One of my favorite memories growing up was going to Toys “R” Us with my family and sitting in the stuffed animal room playing with them all. During other visits to the store, we would just walk through the aisles for hours, looking for a new baby doll or more plastic food for the imaginary restaurant my sister and I ran in our basement. Eventually, Trips to Toys “R” Us became a tradition in my family, just like they did for many families in America. Toy stores, and especially Toys R Us, encapsulated everything we loved about our childhood: spending time with our family, hours of carefree fun, a space to let our imagination run, and lots of toys.
However, the store has now closed its doors forever and generations to come will not be able to experience the magic of Geoffrey the Giraffe’s toy emporium—and perhaps any other toy store. Steeped in debt and suffering from low sales, America’s favorite toy store had been struggling for years. And even though it had managed to outlive other big toy retailers like KB Toys—which went out of business in 2009—its sad ending was inevitable.
There are many theories as to why the stores closed. Former employees say the board took a fiscally conservative approach in the mid-2000s, which led to underinvestment in their stores and staff. Eventually, the stores operated with little or no maintenance, with cleaning services cut back and key staff members let go in cost-cutting campaigns. The company’s financial struggles became worse, and in September of last year, they decided to file for bankruptcy. Shortly after this announcement they put the plan in action to liquidate all of the stores, thus began the process of closing the doors of a store that had belonged to many generations.
But management is not entirely to blame. As online retailers grew in popularity and people became busier with their careers, online shopping became the norm. Amazon and eBay make buying toys an easy process that parents and kids can do from the comfort of their own homes. (Of course, the experience for the families won’t be the same if they are just scrolling down a screen to pick what toy they want.) Online shopping has become competition for many companies, and in years to come it will be interesting to see just how much of an impact online businesses will have on other industries.
Additionally, it is becoming more common for people to have fewer children and wait later in life to have them. Rather than focusing on raising a family, current generations are more focused on building a career for themselves, traveling the world, and building strong relationships.
All of these reasons combined have led to the downfall of a toy store that had been at the forefront of our lives for 70 years–which naturally leads to the question: Are we the last generation to experience the magic of toy stores?