Game On: Target’s Nik Nayar Shares Tips for Toy Shopping Like a Pro

December 2, 2016 - Article reads in
Nik Nayar with a variety of the season's top toys

Nik Nayar has every child’s dream job—filling Target’s shelves with beloved classics and brand-new toys and games that inspire kids to play every day. As Target’s vice president of toys and sporting goods, he doesn’t don a red suit, but he and his elves are dreaming up enough fun to rival Santa and make Target the can’t-miss toy destination this season. They’re cranking out over 1,800 new or exclusive toys and mining crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and even tapping kids themselves to find—and invent—the hottest new games. And they’re making life a little easier for every mom, dad, grandma, grandma and friend to shop for their favorite kiddos this holiday.

We sat down with Nik for tips on tackling toy shopping like a pro.

In the toy business, you’re always a kid at heart! But take us back in time… what toys topped your childhood wish list?
I was six when I saw Star Wars for the first time and it was incredibleso Star Wars action figures were always on the list. And my other love was Hotwheels cars, but my family had to get a little creative to fuel this passion. Back in those days, Hotwheels and Matchbox were not available in India, where I lived until I was nine. Luckily, my dad traveled a lot for work and would always bring back toy cars—I had quite the collection! But even more than the toys, I loved hearing about his trips around the world.

Did those childhood memories shape your own career journey?
Absolutely. I didn’t know it at the time, but my dad’s little gifts and stories sparked my curiosity and led to a penchant for travel, experiencing new cultures and taking risks. It was the beginning of my own exciting journey—and continues to inspire my career at Target.

Now that you’re a dad yourself and a toy guru, any tips for making kids’ holidays shine? 
It’s go time! My team’s been planning for this holiday season for over a year and it’s finally here. We pride ourselves on giving guests outstanding, must-have gifts at an incredible value. But believe me, with three kids, I know that choosing just the right gift can get tricky. A few things I’ve learned personally and professionally over the years…

  • Make a list and check it twice: Whether you use Target’s Wish List app or jot notes on your phone, heading into the store with a list can help speed things along. I always use my kids’ wish lists as a starting point and go from there.
  • Channel your inner kid: Throw back to the classics you loved. Share your love of Star Wars or LEGO with the next generation. Or set up some quality time with board games like Monopoly and Game of Life—the classics never go out of style. If you want to give a new game a try, Speak Out, Blokus and Telestrations are our favorites this year.
  • Don’t give up: We’re restocking shelves throughout the season, so it is possible to nab those hard-to-find items, even Hatchimals. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask a friendly elf in red and khaki—they’re here to help!
  • Look for extra ways to save: Target’s always a great value, but for even more savings check out our special Cartwheel promotion: 50% off a different toy every day through Dec. 24. And you can save another 5% every day with our REDcard.

We have to ask—are you done shopping for your kids yet?
Not yet…but don’t worry, there’s still tons of great time left to shop. My kids’ lists are quite long this year, but some of the more requested items are the LEGO Heartlake Grand Hotel, Our Generation Ice Cream Truck, GoPro camera and a hoverboard. I’ll have to take my own advice and get serious about finding just the right gift for each of them!

Need even more inspiration? Check out our Kids' Gift Guide then browse thousands more toys and Target-exclusives at your local Target store or And while you’re building those lists, here’s a closer look at more of our top toy trends:

Holiday Toys at Target
Target has the mass retail exclusive on 15% of our assortment, and 10 percent of our assortment is only available at Target.

Over 1,800 new or exclusive products, up roughly +17% from last year
17% of the Trolls toy assortment is exclusive
Thousands of Star Wars products, including 100+ new items across multiple categories including Toys
Disney Princess fashion doll sales at Target have quadrupled in 2016.
Board Games
Board Games is a double-digit growth category for Target.
We introduced 50 Target-exclusive games into the store this fall, led by the widely popular game, Oregon Trail.
Utter Nonsense is a game that got its start on Kickstarter. Our buyer discovered it and took the game from one specialty store to all Target stores and in just six months.
Target expanded its STEM product assortment shelf space to 12 feet in 170 stores, introducing new brands and play patterns.
Active Play
Target will more than double the product offerings for drones this year.
Our Generation
One of our best-selling toys, Our Generation is a Target mass-retail exclusive collection of 18” dolls, accessories and apparel.
Target nearly doubled Our Generation’s multicultural assortment in the last year, offering a variety of eye, hair and skin tone combinations.

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