As we head into the most wonderful time of the year, one big question is echoing through the retail headlines: Where will shoppers buy toys this year? Since the demise of Toy R Us in June, this holiday has been destined to be a toy story. But as we get further into the season itself (and let’s be honest, it started weeks ago), more is at play this holiday.

Getting a Head Start on the Holidays

Nov. 1 is becoming the generally accepted start date for the holidays for retailers and shoppers alike (Figure 1). With department stores including Macy’s already ramping up holiday décor items in stores before most kids had bought their Halloween costumes, it is no surprise that shoppers are primed and ready for the holidays earlier this year. According to ShopperScape® data, the share of shoppers who had already decided which retailers they planned to shop for gifts as of October was up significantly this year over last year, driving more retailers to launch deals as soon as the month was out to capitalize on these earlier planners.

Figure 1. Nov. 1 Deals From Kohl’s, Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy

Source: Retailer websites

Discovery Zone

Retailers are looking to disrupt these early shopping plans by helping shoppers discover new and unique gift solutions with enhanced online and in-store curation. Amazon is using its Amazon Storefronts pages to help shoppers connect with the story behind businesses in its Marketplace, while Macy’s is partnering with Facebook to bring new direct-to-consumer brands into stores for the first time (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Amazon Storefronts, Macy’s Facebook Pop-Up, Ellen’s List at Walmart

Source: Retailer websites

An Holly Jolly Easy Peasy Christmas

Big-box retailers in particular are doing their best to make this the easiest holiday for shoppers. Multichannel players Target and Walmart are leveraging their physical store fleets to help shoppers give and receive gifts faster (Figure 3). After Target announced free two-day shipping for the holiday season, Amazon countered with free shipping for all, including non-Prime members, without a minimum spending threshold. In addition to faster delivery times, Walmart brought back layaway options in August, and many retailers are getting in on the “pay later” trend or offering interest-free installment options on higher-priced items. We expect to see retailers lean into this messaging more as the holiday season progresses and shoppers rely on retailers to provide last-minute gift solutions.

Figure 3. Target Delivery Methods, Walmart Layaway Holiday Messaging

Source: Retailer websites

The Toy Story

Santa lost one of his biggest helpers when Toys R Us shuttered its stores and website in June. This holiday season will be the first in many years without the retailer that was the top toy destination last holiday season for 17% of shoppers, which is causing toy makers everywhere to look for new ways to get into Santa’s sleigh and shoppers’ baskets. While Amazon, Walmart, and Target look to pick up most of the toy share up for grabs, everyone from Big Lots to Best Buy is working to get a piece of the action (Figure 4). We will be tracking all the big moves in toy throughout the season with our dedicated Toy Tracker.

Figure 4. Expanded Toy Assortments From JCPenney, Five Below, Big Lots, and Best Buy 

Source: Retailer websites

Stay tuned to for the latest holiday news and analysis throughout the season. Check out our Black Friday preview and look for our full coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving.

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For more information, please contact:

Tiffany Hogan, Senior Analyst

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