Target bets on QR codes, exclusive toys this holiday

Wed Oct 3, 2012 12:17am EDT
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By Jessica Wohl

(Reuters) - Target Corp (TGT.N: Quote) hopes that letting shoppers scan, buy and ship a selection of toys while shopping in its stores and having hundreds of exclusive toys will help drive sales this holiday season, one of its executives told Reuters.

Starting October 14, Target will feature 20 toys at the front of its aisles promoted with signs featuring QR codes. Shoppers with smart phones can scan the codes, those squares with dark boxes and lines, to buy any of those items and have them shipped free.

"Providing this convenience for mom is about ensuring that she's able to shop the way that she wants to," said Stephanie Lucy, Target's vice president of toys and the mother of two who knows about not wanting to ruin the surprise of the holidays.

Giving shoppers this new way to buy merchandise could help differentiate Target from its rivals including: Toys R Us, Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) and Inc (AMZN.O: Quote).

The holiday season accounts for the bulk of toy sales at Target and other U.S. chains. Last year, Target's toy sales were hurt by Walmart's layaway push before Thanksgiving. Unlike some other major toy sellers, Target does not offer layaway, which gives shoppers the ability to put goods on hold and pay over time.

Instead, Target uses sales coupons, and free shipping and small discounts for its credit-card holders.

Target's fourth-quarter sales rose 3.3 percent last year, with sales at stores open at least a year up 2.2 percent, down from a 2.4 percent rise during the year-earlier holiday season. The company has not yet given a forecast for the holiday season, and Lucy declined to give a projection for toy sales.

Lucy said on Tuesday the top trends this season include: construction toys such as Lego; interactive toys such as Hasbro Inc's (HAS.O: Quote) Furby and Just Play's Bounce Bounce Tigger; and educational toys led by LeapPad 2.   Continued...