Business

The Bay to sell kids' toys again as part of new retail strategy

'Toys are a natural fit for our business,' company president says

Pete Evans - CBC News

September 19, 2016

The Bay will start selling children's toys again in stores, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The retailer began selling toys on its website as of Sept. 2. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Two-thirds of the Bay stores across Canada will soon offer something they haven't sold in about a decade: toys.

Starting with a big launch on Queen Street in Toronto on Oct. 1, 60 Bay stores across Canada will once again sell toys for children from pre-kindergarten to age 12, in locations from 500-foot kiosks inside existing stores, to massive 5,000-square-foot toy centres in major urban centres.

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More than 40 brands, including Lego, Playmobil, Star Wars, Nerf, Barbie, Our Generation Dolls, Melissa & Doug, Fisher-Price, Paw Patrol and Hasbro will all feature in the initial rollout, timed to coincide with the lead-up to the busy holiday shopping season.

The retailer began selling toys on its website as of Sept. 2.

Online shopping is becoming a large part of the toy market, already representing as much as 20 per cent of all sales of such items in Canada, market research firm NPD Group's Canadian toy analyst, Michelle Liem, said in an interview.

Selling toys again part of a new strategy at the retailer, which turned its focus to high-end clothing after the chain was bought by U.S. financier Jerry Zucker in 2006.

"Our mission has always been to offer all our customers the very best brands across all categories whether it is fashion, cosmetics or home," president Liz Rodbell said. "Toys are a natural fit for our business and strengthens our position as a destination shopping experience for all generations."

Booming market

Liem says she's not surprised to see the chain getting back into toys, as there has been a void in the sector since Target closed shop.

"Toys are the second-fastest growing retail category in Canada," she said, adding that sales are up five per cent this year compared to 2015. "It doesn't surprise me to see players coming back."

Other retailers, including Indigo and Canadian Tire, have similarly ramped up their toy offerings in recent months.

Driving that growth are toys associated with TV shows and movies.

"Kids watch the show and identify with those characters," Liem said. "They like to play with toys that have their favourite characters on them."

Star Wars are a big part of that, and a lucrative draw for retailers because action figures of new characters in the franchise reboot appeal to kids, but older collectors are also drawn to the more expensive legacy products, such as light sabres and spaceship Lego sets that can often cost hundreds of dollars.

"It's very broad," Liem said. "It makes sense."

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