October 22, 2010, 4:54 PM

Toys ‘R’ Us plans to launch buy online, pick up in-store

The offering guarantees that items will be available within two hours of ordering.

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Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. plans to roll out a service in time for the holiday season that enables shoppers to buy any of more than 7,500 items online and pick them up in 260 Babies ‘R’ Us and select Toys ‘R’ Us bricks-and-mortar stores in such major U.S. metropolitan areas as Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The retailer will guarantee that the products will be available within two hours.

In focusing on fast pickup, Toys ‘R’ Us is following the lead of Circuit City, which offered a 24-minute guarantee before the retail chain went bankrupt, as well as Sears Holdings Corp.’s current five-minute guarantee.

The service, scheduled to launch Oct. 26, will expand nationwide by the middle of next year. Toys ‘R’ Us, No. 37 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says it will promote the offering with in-store signage, as well as print and online ads.

Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com will indicate on product pages whether a product is eligible for in-store pickup. After a consumer enters her ZIP code, the site will present the five nearest stores with the product in stock.

The retailer also is adding a feature to its site that allows a consumer to check whether a product is in stock at a store within 50 miles of her ZIP code. Moreover, the site added another feature that will e-mail shoppers when an out-of-stock product is available online.

 “We know that an increasing number of customers are using our e-commerce site not only to make purchases but to research products available in our stores, and we are pleased to offer streamlined services to help busy parents and gift-givers save time and shop more efficiently,” says Greg Ahearn, senior vice president, marketing and e-commerce. “These enhanced services let time-strapped shoppers know we will assist them in securing items they are searching for, from that special crib to welcome a newborn to that must-have gift at the top of a child’s wish list.”

Toys ‘R’ Us is just the latest of a number of retailers bolstering its multichannel offerings prior to the holiday season. For instance, Best Buy Co. said last month it wanted to make in-stock items available for pickup within 45 minutes of an order being placed and that it would ship for free out-of-stock products to any Best Buy store for pickup.

And last week Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced plans to expand a test that allows consumers who place an order online to pick up that item the same day from nearly 800 Wal-Mart stores in large metropolitan areas throughout the United States.

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