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TWICE One-On-One: Toys”R”Us’s Joe Parker

WAYNE, N.J. — Most of the toy and gaming executives we reached out to were just settling back from the whirlwind of Toy Fair, and they had plenty of thoughts to share regarding the show and the category in general. Joe Parker, divisional merchandise manager, electronics and entertainment, Toys“R”Us, U.S., filled us in on what was hot during the retailer’s holiday season, and how the chain deals with the always-present issue of showrooming.

TWICE:What were some of the hottest consumer electronic toys sold this holiday season?

Parker: Kids’ play patterns are shifting, and they are increasingly interested in combining digital and physical play experiences, which was a prominent trend during the 2014 holiday season. We saw a number of toys that seamlessly integrated apps and technology, including Lego Fusion Town Master, Max Tow Truck, and FurReal Friends Get Up and Go Go My Walkin’ Pup.

Also in 2014, we saw the continuation of the immense popular “Toys to Life” category — including Skylanders Trap Team and Disney Infinity — which integrate video games with highly collectible action figures, creating tangible and digital play experiences.

TWICE:Why do you think these appealed to consumers?

Parker: We believe the mashup of toys and technology delivers enhanced play value, allowing kids to unlock unique content and special capabilities for an even more interactive experience, while also extending the life of the toy itself, given that kids have so many ways to play.

TWICE:What’s your outlook on the consumer drone category? Is it something consumers have been asking for in your stores?

Parker: This is a new and evolving category that we continue to track, and currently have plans to carry a variety of styles, some with stunt features great for indoor play, as well as those that have the ability to stream content to Android or iOS devices, so kids can watch them fly in real time.

TWICE: What about consumer robotics? Have you seen consumers expressing interest for these devices?

Parker: With advancements in the personal robotics area, including 2014’s MiP and Zoomer Dino, we’re seeing manufacturers continue to integrate fascinating technologies into children’s toys. Heading into this year, we are particularly excited about the Meccanoid items from Spin Master, which people were buzzing about at the New York Toy Fair. These robotics come equipped with advanced programing capabilities, bringing all-new play patterns to the toy aisles.

Customers can also expect to see significant innovation among existing brands and products in this space with Lego Mindstorm and Vex Robotics, which are both amazing examples of how construction and robotics can be combined to create a completely unique play experience. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for customers shopping this segment, and we’re eager to see the results.

TWICE: What are some of the challenges of selling these types of categories?

Parker: Playthings are constantly evolving. Whether its dolls, plush, gaming consoles or app-enabled products, we are optimistic about our positioning across the tech toy crossover. As tech toys manifest themselves beyond the electronics category, we’re constantly stocking tech-related or enhanced toys in every aisle throughout our stores as we see fit. The breadth and depth of our assortment of electronic toys, our considerably improved in-stock position, as well as our range of exclusive items, which can only be found at Toys“R”Us, provide customers with can’t-miss options and top values that differentiate us from our competition.

TWICE: What brings consumers into your stores, vs. shopping online for these types of toys? Do you see much showrooming when it comes to tech toys?

Parker: We know how important it is for kids, parents and gift-givers to feel confident about the toys they are purchasing. At our stores, we have toy displays for different product categories, particularly in our E&E department, allowing customers to see how the products work and help shoppers make smart choices.

Our research shows customers are shopping, browsing and searching for toys and playthings well before they step foot in a store, and with that understanding, we continually invest time, energy and resources into our stores, mobile capabilities and omnichannel services to ensure we’re offering gift-givers expert advice, easy shopping options, and great values when it comes to their child’s play, no matter which way they choose to shop.