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New York -- Toys “R” Us’ holiday 2012 plans include a “hot toy” reservation program, free and expanded layaway services and offering more exclusive toys from branded manufacturers along with more proprietary products. The nation’s largest specialty toy retailer also will open 150 to 200 temporary locations for the holidays under the Toys “R” Us Express banner.
“The pop-ups are important because they expand our reach and put us in places where the customer otherwise wouldn’t fine us,” chairman and CEO Jerry Storch said during an event Wednesday at the company’s Times Square flagship.
Storch stroke a confident note about the upcoming season, and noted, as he has in past years, that while he can’t predict the economy, the last thing that parents will cut back at Christmas is on toys for their children.
“Our inventories are in very healthy shape as we approach the holidays so we can go after products we really believe in,” Storch added.
The chief executive highlighted the company’s recent performance, adding that it has had three consecutive years of adjusted EPITDA in excess of $1 billion from 2009 to 2011. He also made a strong defense of Toys “R” Us’ big-box positioning and expressed his frustration with the notion that the future belongs to Internet-only companies.
“The future belongs to brands — not channels — that build the best consumer-facing network, which include stores, Internet, social and mobile,” Storch said.
The chain’s new “Hot Toy” reservation system is designed to put an end to frantic, last-minute searching for coveted items, according to Storch, The program will be available for the 50 items on Toys “R” Us’ annual Holiday Hot Toy List (the toys have not yet been revealed).
Customers will be able to reserve any of the toys on the list with a 20% down payment, and reservations will be taken through Oct. 31. Customers will be able to reserve an item even if it is not in-stock at their local store. They receive email notification when the items are available and will have to Dec. 16 to pick up their orders.
Owing to the complexity of the program, and to avoid the potential for online scams, the reservation system is only being offered in Toys “R” Us stores.
“No one has ever done anything like this,” Storch said.
In other holiday news, Toys “R” Us said it is waving the upfront service fee for all layaway orders in its stores through Oct. 31. Also new: Layaway will be available at the company’s pop-up Express stores and outlet locations.
In addition, Toys “R” Us will roll out a "ship to store" program to allow customers to send online purchases to their local Toys “R” Us or Babies “R” Us store free of charge. It is also setting up merchandise pick-up kiosks in stores to reduce wait times for shoppers who are coming to pick up pre-ordered items.