Toys R Us Is Quietly Hoping You'll Start Your Holiday Shopping Now

Holiday Shopping
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
Toys R Us wants you to start your 2013 holiday shopping as early as next week. And quite frankly, we think you should take the retailer up on its offer.

Every year, there's a predictable amount of hand-wringing over what's dubbed "Christmas Creep." People bemoan Black Friday sales that start as early as Thanksgiving afternoon (often with good reason), and roll their eyes when the first Christmas commercials start airing in September. And we were a bit taken aback when Walmart kicked off its holiday season by announcing its layaway program way back on Aug. 21.

But we're starting to wonder if it might not be such a bad idea to get your shopping out of the way in October.

On Thursday we got a chance to look at what Toys R Us has planned for the holiday season. And what struck us the most was how early the retailer wants to you to start shopping.

"Many of our customers said to us, 'We hate the hectic pace of December, we want to have the opportunity to shop early,'" said Toys R Us Chief Marketing Officer Richard Barry. He added, though, that those customers wanted to make sure they were able to get good deals on the full range of products.

Toys R Us' solution is to start Black Friday-style discounts this month. It's already sending out "friends and family" coupons for Sept. 19 and 20 that offer 20 percent off your entire purchase (if you can't find a physical coupon, you can use the code FRIENDS20 online). He also announced a program for rewards members that lets you earn 10 percent back in rewards dollars on all purchases between now and the end of October.
You can get up to $100 in gift certificates to use in November and December, though keep in mind that this requires you to buy $1,000 in merchandise before most people have even started their shopping.

Barry refused to talk about what the retailer has planned for Black Friday, so we don't know how these super-early deals stack up. And keep in mind that there might be hot Christmas items that won't come out until the official holiday season kick-off -- for instance, the next generation Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, which come out in November.

Still, most of Toys R Us' exclusive offerings are already on the shelves, and these are solid discounts. So we have to admit that it makes some sense to start checking things off your list in the next month, instead of running around in December trying to find the hot toy that's sold out. And the early shopping strategy also makes sense if you're shopping for Chanukah -- the Jewish holiday starts on the evening before Thanksgiving this year, so waiting until Black Friday for deals isn't feasible.

In an another attempt to attract early shoppers, Toys R Us will also be extending its return policy so that people who buy gifts in September can return them in January if the kids aren't impressed.

"No reason why not to shop early," he says.

Still, it's clear that Toys R US is a little self-conscious about starting its holiday shopping this early: When asked how the early offerings would be positioned, Barry seemed to imply that the retailer won't come right out and call it a holiday sale. "In terms of our core holiday program ... we don't plan to have anything coming dramatically earlier, as some other people have done," he says. In other words, Toys R Us wants you to start your holiday shopping earlier, but it doesn't want to get flack for breaking out the "H-word" in September.

As for the toys, the company is skewing more educational this year. Barry noted ongoing softness in the entertainment sector in general, particularly with regard to video game sales. Interest in educational toys, though, has ramped up, so Toys R Us is overhauling its stores: It's adding mini-stores dedicated to Legos and other construction toys, and it will also have store-within-store areas dedicated to its line of tablets. To make room, it's tightening up its baby supplies departments and reducing the amount of space dedicated to DVDs and musical instruments.

The exclusive toys we saw on display also skewed heavily toward the educational, with telescopes, microscopes, educational maps and language learning DVDs. We've got a roundup of some of Toys R Us' exclusive offerings below.

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This is funny; just today a friend said "it's 100 days until Christmas", my kids were telling me what they want for Christmas, and now I read this article! Oh well, I started thinking about how to decorate my tree this year about a week ago. You can't start planning too early!

September 15 2013 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't shop at Toys r Us anymore. They are an enemy of the second amendment.

September 15 2013 at 8:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

is this article an ad?

September 15 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Speaking of "early"! How about two weeks after school's let out for the summer, the back to school sales start! Geeze..... school supplies taking up 4 ailses before July 4th! Halloween stuff hit the shelves before Labor Day

September 15 2013 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe I would shop there if they honored their bogo deals, price matching policy or even just put their prices at the manufacturers suggested retail price from the start. I.E. When every other retailer prices something for 19.99 and Toys R Us prices it 24.99 every day then tells us its a "Sale" with five dollars we are not idiots. Well some of us anyway. I have five children and TRU will get none of my holiday dollars. So them starting it now or later it does not matter to me as far as this retailer is concerned.

September 15 2013 at 9:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stores are wanting people to start shopping ...and working people hope they win a lottery or something so they can pay bills,buy groceries etc and have a little left over so they can shop...

September 15 2013 at 7:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

boycott all stores untill this muslim clown is removed from our white house in handcuffs n take all your money out of your bank accounts n close all accounts. !

September 15 2013 at 1:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yup Toys'rus isnt what it use to be.. Its so much easier to just click away on our key boards at Amazon etc and get free shipping too. I'd rather stay at home then to go out and deal with idiot drivers and then get to the store and deal in more madness.

September 15 2013 at 12:37 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to 9RRs's comment

Well, if you shopped now you wouldn't have to deal with the crowds in December either. But yes, I love online shopping too. Saves me gas and headaches.

September 15 2013 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Toys R Us cheated me out of about $40 in some rewards i was due and a game for a Leapster that was about $ some, that may not seem like a lot, but for a grandmother supporting two granddaughters and their mother, it was a lot...i took it up with the store manager at the Bellevue, TN, Toys R Us to no avail...I then wrote to the headquarters in Wayne NJ to no avail...i really hope someone at Toys R Us is reading this because that was about 3 years ago and I have not forgotten...I am proud to say that I have not spent one more cent there and will not...hell can freeze over before I will spend anything with them...I have also made it my mission to tell everyone what my experience was...the particular year that I lost those rewards and that game I had probably spent about $600...figure in now all the Christmases, Halloweens, Easters, two Birthdays a year, baby shower gifts for people I work with and friends, clothes for said granddtrs who are just now 8 and 9 years old, toys for friends' birthdays, etc. and you get the picture...Toys R Us can sit there and hope I will spend my money...LOL

September 14 2013 at 11:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Start going into debt early.

September 14 2013 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply