Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) has cheaper online prices for toys than Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Target Corp. (TGT) and other major chains as parents begin shopping for the holidays, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis.
In a comparison of 125 randomly selected toys conducted on Nov. 8, Amazon had lower prices than Wal-Mart on 44 percent of the items, while Wal-Mart had the advantage on 13 percent. The remaining had the same price tag. Wal-Mart beat Target Corp., Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD)'s Kmart chain and Toys "R" Us Inc. on more than 80 percent of the toys, according to a report led by Poonam Goyal, a Bloomberg Industries analyst.
"Toys are important because they are the top category for the holiday, along with electronics, and are the most competitive," Goyal said in a telephone interview.
Amazon's lead came as a surprise because Wal-Mart led in last year's pricing study for much of the holiday season, Goyal said.
Amazon had the advantage on such items as the limited- edition version of "Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City," a video game for the PlayStation 3 that it priced at $20.98, compared with $39.96 at Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart fell 0.7 percent to $71.31 at the close in New York. Amazon declined 1.6 percent to $222.95. Target dropped 1.1 percent to $61.38. Sears lost 2.5 percent to $58.42.
Another key is how well stocked retailers will be during the holiday shopping season, Goyal said. The largest toy sellers have better inventory levels than they did a year ago, according to the study.
Amazon, Kmart and Toys "R" Us didn't have any toys out of stock online, while Wal-Mart was missing 3 percent and Target didn't have 8 percent. In the same week a year ago, all of these chains had higher levels.
With the exception of Amazon, out-of-stock levels increased last year as the holiday season neared its end. By Dec. 21, Wal- Mart, Target, Kmart and Toys "R" Us (TOYS) were all out of stock on more than 40 percent of items in the study, while Amazon was missing only 1 percent.
"It appears they've learned their lessons from last year," Goyal said. "If retailers are stocked well, holiday should go well for them."