Toys ‘R’ Us announced it is launching an online marketplace in 2018, less than two weeks after declaring bankruptcy and saying it will its keep stores open through the process. The move makes Toys ‘R’ Us more competitive with eBay, where it has maintained an online store for over a decade.
At the same time Toys ‘R’ Us is creating “play labs” for children to try out toys at 42 U.S. stores ahead of the holiday season, as part of a major marketing and rebranding campaign called “Time to Play.”
The new marketplace, built on the Mirakl platform, will include the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us businesses in the United States and Canada. The aim is to enable the company to increase product selection and decrease time to market for new merchandise, in line with its omnichannel push.
“As the leading toy and baby retailer, customers expect us to have the latest and greatest assortment of products available,” said Lance Wills, Global Chief Technology Officer for Toys ‘R’ Us in a release. “The marketplace model provides the opportunity to accomplish just that. We look forward to working with Mirakl and its experienced team to bring this user-friendly shopping option to our customers.”
The new marketplace will allow Toys ‘R’ Us to leverage data from third-party products and sellers to identify potential, new retail partners and influence the company’s in-store offerings, the company said in the release. This is the kind of valuable customer data that has been shared with eBay since the Toys ‘R’ us store was launched.
Sears, Walmart and more recently BuildDirect and Crate & Barrel are other retailers who have created their own online marketplaces in an effort to compete with Amazon.
“Today We Play,” meanwhile, is a new marketing and rebranding campaign Toys ‘R’ Us is launching, which includes the 42 “play labs” as well as national advertising. It is meant to counter the trend toward reducing unstructured play time for children which has hurt the toy industry generally.
This past summer, Toys ‘R’ Us launched a new ecommerce website, part of a $100 million investment in online sales to ward off competition from Amazon and others.
MCM Musings: The new marketplace should make things interesting for Toys ‘R’ Us and its relationship with eBay, where it has been a favored seller with its storefront there for more than a decade. It remains to be seen what kinds of restrictions will be placed on third-party sellers on the new marketplace, vs. the brands and manufacturers Toys ‘R’ Us works with directly – some of whom are direct selling themselves or through another marketplace.