Toys "R" Us Rolls Out Catalog Before Holidays

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Toys "R" Us just completed the drop of its first catalog -- which, combined with the debut of its Web site two months ago, gives consumers more options for toy buying than ever before.


Toys "R" Us, Paramus, NJ, sent out 2 million catalogs in two mailings at the beginning and end of October to a combination of its retail store customers and prospects obtained by renting lists.


"Customers like choice today, and what Toys "R" Us has done is give our primary customer the ability to shop in the way that is most convenient," said Lou Algarotti, director of catalog at Toys "R" Us.


Currently, the Web site is generating 120 to 150 e-mails a day and 225 calls, according to third-party provider SPS Payment Services Inc., which is handling customer service for the company from its call center in Asheville, NC. That number is expected to triple during the holidays.


The first 52-page catalog contains brand-name products as well as 65 exclusive Toys "R" Us items. It doesn't offer nearly the assortment of products available in its stores, but more will be added in future books. Orders can be placed by fax, e-mail or by calling a toll-free number.


The debut catalog will serve as a test for the development of future books. So far, results are promising, Algarotti said, with orders 40 percent above expectations. Toys "R" Us is tracking response rates of customers, prospects and running a number of other tests to determine its most productive segments.


The toy seller maintains an internal database that tracks customer buying habits and demographics, which it used to determine which store buyers would receive a catalog. Algarotti called the database "extremely large" but would not disclose exact figures. Prospects were generated from a cross-section of lists geared to children and toys as well as general mail-order buyers.


With the holiday season looming, the timing of the launch was no coincidence. The company expects to get its most accurate indication of response rates by testing during its key selling season.


"The Toys "R" Us catalog is a natural," Algarotti said. "You can hand it to your young child just prior to Christmas, give him a piece a paper and let him start making his Christmas list. By the time you get to Christmas, you've got the best Christmas list you can have."


The catalog and Web site (www.toysrus.com) are part of a larger push by the toy store, which formed a direct division this year to increase its selling channels.
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