It looks like Labor Day, but Wal-Mart is ready for Christmas
September 1, 2016 12:00 AM
"My Life as Food Truck" is among what Wal-Mart calls its top 25 hottest toys for the holiday season.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Remote Control Skateboarding Mikey is one of Walmart's holiday toy offerings.
Disney Princess Carriage.
By Stephanie Ritenbaugh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Christmas is still more than 100 days away, but you can start putting some toys on layaway this Friday.
Wal-Mart on Wednesday unveiled its list of the top 25 hottest toys for the holiday season and noted that it is launching its layaway program — about the same time as last year but months ahead of Black Friday.
The country’s largest retailer lets kids, ages 18 months to 12 years, test out a selection of toys and choose the most popular — including such picks as the My Life as Food Truck (for the budding entrepreneur) and Star Wars Electronic R2D2, which is riding the wave of last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in December.
It’s no secret that retailers bank on holiday sales. Last year, holiday sales climbed 3 percent to $626.1 billion, which the National Retail Federation called “solid growth considering the unforeseen weather events across the country and an extreme deflationary retail environment.” The Washington, D.C.-based trade group hasn’t released data for 2016 yet.
When it comes to total retail spending, the NRF recently boosted its forecast for 2016 overall, estimating that sales for the year will grow 3.4 percent over last year — rather than the 3.1 percent increase forecast earlier.
“There are many factors that could prove to be hurdles but our overall outlook is optimistic,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement in July.
“Uncertainty surrounding the presidential election could make consumers more cautious, and the combination of a rising dollar and global slowdown have impacted exports, but other factors like favorable weather patterns that will help move winter merchandise support our outlook.”
Meanwhile, back-to-school shopping — which can be a leading indicator in how holiday sales may fare — is underway.
“Estimates from third parties show robust back-to-school sales,” noted Poonam Goyal, senior industry analyst for Bloomberg, citing data from the National Retail Federation estimating an 11.5 percent increase over last year.
“Other companies have [sales growth] estimates ranging from the low single digits to double digits,” Ms. Goyal said. “But even low single-digit growth is good.”
As for that list of hot toys that Wal-Mart released, Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys for Wal-Mart U.S., said the list tends to be a good indicator of which items will be best sellers that year, even if it isn’t exactly what the adults at the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer might have predicted.
“As a buying team, our office wouldn’t necessarily pick some of these items.” Ms. Kehoe said, adding that last year, one must-have toy ended up being the Fisher Price Beatbo — which “we wouldn’t have picked” but was clearly popular with kids invited to participate in the Chosen By Kids list.
Stephanie Ritenbaugh: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-4910.
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