It’s 44 days until the kick-off of the holiday season and the biggest question for shoppers might be, where will shoppers buy their toys now that Toys R Us is unstable?
In a recent update, the retailer announced that it would be trying to make a comeback, after publicizing last June that it would be closing 700 stores due to extreme debt and high profit loss. While the retailer makes a move to return to its former glory, a handful of prominent retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s are strategizing to become the new go-to toy merchants for American consumers. And while enthusiasm for capturing this new opportunity is clear on all players’ parts, it is difficult to tell which retailers will emerge the winners of the 2018 season. The keys to success, according to Ray Wimer, assistant professor of retail practice at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, will likely be the use of data in planning and high supply chain flexibility.
The biggest players in this race to capture Toys R Us business are Walmart and Target, which run on business models that avoid any leftover inventory at the end of a given season. It is debatable whether these companies will alter their inventory management strategies to ensure that they do not run out of toy stock right before Christmas. Regardless of the inventory strategy they adopt, Walmart and Target are both certain to sacrifice floor space in their physical stores to house toys for the holiday season, suspected Smaller players are re-introducing traditional toy catalogs to promote their revamped toys business.
Broadening and creating retail channels in these ways requires a high level of planning, and the eighth-month turnaround between Toys R Us’s closure announcement and the season kick off of Black Friday does not leave retailers much time to strategize plans of attack for storming the toy market. Determining which toys to stock and in what assortments, especially in such a short time frame, is proving to be a major challenge for retailers.
Wimer, noted that the solutions to these questions “will be data-driven, in terms of looking at historical records of what sold best for Toys R Us.”
The savviest competitors will likely use artificial intelligence to track these patterns and optimize efficiency to avoid expensive inventory overstock. In this new toy retail space, smart retailers know that a nimble supply chain is a profitable supply chain.
While the chaos of new supply chains and inventory management are challenging retailers, it is important to note that everyday consumers will also surely be impacted.
“This year, buy the must-have toys early,” recommended Wimer, forecasting that lower inventory levels and slimmer assortments will cause retailers to run out of toys much sooner than they have in previous years. The rush to get the big-ticket gift items early is already fueled by the four-day shopping spree that ranges from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, but the void left by Toys R Us makes this year the year for consumers to join the frenzy as early as possible.