Report: Walmart Jacks Up Toy Prices Just In Time For The Holidays

Walmart might have had some decent toy prices on Black Friday, but a new report says that not only did those low prices not last — many of them went up.

According to a Nov. 30 e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News, Walmart HQ instructed store managers to immediately jack up prices on 1,800 different toys “to better enable your store and the company to have a successful financial month.”

Experts say this directive stands out from the retail giant’s policy in holiday shopping seasons past.

“In previous years Wal-Mart has come out and hammered everyone with unbelievably low toy prices,” explains the director of the Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. “They stepped away from that this year, and after Thanksgiving their prices have crept back up… Most of their hot toys are out of stock and the stuff that is there is not low-priced.”

A rep for the company tells Bloomberg that the price increase was just a response to existing rollbacks on those items: “Once a rollback ends, the item returns to its original everyday low price.”

Have any parents out there noticed if the prices on Walmart toys have increased dramatically? And are you doing your holiday toy shopping at Walmart or at a different store?

Wal-Mart Raising Toy Prices, Squeezing More Out of Holidays [Bloomberg]


Edit Your Comment

  1. obits3 says:

    This sounds smart. Most people will go to Walmart in the last minute rush and not see that they are paying more.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I just caught an episode of Married with Children when Al forgets it’s Valentines Day and goes hunting for last minute gifts. Among the highlights, $75 for a single piece of chocolate from a box, $50 for a pot of dirt and bean sprout seeds, and a card obtained by winning a brawl at the store.

      Good stuff.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    I usually don’t defend wal mart but come on now, a company wants to make some money off christmas shoppers. I would call that smart business. Who expects discounts around christmas time? That’s usually when people are willing to pay a little more.

    • rorschachex says:

      I agree with you. It’s simple supply and demand. I understand that WalMart in the past lured customers to its stores during this season with lower toy prices perhaps masquerading as goodwill type thing or whatnot, I don’t know. However, it’s in any business’s best interest to maximize profits given circumstances like this.
      If WalMart really wanted to differentiate itself from the competitors, it would lower the prices on toys, etc in the week leading up to Black Friday to entice people who want to finish their shopping earlier (as well as people who celebrate holidays that tend to occur earlier in the calendar, like Hannukah).

    • Griking says:

      I agree. Is it bad for a company to try to increase their profits?

    • Wombatish says:

      The best discounts are actually traditionally the week before Christmas (last minute deals).

      A very select portion of the merchandise is on sale (and probably not the thing you actually want) but the percentages are steeper.

  3. KingPsyz says:

    I had to exchange gifts I had bought my son late the other night there and one item rang up for $8 more than the on the shelf price.

    If not for being 3am and two cashiers with 20 customers, I would have gotten my $8…

  4. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    I personally will usually choose to not shop at Walmart, but I’ve been doing most of my shopping online and have noticed that many of the items I have been looking to purchase (toys, electronics, etc) have been cheaper at Walmart. I’m not a regular shopper of that store in any way, and the things I did buy were online and shipped to me since my local store is nothing short of disgusting, but I haven’t noticed higher prices.

  5. lucky13 says:

    Sounds like just another Walmart rollback to me.

  6. tedyc03 says:

    Business prices products to reflect demand…film at 11.

    Really now?

    • UltimateOutsider says:

      Pretty much. It could even be a sign of an improving economy if people keep buying them.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Demand is largely controlled by how much they choose to make and keep on hand, i.e. inventory. So retailers have purposely lowed their inventory this year, which you could argue is retailers forcing a price increase on goods.

      • jesirose says:

        No, that’s supply. “how much they choose to make and keep on hand, i.e. inventory.” = supply. Demand is how much the customers want the items.

        “So retailers have purposely lowed their inventory this year, which you could argue is retailers forcing a price increase on goods.”

        They lowered their supply, maybe because demand was not as high (which would usually cause a lowered price) or to try to increase demand of their few items, and allow them to raise the price. (if you can’t find any item, as was the case with the Wiis years ago, you’ll pay more for the limited supply).

      • SuperSnackTime says:

        someone here needs a micro brush up :-)

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        So you are saying they should have ordered more and risked the surplus of goods they’ve had to deal with over the past couple of years, even though they knew from experience demand was lower in the continuing recession.

        I bet you think you know a lot about economics. Hahahaha.

    • Wombatish says:

      Some retailers are slashing prices on last minute items to spur demand.

      They were before the recession, and they still are now.

