Industry leaders, retailers, and manufacturers weigh in on toy trends, changes, and more in The Toy Book’s annual State of the Industry Q&A. 

KELLY CARUSO, Senior Vice President Merchandising, Hardlines, Target Corp.

How did the demise of Toys “R” Us challenge you to rethink the way you did business last holiday season?
Last year, as we were planning for the holiday season, we knew the retail environment was going to look a lot different, especially within the toy category. While Target was already on an uptick in the hearts and minds of guests—seeing 17 consecutive quarters of growth in toys—we knew we needed to stay focused and continue to make the right moves across our business to set a tone that signaled to our guests and vendors our commitment to the category—not just during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.

This translated to identifying an opportunity to add  250,000 square feet of new, permanent space for toys across 500 stores, on top of introducing a reimagined kids-focused toy department in more than 100 stores last year. But this wasn’t just a brick-and-mortar strategy. We also enhanced our digital experience for toys on target.com and launched a new mobile app integration with our holiday gifting catalog.

Looking ahead, we’ll remain nimble and opportunistic as the retail environment continues to shift, and make investments across our business to position Target for future growth.

What were some of the most popular toy categories at Target last year?
Board games, collectibles, and large dolls all saw consistent growth throughout the year. We launched more than 130 new games last fall, including 95 exclusive-to-Target items, and introduced a digital experience in November to help guests find the perfect doll. We also continue to be a big destination for collectors of all ages.

What are your predictions for the state of retail in the toy category this year?
While the landscape will remain extremely competitive and continue to change, you’ll continue to see retailers and manufacturers investing in toys. With all the extra attention, I am excited to see how this will challenge the industry to come up with even more innovative products. In toys, 2019 will be a big year for theatrical and licenses, and we expect properties, such as The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and Star Wars: Episode IX, will all be key drivers.