Interview: How Walmart’s ‘Retailtainment’ Toy Revamp Aims To Serve The Shopping Triggers Of Today’s Tykes

Interview: How Walmart’s ‘Retailtainment’ Toy Revamp Aims To Serve The Shopping Triggers Of Today’s Tykes

The discounter’s top toy executive says 2,000 in-store events, ‘kidfluencers’ and its broadest assortment ever will fill the void that Toys “R” Us left behind

Barbara Thau
  • 3 september 2018

Walmart’s experiential, “kidfluencer”-driven toy revamp is not just about capturing the roughly $11 billion in market share up for grabs from now-defunct Toys “R” Us. (Although that’s part of it.)

It marks a bold move to match its toy products and merchandising game-plan to the psychosocial, demographic and play trends that are reshaping the shopping expectations of today’s youngest consumers.

The nation’s biggest retailer is telling a new toy story with “retailtainment” events like product demos, collectibles that jump on the unwrap-a-surprise trend, and a highly-anticipated “top toy” list—this year vetted by 25 kid influencers, Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys for Walmart, told PSFK at an event in New York City.

Toy Retailing As Theater, Experiential Playmaking And The Element Of Surprise

Walmart’s toy shift will be visible on shelves stacked with 30% more new products, including about 1,000 exclusives, like the Disney Princess Rapunzel Tower Vanity and the All Star Hover Board.

And it will be felt in the toy aisles over the next two months via 2,000 events and product demos by brands like Barbie and Transformers—more than triple the number held during all of 2017. These include “toy road shows” from Nerf and Hot Wheels, where kids can test-run and interact with new products.

Walmart is banking on the premise that kids, like their adult counterparts, are hungry for experiences that entertain, educate and inject fun into the shopping journey.

The experiential theme extends to the items topping Walmart’s top-40 toy list. The annual list reflects the “it” toys based on Walmart enlisting hundreds of kids to play with dozens of products. And for the first time this year, the retailer consulted kid influencers to pick their favorites.

While “last year it was about being tactile,” evidenced by the fidget-spinner rage, toys that offer the joy of discovery, surprise and participation, like the L.O.L Surprise House and the Kumi Kreator bracelet maker, captured children’s imagination this year, Kehoe told PSFK.

And just as a market for covered “mystery books” that hide the title and author has risen among adult shoppers, where the unwrapping process is intrinsic to the product’s consumer appeal, “the surprise trend has influenced every counter in the toy department,” she said. “It’s about the experience as much as the end result — from how you open a gift to how you interact with it. That’s the big trend shift that has evolved.”

Take the L.O.L Surprise House (seen below), whereby kids enact moving into a new home and unpack 85 surprise moving boxes: Kehoe expects kids to be taken by playing out a real-life moving day, from unloading the moving truck to furnishing the six-room home.

A Seat At The Kids’ Table: Walmart Defers To ‘Kidfluencers’

As grownup shoppers these days eschew company-fed marketing messages in favor of the opinions of their peers when it comes to making purchasing decisions, so are kids, Walmart said.

That’s why the retailer is rolling out the red carpet for kidfluencers in-store and online.

For the first time ever, shoppers can hear directly from 25 toy influencers like Clara Lukasiak, Gavin Raygoza, Kenzie Mitchell, and Gabe and Garrett, who held court on a panel at the event.

The kid influencers will create exclusive content, including toy reviews and scoops on new products on a revamped

The site has been upgraded from a “utilitarian” experience to a “specialty shop experience,” featuring 40% more merchandise and online exclusives like the KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen, said Chris Sponiar, general manager of toys.

Products from kid influencers are even making  their way into Walmart’s stores. The exclusive Ryan’s World toy collection from kid influencer, first-grader, and star of Ryan ToysReview is getting top billing on Walmart’s toy mix, and will be among the product demos in store.

“Kids are looking to learn from other kids about toys,” said Lorenzo Lopez, senior director of corporate communications for Walmart.

When asked on the kidfluencer panel what makes her a toy expert, Clara Luksiak answered, “The fact that I’m a child and not a grown-up. They just don’t get it.”


Walmart’s experiential, “kidfluencer”-driven toy revamp is not just about capturing the roughly $11 billion in market share up for grabs from now-defunct Toys “R” Us. (Although that’s part of it.)

+kid influencers
+store experience
+store experience & design

Learn About Our Membership Services

Need Research Help?
As a member you can ask us any research questions and get complimentary research assistance with a 4-day turnaround. Reports inclde stats, quotes, and best-inclass examples on research topics.
Remain Informed & Strategic
We publish several trends reports each month. By becoming a member you will have access to over 100 existing reports, plus a growing catalog of deep topical analysis and debrief-style reports so you always remain in the know.
See Trends Come To Life
Meet your peers and immerse yourself in monthly trend and innovation webinars and discounted conferences.
No search results found.