Q&A with Simha Kumar, President, Sports and Fitness, Children’s Entertainment, Sears Holdings

Sears.Kumar,SimhaThe Toy Book (TTB): How are you engaging consumers in-store to drive sales?

Simha Kumar (SK): Kmart is focused on offering the most-desired toys, affordably and conveniently. We feature top licensed toys and hundreds of Kmart exclusives—whether purchasing in-store, buying online and picking up in-store, or having them shipped directly home. [Read more...]

Wal-Mart to Boost Pay of U.S. Workers

logo-walmartAs reported by The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to boost the pay of all its U.S. employees to at least $9 an hour by April. This raise would top the federal minimum wage by 24 percent and take a bite out of the company’s profit this year. Wal-Mart has stated that the investment in higher wages and better training will cost the company.

The wage announcement came as Wal-Mart reported a relatively strong holiday season, with sales at its core U.S. business up 1.5 percent. For the quarter ended January 31, Wal-Mart reported earnings of $4.97 billion, up from $4.43 billion a year earlier, while revenue rose 1.4 percent to $131.6 billion.

Target Announces Store Growth Plans for 2015

Target.TargetExpressThis year, Target Corp. will open 15 stores in three distinct formats: eight TargetExpress locations, one CityTarget, and six general merchandise stores. Target’s strategic growth is focused on reaching guests in urban centers, while also offering new experiences, merchandising layouts, and innovations in its general merchandise stores. [Read more...]

NRF Reports 4 Percent Increase in Retail Holiday Sales

nrfAccording to the National Retail Federation (NRF), December retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, decreased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month, and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. The significant drop in gasoline prices for the month of December brought down much of the month-to-month growth. [Read more...]

Target Corporation to Discontinue Canadian Operations

Target LogoTarget Corporation will discontinue operating stores in Canada through its indirect wholly owned subsidiary, Target Canada Co. As a part of that process, this morning Target Canada filed an application for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. [Read more...]

GUEST OP-ED: Deck the Halls, Not Your Customers: Tips for Handling Customer Complaints This Holiday Season

RonKaufmanheadshotFor the customer service sector, the holiday season is crunch time. With more shoppers, more sales, more shipping, more advertisements, and more product demand, there’s (so much) more potential for something to go wrong. At the same time, shoppers’ expectations are never higher. They don’t just want to check every item off their lists; they expect their shopping experience to be fun, festive, and full of good cheer. It’s the holidays, after all! No pressure, right?

Author Ron Kaufman admits that the holiday shopping season does seem like a minefield of potential customer complaints. But he’s also adamant that, handled sensitively, complaints can be a catalyst for improving customer satisfaction and capturing new business. [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 and Babies “R” Us Open Approximately 90 Stores Worldwide Throughout 2014

ToysRUsLogo copyToys “R” Us plans to open approximately 90 stores, which include new, relocated, and licensed stores. They will be located throughout 21 of the 37 countries and jurisdictions in which Toys “R” Us Inc. currently has a presence through its wholly owned and licensed businesses. The list also includes the company’s first licensed store in Namibia, which opened in October.

Toys “R” Us’ most significant expansion plans for this year are in China and Southeast Asia, where it has already begun operating several of 22 brand-new stores in China and eight planned new locations in Malaysia. By the end of the year, Toys “R” Us will operate 76 stores in 35 cities throughout China.

The new stores that the company plans to open this year include both Toys “R” Us locations and a number of side-by-side formats, which combine Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us under one roof. Meanwhile, new store sizes vary by country and range from 3,000 to 45,000 square feet.

New and relocated store locations are scheduled to open this year in the following countries: the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Namibia, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

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...]

Lionel Opens New Brick-and-Mortar Store and Headquarters in North Carolina

Lionel.NewStoreThis past Monday, Lionel opened its first retail store in Concord, N.C. The new location will serve as a central station for popular train sets, replicas, and collectibles, as well as store-exclusive gifts and keepsakes.

To celebrate the new store, which will also serve as the company’s new headquarters, Lionel President Howard Hitchcock drove festivities with J. Scott Padgett, the mayor of Concord, and Donna Carpenter, the CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lionel.NewStore2The store will become a terminal for field trips, new product testing, and company announcements. The 1,100-square-foot space will house one of Lionel’s fully decorated layouts, which will feature different trains throughout the year. Kids can control the layout with handheld remotes and test the newest trains.

Lionel has made numerous expansion efforts of late, including partnering with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to debut its first life-sized trackless train ride, The Lionel Train Adventure, earlier this month. The company has also continued to add licenses for new train models through partnerships with DC Comics, Coca-Cola, Crayola, and other brands.