A racing play set, a Disney princess carriage and a drone are among Walmart’s top toy picks for the upcoming holiday shopping season.
The world’s largest retailer, relying on the recommendations of hundreds of pint-sized experts — children ranging from 1½ to 12 years old — came up with the 25 most appealing games and gizmos. They could be destined to become some of the season’s biggest sellers.
“Whatever your child is interested in, there’s a great toy this year in that category, and I think that’s what’s driving the health of the business,’’ says Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys, Walmart U.S., in a conference call with news media Wednesday.
The top picks include a Num Noms Lip Gloss Truck, which may have particular appeal to budding makeup mavens, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mega Lair Playset and a Disney Princess Carriage, one of six of the top 25 toys that are exclusive to Walmart.
There’s a Little Live Pets Puppy for animal lovers and, for would-be adventurers, a Sky Viper Streaming Drone and a Razor Power Core E100 Electric Scooter. And the force is expected to stay with Star Wars for another year. Just as last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere focused shoppers attention on all things galactic, the debut of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Dec. 16 is likely to spur sales of soon-to-be released toys such as the Star Wars Electronic R2D2, another of Wamart’s most popular picks.
Walmart doesn’t break out sales by product category, but it says toys play a significant role in its holiday revenue. And the season is critical to the toy industry as a whole, which sees 70% of its sales in the last two months of the year.
Walmart isn’t leaving much to chance, not only checking the opinions of its littlest customers, but even working with suppliers to design toys the retailer thinks will have particular appeal, such as the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Batcave, which will be another Walmart exclusive with Mattel.
“We ... thought this would be a great gift, and the kids who love that brand would really love that play set,’’ Kehoe said of Walmart’s collaboration with the manufacturer behind the Batman v. Superman toy.
Kehoe said toy sales last year remained strong after Christmas on through the spring, and she expects that trend to continue.
Still, industrywide, retail sales were not as robust as expected last holiday season. Sales in November and December increased 3% to $626.1 billion, below the National Retail Federation’s projected uptick of 3.7%. The increase was also less than the 4.1% growth seen during the 2014 holiday season. Retail experts attributed the more anemic sales to warmer winter weather, an increasing preference for experiences over material gifts, and the growing number of consumers who prefer to browse online than in brick-and-mortar stores. Online sales surpassed projections last year, rising 9% to $105 billion.
Walmart shoppers wanting to get a head start picking and paying for holiday gifts can take advantage of the store’s layaway policy, which — after being phased out in 2006 in all categories except jewelry — came back for the holiday season starting in 2011. Since then, shoppers have been able to start putting money down on gifts earlier and earlier, and this year the program will begin on Sept. 2. They have until Dec. 12 to fully pay for their items.
“While we may think it’s a long time till Christmas,’’ Kehoe said, “for many customers, it really is a need and a want, so it just gives them that time.’’
Shoppers do not have to pay a fee for a layaway account, and can put down as little as 10% or $10, whichever is more.
Beyond toys, Walmart expects cookware, video games and consoles, and makeup kits to also be big sellers this holiday season, with the Sony PlayStation Virtual Reality Bundle looking like it will be a particular standout.