September 21, 2010 / 2:24 AM / 8 years ago

Variety is the spice of Toys R Us holiday picks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL is betting on variety to hit its sales targets this holiday season, with toys ranging from Mattel’s $13 plush toys that sing in perfect harmony with every squeeze, to a $110 remote-controlled monster “Bigfoot.”

The world’s largest dedicated toy retailer is also offering more exclusives and opening more temporary stores to win shoppers this year.

Its holiday hot toy list, to be officially unveiled on Tuesday, features 36 new items, including squishy pencil-toppers called “Squinkies,” “Disney Princess & Me” dolls from Jakks Pacific (JAKK.O) and a Lego board game that dares kids to wade through a tricky maze to reach a hidden temple.

The top picks also include educational toys like “Leapster Explorer,” a $70 handheld gaming device that could double as an e-reader and even a photo-and-video recorder for kids. The device is made by LeapFrog Enterprises LF.N.

“We don’t want to miss anything,” Lisa Harnisch, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Toys R Us, said in an interview, underscoring the need for a broad assortment of toys in an uncertain environment.

The company is counting on its wide assortment to boost sales amid its efforts to go public. It is also hoping to steer bargain-hungry shoppers away from rivals Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Inc (AMZN.O) and Target Corp (TGT.N).

Last year, Toys R Us posted higher earnings in the fourth quarter on a 7.3 percent sales rise to $5.86 billion.

The top toy list “is the culmination of year-long process and is no easy feat,” Harnisch told Reuters on Monday.

Toys R Us’ “Fabulous 15” top picks includes Monster High dolls, offsprings to famous monster characters, and Hasbro’s Cuponk, a game that challenges players to master ball-and-cup tricks using a wall.

“Our list has a wide range of prices on it,” Harnisch said. “So depending on parents and gift-givers’ budgets, we do have gifts for every ... giver.”

Harnisch said the company was “laser-focused” on managing an inventory of potential hot products.

In other efforts to make shopping convenient, the retailer is opening 600 Toys R Us Express temporary stores in the United States this year. That is more than six times what it opened in 2009. It runs 587 full-size namesake stores.

The company, which is hiring 10,000 workers to staff the new stores, is also opening 10 FAO Schwarz “pop-up” stores.

From a karaoke machine named after the popular TV show “Glee” to a unique board game from popular toymaker Lego, Toys R Us will also offer more exclusive items this year to fight discount chains and online rivals.

“Competitors can’t cut prices on items they don’t have,” Chief Executive Jerry Storch said at a preview event in New York last week.

Last year, Wal-Mart expanded its $10 holiday toys program, offering more than 100 items for $10 each, while Target cut prices as much as 50 percent on toys like Barbie and G.I. Joe.

Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Richard Chang

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