a new reservation program with this year’s “Hot Toy List.”

Due out later this month, the annual list of kid-approved must-haves will incentivize shopping early.

How it Will Work:

Gift-givers can reserve any toy on the list prior to October 31st. By putting 20% down, shoppers are placed in a virtual queue to receive stock as it arrives in-store.

Reservation holders will be notified via email when merchandise is available for pick up. They will have until December 16th to do so.

Holds that are cancelled and any reservations not able to be filled prior to the Dec. 16 deadline will be refunded.
Help or Hurt the search for this year’s Hottest Toys?

For us, the promotion boasts two distinct mantras:
Customer-facing: “Stress-free shopping! Stop wasting time/energy with multiple trips in-store to simply check stock – we’ll tell you when your merchandise is here!”

“Curse those online retailers and secondary web market – stealing from our bottom line. It’s time we take back what’s rightfully ours!”

Look, every parent wants to see their child smile on Christmas morning. But ever since their rise to power in the mid-90’s, online retailers and the secondary/peer-to-peer web markets have offered something brick and mortar cannot. Guaranteed product (ergo, guaranteed satisfaction under the tree).

In-store you pay retail price but deal with spotty availability. Online you have 100% availability but premium pricing.
The Toys R Us promo looks to offer the best of both worlds; availability at retail price.

Reserve before November and you won’t have to pay 3-10x retail for “Let’s Rock Elmo.” The Hot Toys Reservation List is the perfect fix (in theory).

Will the promo allow gift givers to rest a little easier knowing they’ll secured all their holiday must-haves, or will it lull them into a false sense of security?

Only time will tell.

But in its pilot year, there are bound to be glitches.

How many units of in-demand product can each store expect to receive?

What percentage of that total can/should be made available to reserve?
(They can’t leave the entire store floor devoid of all in-demand product).

What percentage of reservations made will end up being no-shows?
(Non-participants be outside waiting come Monday December 17th - you may be able to pick up expired reservations; making their way to the floor for the first time).

Look, we don’t have visibility into the store’s supply chain. And we’re living in a retail world of big data; no doubt Toys R Us has considered these and hundreds of other scenarios.

Still, the cynic in me can’t help but fear TRU will be sending out a lot of reservation cancellation notices come Dec. 16. A less than idyllic situation that would leave would-be shoppers scrambling to find items online (the very action this blogger predicts Toys R Us is hoping the program will curtail).

With holiday shopping the stakes are (always) high. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.  Toys R Us may only have one year to get it right.

Ho, Ho, Hmmmm…

Let’s see what unfolds by year-end!

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