Walmart puts online spin on holiday toy catalogs

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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kids with toys

A discount giant is bringing holiday toys to life – virtually.

For the second straight year, Walmart and interactive entertainment company Eko are offering the Walmart Toy Lab. A free, online interactive experience, the Walmart Toy Lab enables kids to test holiday toy releases from their tablet or computer. 

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 15, kids can visit the Walmart Toy Lab site and become toy testers within a virtual workshop setting. Alongside two hosts, kids will use a “Funtroller,” or colorful, virtual buttons displayed on the screen, and choose to test, look at, or play with items from a selection of 20 toys (20 more toys will be added Friday, Nov. 1). 

The Walmart Toy Lab is designed to reinvent traditional catalogs and YouTube “unboxing videos,” giving kids control of the virtual experience.

“Being a retailer isn’t simply about selling items anymore – it’s about creating an experience for our customers,” said Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s VP of toys. “The Walmart Toy Lab is a way for us to create a digital experience for kids to really see our hottest toys in action as we enter the holiday season.”

Walmart is rolling out Walmart Toy Lab as its main brick-and-mortar discount rival Target is making some serious moves to grow its share of the toy market as the holidays approach. These include an in-store and online partnership with Disney to co-merchandise more than 450 licensed Disney items, as well as an omnichannel fulfillment collaboration with the newly reopened Toys “R” Us.

And the discount giants may be looking past the holidays with their toy efforts. According to a recent study from The NPD Group, after a modest decline forecast for 2019, total toy industry dollar sales in the U.S. are expected to pick up again in 2020 and continue growing through the end of 2021.