      It just depends. Wal-mart has a steady customer base and is extremely price and profit sensitive, so it makes sense for them to take this route.

      For other retailers, not so much. They risk alienating customers and need all the enticement they can get.

      • Wombatish says:

        That got stuck in a gigantic page-loop lag vortex so if I shows up 15 more times I apologize in advance!

  7. dolemite says:

    Lots of people bashing this story but…honestly, would many people notice the difference in price if there hadn’t been a story? Maybe some people had planned on finishing up their shopping at Walmart, and now they know they might be better served checking around.

    • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

      I don’t know… I would think smart shoppers always shop around. But I agree with the sentiment.

  8. sirwired says:

    They put the competition largely out of business (Toys-R-Us is a shadow of its former self, KB Toys is gone, independent toy stores are mostly gone) and now they are reaping their rewards.

    This is how capitalism works folks…

    • EverCynicalTHX says:

      As opposed to what? Socialism or Communism?

      Enlighten us since you seem to have the answers about economic and political theory .

    • Kodai says:

      are we to assume that you approve of monopolies raising their prices to whatever they want?

    • anduin says:

      and if you lived in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era, you got the choice of Father Stalin Doll or Brother Lenin with pull string and 6 Bolshevik sayings!

  9. danmac says:

    Come on, now…isn’t a “reverse rollback” just a forward rollback in disguise?

  10. VOIDMunashii says:

    I guess that you don’t really need to have low prices if you have convinced everyone that you do.

    • paul says:

      Exactly. Calling all of your prices “Everyday low prices” is like calling your store “Best Buy” and then charging more than almost everyone on everything… who would do such a thing?

  11. chuckreis says:

    Profits make Jesus smile… or something.

  12. Supes says:

    No surprise. Prices go up. The only way to stop this is to stop buying… when enough people have stopped buying, they will realize the price is too high.

    But as long as people keep buying…. well, that’s just capitalism.

  13. Bernardo says:

    So? They still have the best prices, and if not people can choose to shop elsewhere. I just cant wait till Walmart comes to NYC so I can afford to walk into a store again instead of surviving on

  14. WHC999 says:

    I refuse to be Wal-Marted this Christmas.
    The same plastic crap made in China by prisoners is given and received every year….it’s all the same.
    I make it a point to patronize local shops to find my presents.
    I find they have much more of a “cool factor” than any of the chains.

  15. gparlett says:

    There was a sale. The sale is now over. Nothing to see here.

  16. evilpete says:

    This is news ????

  17. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Usually, WM was my first stop for toys and whatnot for my niece and nephew. However this season I’ve noticed that their prices are higher than several other local stores, so I’ve taken my business there. Some of the stores *regular* prices were even lower than WM’s “sale” prices. Quite a change from a few years ago.

  18. Buckus says:

    Let me get this straight…after squeezing out most competing toy stores with low-low prices, they now revert to higher prices?

    Sounds about right.

  19. El-Brucio says:

    I’ve often thought that the Walmart concept of “rollback” was just invented to evade any of the legal requirements for the use of the word “Sale”.

    • gman863 says:

      Wow! Somebody else finally figured this out.

      The “rollback” is Wal-Mart’s version of a shell game. By focusing attention on giant rollback signs, their hope is customers will ignore items that they’ve jacked to prices at or above their local competitors.

      A few local examples: Bollos (bread rolls) at Kroger are 4/$1.00 everyday. The price at Wally World is usually .50; however they will sometimes do a rollback to .25 (same as Kroger). Ditto for Triscut crackers: The price jumped from $1.97 to $2.98; Kroger’s everyday price is $2.78.

      No, I’m not the Rain Man of grocery prices. I just pay attention to the items I buy on a regular basis.

  20. Firevine says:

    Noticed this the other day, on some DC action figures I have been wanting. The “rollback” was $14.97, one cent higher than they have been, but the “Was” price was $16.96, which is an utter crock. That’s $2.00 higher than the real “Was”.

    • Tom Foolery says:

      KB Toys got burned for this years ago. They used pre-printed price tags with a red line through the “old” price, and a red-printed “new” price…except that the items were never for sale in KB stores at the “old” price. There was a class action suit, a major change in how items were priced, and a huge sale as part of the settlement.

  21. miss_j_bean says:

    Supply and demand, man. I got my shopping done early. No lines, no fighting over stuff, no worries that the thingie they want is this year’s hottest gift.

