Whole Paycheck Tracker: Amazon And Walmart Aren’t Just Toying Around

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It was quite a week in the Amazon-Walmart battle for the consumer’s whole paycheck. It started out with what looked to be a definitive date for Prime Day (Oct. 13). Then, the stage went to Walmart, as it announced it would start the holiday season right around that date with a bigger gift inventory. Then the week ended with Amazon’s slew of new product announcements.

With so much early interest around the holidays, it’s worth remembering what Santa brings at that time – and it’s not stock options. It’s toys. And it’s also worth noting that these two retail behemoths are ready to slug it out over toys at this time of year, because the ghosts of Christmas past (Toys ‘R Us and KB Toys) are no longer around to play. The toy industry is still in search of a clear leader, with Walmart, Amazon and Target leading the way.

When the stage was finally given to Walmart earlier this month, it made a point of calling out its toy inventory. “As America’s Best Toy Shop, Walmart will have over 1,300 new toys, including puzzles, games, Legos and more than 800 Walmart exclusives this holiday season,” its press release said.

Who’s winning this battle? There’s a problem in the data, but there are some interesting trends to be considered. First, the problem. U.S. Census consumer retail reporting doesn’t have a “toy” category – instead, it has “sporting goods, hobby, music and book.” For a specific breakdown, third-party industry estimates need to be considered. According to IBISWorld, “Walmart holds the largest share at 23.1 percent, followed by Amazon at 19.6 percent.”

In general, the toy industry has been up about 9 percent during the pandemic, according to the NPD Group. “The past few months have been totally unique for our industry. Even though sales growth looks strong globally, it should not hide some radically different situations from one country to the other,” said Frederique Tutt, global toys industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Those differences are the result of several factors, but two stand out: the shape of the retail landscape, including the maturity of the online channel in each country as paramount to be in a position to sell toys to consumers; and a combination of the cultural and economic strength of each country.”

That viewpoint speaks to Amazon’s strength in the market and Walmart’s need to sell toys online. As stated earlier, it’s a broad category, but PYMNTS’ market data analysis shows that the “sporting goods, hobby, music and book” category takes about 21.9 percent of the average U.S. consumer’s eCommerce spend. In fact, it is the second-highest eCommerce category after electronics and appliances at 23.3 percent.

Because Amazon started its business with books and music, it had a head start in the category. In 2016, it logged $31.6 billion in sales compared to $14.5 billion for Walmart (online and in-store combined). Amazon’s growth in the category has been typically steep. That $31.6 billion from 2016 grew to $51.8 billion in 2019, for a 15.1 percent share of overall consumer spending. Walmart’s total sales in the category have actually fallen over time. The $14.5 billion in 2016 has dropped slightly every year, ending at $13.3 billion in 2019 for 3.9 percent share of overall consumer spend.

By the scorecard, that’s 15.1 percent to 3.9 percent of consumer spend. Walmart’s emphasis on toys is directly related to trying to close that gap.

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