THE TOYNEWS BLOG: Every little helps

OPINION: Supermarkets need to innovate, rather than price cut; Asda?s Disney Zones are a major step forward.
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It seems that not a day goes without an email popping in to my inbox from a supermarket or national chain advertising a toy sale.

Of course, toys aren’t a grocer’s core market, and driving footfall via any temporary deal or promotion is absolutely key for them. They need all the extra customers they can get in an increasingly tough market, which has just seen Tesco post a drop in profit and Sainsbury’s marginally grow its like-for-like sales.

But once the customers are in store, do they just buy the toys (and top-up their fridge), and then leave? What about those who are doing their regular, weekly shop?

Toys shouldn’t be seen as just another product stacked on a shelf. A price tag can only do so much in drawing attention to an item the customer has not yet heard of. 

Toys are supposed to be exciting, inspiring and magical goods for kids – and the retail theatre around them should reflect that. Theatre, which, has arguably been mastered by stores like Hamleys and Harrods, both of whom seriously renovated their toy departments over the summer to the shopper’s delight.

You might argue that there’s not the space or layout for this kind of thing in supermarkets. But just look at yesterday’s announcement of Disney zones in Asda stores.

Special branded Disney areas will appear in the supermarket chain, including an impressive 3,000 square foot of floorspace within its Milton Keynes branch. Staff have been trained by Disney and sections of the supermarket have been transformed into miniature castles, with child-sized Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse characters set up to entice passers-by.

It’s a brave and refreshing move by Asda, which has shifted some of the focus from price wars to innovation. 

There’s much inspiration supermarkets can take from Disney Stores, Lego Stores and – of course - independent toy retailers.

Whether we like it or not, supermarkets are not going to give up their interest in the toy sector. But if more of them can follow Asda’s lead in concentrating on experiential marketing, rather than (literally) cheap and easy price-cutting, it will surely benefit the toy market as a whole.

Just don’t get me started on the self-service check-outs…

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