New app may give toy shoppers an edge when it comes to savings

This year the Big Three toy retailers — Toys R Us, Target and Walmart — are playing a cutthroat version of "The Price is Right." All three are promising to match the competition's prices, with Toys R Us also pledging to match certain online retailers, including Amazon.com.

And for the first time, those retailers have to deal with something that helps consumers check toy prices right in the store and demand discounts at the cash register: the Shop For Kids mobile application, launched by toy review website TimetoPlayMag.com.

The app, which had a soft launch in September, was developed for TimetoPlayMag.com by DevPocket, a development company led by Michael Bogorad of Fort Lee, N.J.

After upgrading the app for bugs and fixes, TimetoPlayMag.com began promoting the app in early November. By Black Friday, the program had been downloaded by more 10,000 mobile users, and it is being used by an average of 1,000 shoppers daily.

Jim Silver, editor of TimetoPlayMag.com and a trade journalist who has covered the toy industry for some 30 years, demonstrated the app recently at a Toys R Us in Paramus, N.J., and showed how a consumer could save more than $50 by using the app to compare prices for three toys.

A user can scan a bar code and see what the price is at Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us; learn which retailers have the item in stock; and link to another retailer's website and purchase it online.

Or, because of the price-match promises this year, users simply can show their smartphone to the cashier and get the lowest price listed by the app.

If users make a purchase from an affiliated retailer through the app, TimetoPlayMag.com will get a small fee.

Silver said retailers have told him consumers are using the app to demand price-matching, and one executive even emailed him with this message: "You're killing us."

In an interview, Silver discussed the app and the competition among toy sellers. (The interview has been edited and condensed.)

Q: How does the app work?

A: It's linked to our website. We wanted to take the best elements of TimetoPlayMag.com and put them in an app, except how you work on a computer or a tablet is different than when you're shopping in a store. When you're shopping in a store, you don't see anybody walking around with tablets, and they sure don't have their computers out. They want less information and they want it simple, easy to use and quick.

The first thing they want when they are looking at a product in a store is information — so we have our rankings on fun, repeat play, and assembly and instructions. No. 2 is the price-comparison tool, the prices and who else has it in stock.

Q: How do you get up-to-the minute prices on the app?

A: With Amazon and Walmart, we have an API — an application program interface — that they provide us, so when they change their prices the app gets changed. For the other retailers, we built what is called a scraper. It goes to the websites and updates the prices from their sites to our site.

Q: When you first started putting the word out that you were creating a price-check app specifically for toys, and talking to retailers, did you get any pushback? Did any retailers say: Don't do that?

A: No. Retailers know the consumer's shopping this way. What we realized before we created the app was basically they were finding an item they want and they would go to Google Shopping and go to all the websites that turned up to see who had the best price. We're saving them the 20 minutes of work going to every website.

Q: Why do you think Wal-Mart is going after Toys R Us so aggressively on price this year?

A: They want to own the toy aisle. Wal-Mart and Target's differentiation is that people go there for the groceries; they go there for the electronics. Their goal — Amazon, Walmart, Target — is to be a one-stop shop for everything you need for the house. Toys R Us' struggle is how to get the consumer into the store for the first nine months of the year. This was a tougher year than usual, and one of the reasons was the lack of big movies.


Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.
COUPON OF THE WEEK