Top toy stores: WHSmith, and Toy Master lose out in the Christmas crush


The UK’s major toy retailers must upgrade their online offering if they are to beat competitors to the Christmas rush, according to the 2010 Toy Retail Report compiled by eCommerce display experts Brandbank.

Amazon, Early Learning Centre and Argos are the three top performing toy retailers online, while WH Smiths and Toy Master bring up the bottom of the table, falling below the average standard of the expected online shopping experience.



As British adults are expected to spend more than £6.4 bn on online shopping this Christmas (IMRG), the Toy Retail Report reveals that many toy retailers are sacrificing their slice of this spend by not making use of basic features to improve the online purchasing experiences of their customers. The findings provide valuable feedback for the toy industry which is becoming ever more saturated.

The toy websites are scored according to the Toy Retail Report’s critical ten-point assessment looking at product image display, rich media features and how easy it is to search, purchase and find additional or impartial product information.

Overall web ranking, ranked out of ten


Rob Tarrant, MD of Brandbank comments: “With such a large amount now being spent online, consumers have grown increasingly demanding about the ease of online purchasing and the amount of information they require to make an informed decision. Consumers are demanding high resolution imagery, multiple images, zoom capabilities, quick-view boxes and often video to help make their choices easier. Retailers should be doing everything they can to make their online shopping experience as simple and informative as possible.”

Slow on the take-up: Video and rich media

Despite the fact that 36% of consumers[1] rate video as one of the most effective user experience feature for eCommerce, none of the toy retailers make use of video when displaying their products, although both and Amazon have embedded film trailers next to some film merchandise and Toys R Us has included adverts with some of their branded products.

Similarly, despite Quick View boxes allowing customers to gain instant access to additional product information without having to navigate away from a search result, Argos are the only toy retailer to offer this feature to its customers.

There is also a lot of variation, amongst retailers, when it comes to fundamental product display elements such as including multiple product images in a high resolution. John Lewis provide the most high quality images compared with the likes of Toy Master and WH Smiths, whilst some retailers, such as Argos and often only include one image per product.

Tarrant continues: “Consumers’ purchasing decisions can be directly related to the quality of product images available and the number of product images. By limiting their image quality some retailers are seriously damaging their competitive advantage over the likes of John Lewis and Toys R Us who do this well. There is also an opportunity for toy retailers to pull ahead of their competitors by making use of more helpful features such as the quick-view boxes used by Argos and the use of video. On the most part, these features aren’t being utilised despite their ability to improve the purchasing environment of a website.”

Digital Word-of-Mouth: social media and impartial reviews

The availability of social media sharing tools differs considerably across different retailers. Toys R Us, Hamleys, Argos and Early Learning Centre allow their customers to promote their products in over 306 different ways, including on Facebook, Twitter and Digg. Whereas WHSmith, The Toy Shop and Tesco Direct don’t appear to have any social media sharing options at all.

Tarrant continues: “Including impartial reviews and enabling shoppers to share product information with their friends on social media are two of the most influential marketing tools for a retailer. Consumers are wise to marketing spiel and can be very untrusting. People want to hear what their friends and family have to say about products before committing to the purchase, especially when it comes to their children. They are also far more likely to trust retailers, and buy from them, if the retailer allows them to make up their own minds with impartial reviews, showing that the retailer is open and honest. Amazon do this incredibly well.

Research methodology

This report analyses the websites of twelve of the UK’s leading online toy retailers.

The guidelines against which the twelve toy retailers are:
1. Quick view functionality
2. Multiple product images
3. Lifestyle product images
4. Image zoom
5. High resolution imagery
6. Video
7. 360 degree views
8. Off pack textual information
9. Ease of purchase
10. Search filters
11. Sharing on social media

2010 Toy Retail Reporttoy2.JPG


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