American Girl is coming to Toys R Us

NEW YORK -- Pint-sized fans of the American Girl toy brand will, for the first time, be able to buy the popular dolls at Toys R Us, as the retailer rolls out an array of exclusives, events and experiences to woo shoppers into its stores.

While some American Girl dolls are sold by other stores, the big-box chain will become the first U.S.-based retailer to feature an actual American Girl shop when they officially open at roughly 100 Toys R Us locations on Saturday.

During a media preview Monday at a Toys R Us in Totowa, New Jersey, reporters found themselves immersed in a fantasy world of campers, ponies, game nights, and garden scenes, all to be enjoyed by a bevy of dolls, including a basketball player, a glittery-capped fashionista, and a girl in a wheelchair.

Toys R Us is the only retailer outside of standalone American Girl stores, to sell the Truly Me dolls, and it  will also feature American Girl's new doll line, WellieWishers, aimed at 5 - 7 year olds.

The American Girl exclusive is one piece of Toys R Us' strategy to entice customers away from their laptops and into their mega-sized storefronts by featuring activities, toy demonstrations, and vivid displays.

"We are the only ones who can do this on such a large scale,''  says Toys R Us spokeswoman Nicole Hayes. "We have this ability to create this experience for our customers . . and it's a huge differentiating factor for us, which is obviously important to driving our business.''

A division of toy giant Mattel, American Girl is perhaps best known for its historical BeForever dolls, whose outfits mirror their particular era down to the smallest detail and whose back stories are illustrated in accompanying books. Its Truly Me dolls are also diverse, with various skin hues, eye color,  and hair textures.

Besides American Girl, Toys R Us will feature other themed shops, such as one selling merchandise associated with hit films like "Trolls.'' Instead of waiting to try it out at home, shoppers will be able to fire a Nerf blaster in a designated zone, or fly a drone inside a netted cage.

And this holiday season, families won't have to trek to a mall to visit St. Nick. For the first time, Santa Claus will be inside some Toys R Us stores, listening to kids detail their wish lists while their parents shop nearby.

Dave Brandon, Toys R Us’s CEO said in a second quarter earnings call that stores will also feature motion sensor lights, sound effects and  video screens. And special on-site activities will give kids an opportunity to trade Pokemono and Shopkinscharacters, as well as celebrate birthdays and create sculptures our of Legos.

"The biggest change you are going to see over the next year is that we want to bring our toy stores to life,'' he said in the quarterly earnings call, adding that stores will also  make sure to also have sufficient inventory this year after running out of certain items at the end of last holiday season. "We’re working really hard and have been working for many months to put ourselves in a stronger position to have product inventory where the customer wants to buy it, when they want to buy it, how they want to buy it.''


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