ASTRA Sees Growth Continuing for Independent Retailers this Holiday Season

AstraLogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is optimistic about growth in customer traffic and sales for independent businesses during the upcoming holiday season—with hopes of matching or exceeding the 5.3 percent growth posted last year.

According to a consumer survey conducted during the second quarter of this year, six out of ten customers say they go out of their way to shop at small, locally-owned businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that over 90 percent of fourth quarter shopping will take place in brick-and-mortar stores.

Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), a coalition of trade associations and other organizations concerned with the success of locally-owned, independent businesses, documents that locally-owned retailers have a far greater impact on their communities than national brands. For every $10 million in customer spending at amazon.com, for example, amazon.com creates 14 jobs. Meanwhile, the same amount spent at local brick-and-mortar stores creates 57 jobs, or 75 percent more. ASTRA is a founding member of AIB.

An infographic for retailers to use in their stores and around their communities to reinforce the value added aspects of shopping locally can be downloaded and printed here.

Charmazing and Toys “R” Us Team Up for Upcoming Demo Events

A Charmazing display, from the October 19 launch event of Charmazing, at the Toys “R” Us Times Square store.

Charmazing, a brand of charm-bracelet-making kit from Wooky Entertainment, has upcoming events planned that will take place at Toys “R” Us-operated locations. These will be demo events, in which store associates will show off Charmazing kits, as well as hand out Charmazing bracelets while supplies last. The events are scheduled for November 22, and will take place at the FAO Schwarz flagship store at 767 Fifth Avenue, from 1 to 5 p.m.; and at Toys “R” Us stores chainwide.

In addition, on November 23, at Toys “R” Us Times Square from 8 to 10:30 a.m., Toys “R” Us and the Charmazing brand will host the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widow’s and Children’s Holiday Party, benefiting families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. Activities will include Santa Claus arriving aboard a FDNY fire truck, as well as a marching band performance. In addition, some attendees will have the opportunity to take home charm bracelets.

Toys “R” Us Announces Thanksgiving Weekend Doorbusters, Special Deals for Rewards “R” Us Members

toysrusOn Thanksgiving weekend, Toys “R” Us will offer more than $8,000 in potential toy savings to holiday shoppers. Toys “R” Us stores nationwide will open at 5 p.m. on November 27, and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., 4-hour doorbuster deals will include discounts on Disney Infinity Starter Packs and figures; Skylanders Trap Team Starter Packs, figures, and Traps; the V-Tech InnoTab 3S Connect; Frozen Jumbo Olaf Plush, from Just Play; and more.

Meanwhile, selected deals available on November 28 from 7 a.m. through November 29, as well as online at toysrus.com, include buy one, get one for 40 percent off on Disney Infinity and Skylanders Trap Team items, certain Disney Frozen toys, and more.

Toys “R” Us will also provide exclusive, early access to Black Friday deals on more than 100 items, both in-store and online, to Rewards “R” Us members beginning November 23. Not only can Rewards “R” Us members accumulate points on their purchases, those points can be applied to Toys “R” Us shopping into the new year.

In addition, throughout November and December, “R”Us credit cardholders are eligible to receive discounts off Toys “R” Us purchases when using their “R”Us credit card in-store on Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. Through December 20, existing cardholders can also save 10 percent every Saturday when they use their “R”Us credit card in-store.

Finally, the majority of Toys “R” Us Thanksgiving Weekend deals will be available starting on November 26 at 10 p.m. ET at toysrus.com/blackfriday.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Gets into the Christmas Spirit, Launches Holiday App, Lets New Reindeer Reign

BuildABear.CometReindeerBuild-A-Bear Workshop Inc. has transformed its stores into Santa’s Workshops, is introducing eight reindeer, and will extend play beyond plush with the launch of an exclusive holiday app, Santa’s Merry Mission.

By visiting the company’s Team Santa site, children and guests can take a personality quiz to determine which of the eight reindeer is their favorite, and then follow steps to create their very own plush toy. Reindeer selections include Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. A special medallion comes with each reindeer and unlocks fun features in the app, including a stable, outfits, games, and more.

BuildaBearappOther features on the app include “Santa’s Merry Mission,” a new family Christmas story that tells the tale of how Santa partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop this season; a sing-a-long to “Reindeer Bells” performed by Brandon Bassir, and more. The Santa’s Merry Mission app can also be downloaded for free on iTunes or Google Play.

Gift Cards Are Shoppers’ Choice This Holiday Season, Says NRF

nrfThis holiday season, gift card spending is set to top all previous records. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74, up from $163.16 last year, with total spending expected to reach $31.74 billion. In an October NRF survey, 62 percent of shoppers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item for eight years in a row.

According to the survey, shoppers will spend more on average per card than they did last year, with total spending on gift cards increasing 83 percent since NRF began tracking consumers’ intentions to buy gift cards as holiday gifts in 2003.

