Toys R Us closing? Say it isn't so. How did this iconic store lose it? We at Smile For Me Toys couldn't let this apparent news pass without saying something so we wanted to share some thoughts.
My toys were something Santa had usually brought once a year and also only received on my birthday when dear relatives and mom's sponsored parties filled my requests or at least had prioritized them! Toys were special in our house and in the pre electronic era they mostly inspired our imagination. You played with toys, the toys did not play with you!
Stuffed animals all had a place on our beds. Heck, they couldn't be left all alone! Later, our GI Joe's prompted dug out holes in the yard. Toy trucks and cars had "roads" built into the dirt on the edge of the garden. Lincoln logs and Legos that were only square were adapted for catapults and battle field reenactments.
I can remember the first time I saw the Toys R Us building getting ready to open in Colma, California with the large Geoffrey Giraffe being lowered in place. Was that huge sign up on the side of that warehouse really going to have "Toys" in its name? I think the first visit came with another friend's mother's trip. An unscheduled run to a toy store would not have been in our family's budget and I did come to the realization that maybe Santa didn't actually make all of the toys himself as this store was surely way over even his abilities!
It was my age with the time and the right place and it was always a wonder.
Toys R Us over the years was my "go to" store for gifts but as the current critics opine now, Walmart, Target and Amazon took a large chunk. Some years ago while researching products and toy trends because of Smile For Me Toys and the SnapShotz Photography Board Game some things stood out for me at the Toys R Us store in Sacramento, California.
"Wonder" was now "what the heck?" No greetings, no guidance just floor to ceiling boxes. Each aisle had a mother figure saying "no, put that down!" and "don't touch that!" and "where did you find that, you can't have it!" What a let down. Actually I could relate because adults would go broke if every outreach of curiosity was rang up at the register but you can't have the word "NO" heard throughout your store. It seemed to cause overloaded and overwhelmed kids but I suppose in this day of age they are just being prepared for an overloaded and overwhelmed adulthood! I am also sure that the eventual toy or game purchase had become a let down for every child as it just turned into a consolation prize compared to the tons of potential they had to just be denied from.
Maybe nothing could stop a Toys R Us closing move. All of those toys fighting for eye level shelf space only to be slapped out of little hands at times all over the country. It seems like birthday places like Laser Tag and Chuck E Cheese are still booming. Paw patrol, Disney Cars and Sponge Bob type lines of merchandise have cult like followings...at least for a phase or two as the child develops new interests.
I had made notes some years ago on Toys R Us possibly establishing "play areas" and more effective "birthday party registries", maybe hire "greeters" that were more like toy counselors that could narrow a child's interest and direct parents to an area they could focus on. Some large box chains provide "product cards" to redeem the product at a check out area of the warehouse to be more efficient with their floor space. Maybe they could have employed more touch screens in the play areas and summon merchandise from the back. Played the music of popular toy tie in shows. They apparently racked up debt trying to keep the dream alive because it was certainly a dream for many years for millions of kids they didn't want to let go. Looks like we will have to deal with the reality of Toys R Us closing.
Sometimes in life there are just too many distractions. There was no intrigue, no anticipation, no wonder, just "boom there it is". The business model used to work at one point and there are no easy answers and it is a shame because Toys R Us was us.
At least Santa doesn't have to keep filling up all those shelves anymore........