EBay flags toy offering ahead of first Toys ‘R’ Us-less Christmas

EBay Australia on Thursday released a list of its top toy trends for Christmas 2018, drawing on sales data and insights from in-house experts. The online marketplace also flagged a 20 per cent discount on select toys in its Christmas Frenzy sale this weekend, as consumers begin their holiday shopping in earnest.

As recent reports have made clear, November is now the biggest month in the retail calendar, thanks to the ever-earlier creep of retailers’ Christmas marketing campaign and major sales events, such as Singles Day (China’s online-only sales event on November 11), Click Frenzy (Australia’s online-only sales event on November 13) and Black Friday and Cyber Monday (omnichannel sales events imported from the US on November 23 and 26, respectively).

But the encroaching holiday season may not be the only reason eBay is so keen to highlight its toy offering. This year marks the first Christmas since Toys ‘R’ Us went out of business and left a giraffe-sized hole in the consumer spending pie up for grabs.

In the US, major retailers including Walmart and Target are setting aside more floor space for toys in hundreds of stores, according to The Wall Street Journal. But former Toys ‘R’ Us president Neil Friedman told the publication that competitors would not be able to capture all of the dollars that would have gone to the toy superstore, since “the other guys don’t plan the business to have inventory at the end of the year”.

The Wall Street Journal story suggested that retailers would focus on popular toys and well-known brands. Indeed, that dynamic is already playing out, with eBay singling out best-sellers, such as last year’s hit product, LOL Surprise! Bigger Surprise!

This focus is also apparent in the first-ever printed holiday shopping catalog from Amazon, “A Holiday of Play”, which began mailing to millions of customers in the US this week, as first reported by CNBC.

IR asked Amazon Australia whether it plans to offer the toy catalog in Australia, but had not received a reply at the time of this writing.

Toy shopping in Australia

Australian retailers have been less forthcoming about their ambitions to capture Toys ‘R’ Us’s share of the market. According to Field Agent’s survey of 300 local families in December 2017, 40 per cent of parents and kids said that Kmart was the best place to shop for and buy toys, followed by Big W (23 per cent), Target (15 per cent) and Toys ‘R’ Us (11 per cent).

When it comes to online, eBay is the preferred choice for toy shopping (21 per cent), followed by Target (17 per cent).

These findings put the ultimate impact of Toys ‘R’ Us’s absence into perspective. Both Big W and Target, when asked, said they were more focused on getting their own product mix right.

“In anticipation of a successful Christmas and summer trading period we do expand our product offerings. Especially in those Christmas seasonal items like Christmas trees, decorations, as well as toys and entertainment for the kids,” Kristen Linders, general manager of marketing at Big W, said.

Target’s chief marketing officer Kenton Elliott agreed that having the right items available and in stock was the retailer’s core focus.

“I think that the markets always changing, so it’s important for us to evolve our range, and the offer that we’ve got, and I know that we’ve got some great exclusive gifts across the whole of the store that you can only get at Target,” Elliott said.

“For us it’s about competing and focusing on what we do, more than worrying about what the competitors are doing.”

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