aNb Media News, November 9, 2010

Store Check: We Visit Stores This Holiday Season So You Don’t Have To

With the holiday season fast approaching we’ll be visiting mass market stores to let readers know what we have observed from what’s selling to general observations about what is happening at retail. This weekend, we scouted the toy aisles of Toys “R” Us, Walmart, and Target. While it is still early in the season, product is already selling out. Mattel’s Monster High single pack dolls are gone. It is clearly the hottest item in the doll aisle. Not to be forgotten is the Disney Princess Fashion Dolls line, which has been hot all year.

In the educational aisle, both the V.Reader from Vtech and Leapster Explorer from LeapFrog are blowing out. While there is still some hardware available, much of the software is sold out. LEGO Games are clearly getting noticed in all stores.

Rumors of Squinkies sales slowing down have been circling the toy industry as of late. We have found those rumors to be false. In five different store checks, not one Squinkie could be located for purchase. Slowing down? We don’t think so. It’s more like: sold out.

Moving over to the younger kids aisle, the Thomas & Friends brand looks well picked over in trains and construction. Dance Star Mickey was sold out everywhere. We found a surprise hit in the toy aisles—the Dinosaur Train line is selling out everywhere.

Here are a few additional observations and notes. Target has clearly devoted more space than it ever has to the toy category and the toy category is looking better than ever. One odd observation in Target shows that Kung Zhu is being merchandised in the girls’ aisle next to the original Zhu Zhu Pets. That seems like an odd strategy given that Kung Zhu is a boy-targeted line. Walmart’s toy section looks smaller than last year, and can be walked in considerably less time. At Toys “R” Us, the Hasbro Games promotion got a lot of attention. Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi Ho! Cherry-O were all $1. Yes, we said $1. In addition, there were many other games for under $5.

The mass market is working hard to bring consumers in early with all sorts of “door buster” and “Black Friday” deals weeks before Thanksgiving. It is too early to tell what overall impact this strategy will have on sales.

Disney Store Opens in Times Square

Disney Store Times Square has its grand opening today. While the soft opening occurred last week, we attended a walk-through tour yesterday. The two-story shop aims to be the “Best 30 Minutes of Child’s Day,” according to Disney. The store is expected to feature 18,000 products. New York City-themed products are featured on the first floor—most of which will not be found in any other location. In fact, consumers were limited in the number of exclusive New York City-themed vinyl figures that could be purchased. The assumption is that Disney doesn’t want these products resold in bulk on eBay.

The second floor offers mostly exclusive Disney items. Shoppers can follow Pixie Dust Lane to make their way through the store. Disney says this is the first Disney store to showcase a Marvel section, which will grow and change as films make their way into theaters. Next to the Marvel section is the Ridemakers Build Your Own Custom Cars. Disney says it is the only place to make vehicles for the Cars franchise.

There is a Magic Mirror in the Princess section. Wave a wand in front of the RFID-enabled mirror and one of eight versions of a story will play. The Disney Store Theater features seating for parents and kids. Consumers choose what is played on the screen in a modern day twist on the “jukebox” concept. The theater will feature clips from classic Disney to the latest film trailers.

Disney says it projected that the store would host 11,000 shoppers per day although more than that seemed to go through on opening weekend. The nice weather, Times Square location, and Sunday’s marathon probably all contributed to a greater-than-expected number of guests. Monday’s tour was conducted on a cold, rainy day and the store was crowded with shoppers at lunchtime.

TRU Enhances Tech Options for Shoppers

Toys “R” Us (TRU) announced several new advancements in its mobile technology capabilities available to all shoppers in the U.S. All Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores nationwide are now equipped with coupon barcode scanners, which allow store associates to scan customers’ mobile e-mail coupons straight from their mobile devices. Customers who are members of the store’s mailing lists will begin to receive mobile-enabled coupons. When the mobile version of an e-mail is displayed on a smartphone, print coupons are converted into an easily readable format, which can be scanned in-store from the shopper’s phone screen.

To provide gift-givers with the latest and most convenient mobile solutions this holiday season, the company built upon last year’s introduction of eGift cards by offering the option for gift card recipients to go paper free. In 2009, TRU unveiled its electronic gift certificates, which allow shoppers to send gift cards to intended recipients via e-mail, which they then could print and use in-store or online. Now, recipients of eGift cards with internet-enabled phones can retrieve their eGift card barcode sent to their e-mail and have it scanned in-store at the point of sale.

Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us customers who opt into the free service (standard message rates apply) will receive notifications and exclusive offers directly to their mobile devices. Shoppers have the option to receive deals, promotions, and alerts from either or both brands by simply texting “TOYS” and/or “BABIES” to 30364, or entering their mobile number online on the company’s dedicated mobile pages.

Warner Bros, Hot Topic in Harry Potter Promo

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) and Hot Topic announced the creation of exclusive Harry Potter merchandise boutiques in anticipation of the Warner Bros. Pictures’ release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 1, in theaters November 19, 2010. These dedicated boutiques will feature all-new products inspired by the film at each of Hot Topic’s 680 locations in the United States and Canada. Additionally, an in-store mobile application will offer challenges and rewards to customers who participate through their iPhone and Android mobile devices.

In addition to the merchandise boutiques, certain items will be exclusively available online at The site is also set to host an online sweepstakes where Harry Potter fans can enter to win a trip to the star-studded U.S. premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2, becoming among the first to see the final installment of the film saga. The event will be held in summer 2011, with the city and exact date to be announced next year.