This is a familiar story to me, having already had to write a similar send-off to KB Toys roughly a decade ago, and indeed the causes are fairly similar (if not what a lot of people immediately assume them to be). Even before I worked at KB, I worked at Toys R Us. Twice, in fact. For my first two college summers, I was a backroom clerk at Toys R Us, building bicycles and play sets, helping customers get large items out to their vehicles, and getting to see the then-new Generation Two toys as they would arrive on the truck. Those were good times.
|NOT the TRU I went to as a kid, but it's a |
decent match for the old-style architecture.
In the years since, and especially since moving to Southern California, I've developed a pattern on my days off, driving throughout Los Angeles County to places I enjoy. I've been fortunate to live in a place with quite a few Toys R Us stores that have been more or less accessible, and it's not been unusual to visit three or four in a single afternoon, especially if there's a particular item I'm looking for. With the sudden loss of all of these stores, this pattern will no doubt change, and I'm still not sure what that will look like.
There has been plenty of speculation of what the loss of Toys R Us, the last major toy-specific retailer in America, will mean for the toy industry. While remaining retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon will presumably pick up some of the stock that would otherwise have gone to Toys R Us, no one seriously expects that they can handle all of it. This is especially obvious for smaller toy companies, and startups who haven't yet gotten major exposure. As important as Walmart is to the toy-selling landscape (more toys are bought from Walmart than any other brick-and-mortar retailer), the toy section in Walmart isn't nearly as large as even a small Toys R Us, who was thus able to provide a far greater variety of toys. They could offer not-yet-popular items, providing exposure to toys that Walmart (and others) aren't yet willing to take a risk on. As for Amazon, while they are great for locating almost anything and everything one might think to search for, online retailers simply aren't as good for browsing, enabling people to discover items that they don't yet know that they want. Indeed, I'm not sure that online commerce ever can duplicate the opportunity for discovery one gets from browsing physical aisles.
|A collection of TRU exclusives |
(yes, that includes Gary!)
Good bye, Toys R Us. You will be missed.
*I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there is still a chance for some stores to continue on using the "Toys R Us" name. In particular, there is hope that a buyer will buy the 80-odd Canadian stores, which are said to be doing much better, and add up to 200 of the best-performing US stores to that, as well as the rights to the name, so that those stores might continue. This would, in effect, be a whole new company using the old name, and in any event, whether or not this will happen is not yet guaranteed.