The survey found adults 65 and up will spend the most on gift cards, with young adults between 18 to 24 years old spending the least, and men planning to spend significantly more than women ($180.81 versus $165.09, respectively).

Shoppers noted the ease of buying, the ability to allow recipients to select their own gifts, and sticking to holiday budgets as top reasons for choosing gift cards over traditional gifts. Gift cards for department stores, restaurants, and coffee shops are expected to be top choices this holiday season.

Target’s Holiday Deals Include Toy Discounts Throughout November

Target LogoTarget has extended its Black Friday prices throughout the month of November, with sales culminating on Black Friday weekend.

Throughout the month, Cartwheel—Target’s mobile savings app—is offering 50 percent off a different toy every day. Additionally, from November 23 to 29, Cartwheel will feature more than 100 exclusive deals, including 60 percent off select movie titles and 30 percent off select board games.

On Wednesday, November 26, Target stores and target.com will offer a handful of pre-Black Friday savings to guests. The deals will be available for preview in the store’s weekly ad on November 23.

For guests who want to shop early, Black Friday deals will be available on target.com on Thanksgiving morning. Target stores will then open for Black Friday shoppers at 6 p.m. that night.

The first several hundred guests waiting in line at Target stores across the nation on Thanksgiving evening will receive a Christmas cracker, which will include a Target gift card or coupon. Top Black Friday deals will include: Buy one, get one 50 percent off toys from select top brands, 40 percent off select Lego sets, sales on various game consoles, and more. [Read more...]

The Hess Toy Truck Still Cruising at Age 50

HessToyTruckThis Friday, the newest addition to Hess’ line of toy trucks, the 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout, goes on sale at participating Hess, Hess Express, and WilcoHess retail stores. The three-in-one toy vehicle, which is also the 50th anniversary Hess truck, can be pre-ordered now at the official Hess Toy Truck site.

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck is a space cruiser with retractable landing gear, flashing lights, and button-activated and motion-activated special effects, riding on top of a flatbed truck. A cargo door on the space trucker opens to reveal the scout, which features folding wings and working lights. The flatbed truck doubles as a launch pad that includes button-activated launch ramp, hydraulic lift, and sound effects and lights. In addition, the chrome detailing on the cab includes an embossed 50 to mark the Hess Toy Truck’s 50th anniversary.

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout is on display as part of the Hess Toy Truck Mobile Museum, which is currently touring the east coast.

Toys “R” Us Offers Holiday Changes to Aid Shoppers

sq-black-friday-made-easyA number of Toys “R” Us stores nationwide will open at 5 p.m. on November 27 for Black Friday sales. Stores will remain open through 11 p.m. on November 28, offering doorbusters and deals on the season’s most sought-after playthings.

Beginning Thanksgiving weekend and continuing through Christmas Eve, Toys “R” Us will introduce a range of in-store and digital services designed to make holiday toy shopping less stressful. Services will include the implementation of Toys “R” Us G.P.S. (Guru for Play Stuff) store specialists, new aisle signage, digital store-specific maps, daily toy shipments, and a dedicated Express Lane at checkout.

G.P.S.’s will offer busy holiday shoppers advice on hot toys, deals, time-saving services, and incentive programs. They will be located at the front of stores beginning on Thanksgiving, and during peak traffic periods on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for the remainder of the holiday season. [Read more...]

Macy’s Holiday Arcade to Offer Toys from Build-A-Bear, Madame Alexander, Gund, and More

MacysLogoMacy’s will be introducing the Holiday Arcade, in-store gifting shops offering customers an eclectic assortment of distinctive and playful options for their holiday shopping lists. These shops will launch at six Macy’s locations between late October and mid-November:

The Holiday Arcade at five locations including Macy’s South Coast Plaza, Macy’s Union Square, Macy’s State Street, Macy’s Herald Square, and Macy’s Center City will be home to exclusive Build-A-Bear Workshop shop-in-shops. Visitors will have the opportunity to customize Build-A-Bear stuffed animals, as well as licensed products such as figures from Disney’s Frozen and Marvel’s superheroes. [Read more...]

Wal-Mart’s Initial Holiday Offerings Include Discounts on Disney Frozen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and More

logo-walmartFor its first round of holiday promotions, Wal-Mart has expanded its digital shelves to include 7 million items, which is one million more than last holiday season. Shortly after midnight PT on November 3, deals typically reserved for Black Friday and Cyber Monday will start on walmart.com, and will include discounts on toys and games, such as the Barbie Dreamhouse and Nintendo 2DS.

The retailer will also offer hundreds of weekly online specials on items that include toys and electronics, with same-day pickup at Wal-Mart stores available while supplies last at no additional charge, and free shipping to customers’ homes available for orders totaling $50 or more.

Wal-Mart has rolled out a new feature within its mobile app: Search My Store, through which customers can search for nearly any item carried in a Wal-Mart store and see that item’s availability, its aisle location, ratings, and reviews. Search My Store is available on Android devices and will expand to iPhones by mid-November. [Read more...]