IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Toy soldiers: Walmart, Kohl's, and Target battle for Toys R Us holiday market share

Before going bankrupt earlier this year, Toys R Us accounted for 15 to 20 percent of the nation’s toy market.
Image: Toys R Us
A woman shops at a Toys R Us store in Alhambra, California on December 19, 2017.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

It may be two full months until holiday season, but the nation’s biggest retailers are already waging an all-out war to woo shoppers — and they're betting big on toys.

Target and Kohl's both unveiled Black Friday preview sales this week, and retail analysts say it’s a good time to be a consumer, as stores duke it out to provide the kinds of deals that used to be available only after Thanksgiving.

“Every year the retailers are trying to outdo themselves and their competitors,” said Stacey Widlitz, president of SW Retail Advisors. “Every year the sales seem to start earlier. It’s no longer like Black Friday. The month leading up to the real Black Friday is like Black Friday month.”

Major retailers are especially mindful of this year’s toy market, hoping to cash in on the void left behind when Toys R Us went out of business earlier this year. Prior to shuttering, Toys R Us had accounted for 15 to 20 percent of the nation’s toy market.

Target has added 250,000 square feet to its toy departments this year — nearly double the space it devoted to toys last year, estimated Jackie Breyer, editorial director for The Toy Insider. Walmart said it has increased the amount of toys in its own stores by 30 percent and online by 40 percent.

“We feel good about our retail position involving toys," said Steve Bratspies, Walmart's Chief Merchandising Officer. “We’ve done a lot of analytics.”

Walmart has likely absorbed around 25 percent of the Toys R Us Market in recent months, estimated Breyer. She told NBC News Walmart is expected to do particularly well this holiday season because of its extremely popular Ryan’s World collection and its forthcoming collection of Fortnite toys, which will hit store shelves Dec. 1.

Kohl’s is expanding its toy market, too, offering Lego and FAO Schwarz products for the first time in the retail chain’s history.

“It’s a big deal for them because it will draw in consumers who are loyal to those brands,” Breyer said.

Also getting in on the toy story: Party City. It opened 51 pop-up toy stores called Toy City in recent months, some of which are located in old Toys R Us stores.

And Best Buy upped the stakes with its toy catalog this season, including not just electronics, but also traditional toys for kids ranging in age from preschooler to teenager — with free shipping on all items.