  22. u1itn0w2day says:

    Standard tactic. Do you think any of these stores offering 40% – 60% are really loosing that much money. Everyweek I see adds for door buster midnight madness type sales at places like Penneys. I shop stuff to death so I follow prices and I’ve noticed over the years a regular price increase is frequently followed by a sale.

    And Home Depot is bragging about it’s price optimization strategy which basically means jack up the price on anything possible especially if a high demand item. The door busters are simply that to help get you in the door to buy other stuff at regular price.

    The sheeple that fall into the “I must buy” at this time of year trap deserve the prices especially if they didn’t shop or think ahead.

  23. evnmorlo says:

    It’s a service since people feel better about themselves for giving expensive gifts

  24. paul says:

    Wal-Mart has raised prices on almost everything over the past few months, especially the grocery items. They used to usually have the best price or be near the best (though they’re always out of stock on half the items you went there to buy…), but lately their prices are rarely the lowest and are often higher than all of the local grocery store chains. They still have a few items here and there that they’ve got a great price on, but overall it’s to the point where they are not any cheaper, and the “Wal-Mart Experience” is not worth it (horrible parking lots, huge crowds, annoying customers).

    • diagoro says:

      Was just going to add this observation. Most of the toiletries have been higher by as as much as 30%…..

  25. momtimestwo says:

    I don’t know about the toys, but I know they raised their food prices shortly after “Black Friday”. I buy my vegetarian packaged food there, like soy milk, Morningstar Farms veggie burgers, etc because they are a lot cheaper then neighboring Publix or Kroger. Or they used to be. I went shopping the Monday after Black Friday and couldn’t believe how much the prices of food went up. I’ve never paid over $2.75 for vanilla soy milk there and it was for $3.00. A box of veggie burgers went from $3.75 to over $4.00.

  26. pegasi says:

    Walmart’s tactic of late is to raise the price a couple bucks or more, then have a “rollback” 50 cents or so, to claim that you’re supposedly getting a deal on the item. Yeah, well if the 20 pack of coke was 5.50 last week, and now it says it “was” 7.50 with a “rollback” to 6.50…’s STILL a buck price increase…..DUH! If you’re savvy enough to know what last week’s price was, you’re not fooled….

    Walmart is doing this to varying degrees, from a few cents to a couple dollars, all over the store, if you watch their pricing. Yeah, some “loss leader” items are unchanged, things that get people in the store, we all know how that works…. some items they break even or take a minimal loss on to get you in the door so that they hope you’ll spend more money on more profitable items, conveniently placed nearby, of course.

    I deliberately go shop elsewhere, and vote with my wallet, since they can’t seem to realize that SOME people are smart enough to see through this pathetic attempt to convince the “sheep” that they’re getting a deal when they’re not.

    • Michaela says:

      This isn’t a tactic unique to Wal Mart. I see it at the grocery stores I use all the time.

      As for not noticing the “smart” people: Wal Mart notices you. They just know they don’t need you to make a profit. Your decision to shop there is so greatly outweighed by the people who buy from them that they disregard you completely.

  27. Foot_Note says:

    Walmart, We Sell you Less

  28. sopmodm14 says:

    well, toys aren’t on sale are going to be more expensive than they once were..duh

    its the name of the game in retail, but just get whats currently on sale

  29. jjcraftery says:

    I work in Walmart (not FOR Walmart) and I pass by the toys I bought back in Sept/Oct, to get my shopping done early….and some of the prices are $5 lower than back before Thanksgiving. And they’re still that way.
    I haven’t noticed ANY toy prices going back up. Sure, they’re not at their Black Friday prices, but they look the same if not less, to me!

  30. Outrun1986 says:

    Um is this anything new, toys near Christmas time will be harder to find and will cost more to take advantage of last minute shoppers. If you wait till the last minute, you pay more (this goes for pretty much everything). If you want to save money, follow the prices of the toy you want then buy it when you think its a good price. You don’t NEED a toy, so this is not a criminal act (if they were raising food prices instantly during a disaster or big storm, then I would say otherwise).

    No other store gouges people more than Toys R Us does for toys, unless it is on sale. I wouldn’t dare pay regular price for any of their toys. For example the Monster High dolls that retail for 16.99 each at Target are 24.99 each at Toys R Us. You are paying for the Toys R Us name in that store. I only shop at TRU when an item is on deep, deep clearance.

