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Toy sites merge as market heats up

KB Toys and are combining their Web sites, completing the merger of the two companies' online operations announced in May.

KB Toys and are combining their Web sites, completing the merger of the two companies' online operations announced in May.

The new merged site, dubbed, officially launches tomorrow and includes the product reviews featured on, as well as the wider product selection formerly found on The site has also added collectibles and communities areas, where customers can ask questions about products and read articles from experts.

Srikant Srinivasan,'s founder and chief executive, said the company decided to change its name to reflect a broader product line than just toys. At the same time, the site wanted to maintain a connection to its KB Toys parent.

"It provides separation but allows us to build on the KB brand," Srinivasan said.

The site's relaunch comes as the holiday shopping season nears and as the toy market continues to heat up. This month, launched its own toy store and eToys expanded its offerings to include children's books. Retail giant Wal-Mart, the leading offline toy seller, is expected to make its online toy push when it unveils its revamped Web site later this year.

Although he expects Amazon to be a major player in the market, Srinivasan predicted that will become the leading retailer of children's products online. What will set the site apart will be its ability to tie in with KB Toys offline stores, he said.

Srinivasan said that will be able to use liquidate its excess holiday inventory through the KB Toys stores, something pure play Internet sites like Amazon and eToys won't be able to do. He said will be able to tie into the relationships that KB Toys has with manufacturers to get its fair share of the season's hot buys.

"I'm not belittling Amazon. They're a very serious conender," Srinivasan said. "But there's something to be said about how e-commerce is shifting from the domain of the pure plays to the hybrids."

It remains to be seen how the toy sites will do this holiday season. Another hybrid site,, was expected to make a strong run at last year's leader eToys, but after losing its chief executive, the site is leaderless and could have problems come Christmastime.

Consolidated Stores, KB Toys' parent company, invested $80 million and owns 80 percent of the joint venture with, which invested all of its online assets in the new site for the remaining 20 percent stake, runs the site.