Toy firms paid as much as $2 million for inclusion in Amazon’s Holiday Toy List 2019, according to documents seen by Bloomberg.
Amazon says the payments are similar to charging for shelf position, a well-worn practice of bricks and mortar retail to monetise prime display space. Premium spots, such as those at eye level, carry the highest fees, while those closer to the ground or in less trafficked parts of the store are often cheaper.
Bloomberg found Amazon’s pricing structure to be the digital equivalent. Toy firms who were willing to pay more could nominate a greater number of their products for Amazon’s list of 100 hot toys. Higher rates also mean they are more prominently featured on the site.
Appearing on Amazon’s “thoughtfully curated” Christmas toy guide can provide an enormous boost to sales – but the online retail giant has come under fire from some quarters for not disclosing the positions as ‘sponsored’ or ‘paid advertising’.
The list is different to other top-10-style segments such as best-sellers, which pulls from sales metrics, and is instead said to be compiled by Amazon’s buyers and experts.
In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Amazon said the Holiday Toy List is “independently curated by a team of in-house experts”. Inclusion relies upon quality and innovation, among other factors, but it does allow suppliers “to nominate their best toys for the season and increase visibility of those toys”.
Toys from the biggest, largely international brands are featured in the gift guide. The list also includes a number of Amazon exclusives, including dolls and games.
Amazon reportedly aimed to sell $20m worth of sponsorship through the guide, and stands to make even more on its traditional paid-for spotlight segments. Prices for a top banner on the toy page reportedly more than triple in November and December, costing $300,000 a month compared to the $75,000 Amazon charges the rest of the year.