    I haven’t seen food prices increasing in my Walmart, but they did stop carrying several of the items I normally buy when those items cost more at the competing store that is next door.

  31. Judah says:

    Greedy corporation is greedy. Crush unions. Force out small independent chains. Raise prices once market is cornered. Standard Operating Procedure.

  32. Razor512 says:

    walmart couldn’t compete with many online retailers in the past, this year, they wont be able to come close to competing. The problem is that not enough people shop online and thus it is not seen as a big enough threat so the stores don’t work to compete with online retailers who charge less not because want to but they charge less because unlike physical stores where a lower price is available but you may have to drive 20 miles to get it. Online stores know that with a few key presses you can be at another store in about 1 second.

  33. stevied says:

    Who cares if the price of toys is up…

    $1 for a can of Campbell’s Soup. $0.50/can if you buy the 4 pack.

    $0.75 for 2 liter Dr. Peppers after instant $0.25 savings.

    $6.00 Cheese Cake.

  34. gman863 says:

    Wal-Mart (like most major retailers) also uses zoned pricing, based on what (if any) major competitors are within a few minutes drive.

    In the Houston area, both the Sugar Land and Katy (Fry Rd.) Wal-Marts are within 5 minutes or less of Target. I’ve noticed the prices of certain items in these stores (ironically including cat food) are about 15%-20% less than the Westpark or Stafford Wal-Marts that are several miles from the nearest Target.

    My guess is they apply the same strategy to Meijers, K-Mart, etc.

  35. Levk says:

    Yea I see a lot of people thinking that wal-mart is cheaper and even after i prove them wrong they still think it is cheaper… so yea its already stuck in peoples head that walmart = cheapness so really they will turn the blind eye, wal-mart big and all so really thats what people think and they can get away with it. Either way… I shop online ^^ ALL of my gifts to others I got online :) not btw

  36. Wombatish says:

    Some retailers are slashing prices on last minute items to spur demand.

    They were before the recession, and they still are now.

    It just depends. Wal-mart has a steady customer base and is extremely price and profit sensitive, so it makes sense for them to take this route.

    For other retailers, not so much. They risk alienating customers and need all the enticement they can get.

  37. Wombatish says:

    Some retailers are slashing prices on last minute items to spur demand.

    They were before the recession, and they still are now.

    It just depends. Wal-mart has a steady customer base and is extremely price and profit sensitive, so it makes sense for them to take this route.

    For other retailers, not so much. They risk alienating customers and need all the enticement they can get.

  38. anduin says:

    Aaaannnnddd queue reason why you should get your Christmas shopping done by the end of September, check for trends and see if theres going to be any new really hot toys around Nov Dec, if not, get that shit early.

  39. KyBash says:

    I don’t see the bad in this. Higher prices means more will be left on the shelf, so the discounts will be much deeper the day after Christmas, which is when I buy gifts for the grandkids and nieces and nephews (and then blame the post office for delivering them late).

    Also, a few years ago, they kept the prices high on Barbie dolls. After Christmas, I snagged a dozen of them and sold them on eBay — a 337.6% return on investment for me, and they were still lower than msrp.

  40. squeakywheel says:

    one more reason why i haven’t shopped at wal-mart in over 4 years (pat me on the back…..)

  41. FrugalFreak says:

    No worries, AMAZON DELIVERS!

  42. bananaboat says:

    I buy everything online. One item from Walmart this year, Amazon was much cheaper.

  43. Thanatos says:

    With bar code scanning/price comparison apps all over the place on iPhone, Android and Win Mobile Wal-Mart and other retailers are going to have to change their attitudes about their pricing.

    I went into the Wal-Mart here the other night to buy an inkjet cartridge for my printer. I took out my Droid and scanned the bar code on it to see how much better I could do (I do this because I KNOW that Wal-Mart isn’t that cheap these days) either online or at another store. The Dept. Manager watched me for a minute and then came over and snidely said, “Can I help you with something?!”. I turned around and said, “No, I was just checking to see how bad I was going to get ass raped if I bought this here and I see that I was going to get it put in about 40% deeper than Amazon – which is where I’ll be buying it from!”, and walked away. They know that people can check on them now and it frosts their ass……wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t try to make their stores to where cell signals won’t get out.

  44. 99 1/2 Days says:

    OMG, raise their prices or have empty shelves…boy, that’s a tough decision there… not

    Ya know, sometimes this “selling things for below cost” a lot of the retailers have been doing is kind of a risky move. Smart move for Walmart.