Walmart is looking to get in front of what toy industry experts say might be the best year in a decade. The retailer has rung the bell on the 2015 holiday season, kicking off its first-ever Toy Week with a look at what it thinks will be the biggest hits, tested by its own panel of kids. And it says it expects that many of the seasons best-sellers, including the $180 robotic Legendary Yoda available for pre-order, will be linked to Disney’s upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Starting two full weeks earlier than last year, the retailer is also launching this year’s layaway program, with a lower price point for eligible items. (There’s no fee, but customers must put at least 10% down.)
“Outside of the holiday season, we could be looking at the biggest week of 2015 for toys and we’re giving customers every reason to choose Walmart,” says Anne Marie Kehoe, the chain’s VP of toys, in its announcement. “We’ve made a tradition out of letting kids tell us which toys will be most popular during the holidays. Between their selections this year and the excitement around ‘Star Wars,’ parents know exactly what will top kids’ wish lists, and they can count on us for great prices.”
The chain is also gearing up for its version of Force Friday, scheduled for Sept. 4, with some 500 “Star Wars” products linked to film. (Rival Target is staging its own Force Friday events, and is using this spot to promote a sharetheforce.target.com, a website that lets people upload their favorite Star Wars memories.)
Walmart also predicts that food-related toys, like the Wicked Cool Girl Scout Cookie Oven and Moose Shopkins Scoop Ice Cream Truck Playset, will be popular as well as veterinarians-in-training items, such as Fisher Price Little People Zoo and Hasbro Furreal Unicorn.
NPD Group is forecasting a 6.2% increase in U.S. toy sales this year, reaching just over $1 billion. Based on steady gains in the first half of the year, “2015 could be one of the best years the U.S. toy industry has seen in well over a decade,” writes Juli Lennett, SVP of the market-research company’s toy division. “The success of Disney Frozen, Minecraft, Shopkins, and Paw Patrol are some of the key reasons why 2015 has thus far been a particularly robust year for toys.” She adds that with the release of “Minions” and “Star Wars,” as well as continued momentum from “Jurassic World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “licensed toys will continue to invigorate toy sales.”