J.C. Penney has plans to introduce toy stores within its department stores in an attempt to draw in more customers along with their families. The efforts are intended to recapture part of J.C. Penney’s past spirit when their stores drew in both children and their parents through their holiday catalogs.
In order to reestablish a firmer foundation considering the tenuous times retailers are currently facing, the chain is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity that toy stores offer. The desired end result is to mimic the successful results after the retailer decided to revive toy sales during the 2016 holiday season for the first time in years.
Instead of toy departments, J.C. Penney plans to add toy shops permanently to all of its stores, which is currently cumulative to more than 1000 locations. The chain has already introduced toy shops to 100 stores, and is planning to accommodate the back-to-school special event through an expansion of its assortment.
This companywide rollout is a demonstration of the aggressive measures the retailer is willing to take to demonstrate its competitive edge and relevance amidst the ever growing influence dominated by Amazon.com and more flexible competitors with physical store locations. This is the first company to introduce toy venues as a means of attracting more customers, as other retailers including bookstore chain Barnes & Noble have also bet on commercial merchandise targeted at families.
The decision is based on the year-round demand to buy toys, and by creating not only fun and creative toys but a reflective environment in which to sell the toys coupling the biggest brands and most popular products will encourage higher traffic for both the toy stores and the surrounding departments. The idea is to increase both the turnover and revenue generated by customers, even buying a single, simple toy is an increase in the company’s revenue stream.
The toy shops will be displayed together or peripheral to Disney Collection products, and will feature a wide range of items, including dolls, actions figures, and board games. These toys will be developed in collaboration with Hasbro, Mattel, and Fischer Price. The toys will also be available via the company’s website, with plans for the current selection to double in size as well as add additional items in tome for the 2017 holiday shopping season.
The introduction of toy shops also serves another purpose as an experiment for store-within-a-store concepts. This concept also for more efficient use of space while also opening up locations for brands that either were too late to claim a location within the chains department stores, or were unable to commit to a full-sized department. J.C. Penney has had previous success with this setup, handling floor space over to beauty products firm Sephora and athletics apparel company Nike. Toys assimilate better into the design of beauty products, as customers are encouraged to play with display models and develop and affinity for the product prior to purchasing.
It is important to continue innovating new ways of attracting customers to your stores, which J.C. Penney has faced firsthand as its foot traffic has decreased due to digital competition and fast-fashion competitors such as H&M and Forever 21. It is important to note that there is balance that needs to be maintained, as using toys as a means for drawing customers is beneficial so long as it does not replace the intentions of customers visiting the chain. Otherwise, J.C. Penney may find itself solely in the business of selling toys, and no longer a department store.
J.C. Penney has reported its need to close 138 locations recently, and while it is doing better than its main competitor Sears Holdings, the toy shop concept will be an important factor in determining its future.