Toys “R” Us continues to demonstrate that memories with a corporate entity can strike a chord with generations of children and adults alike. Whether or not toys were your thing, Toys “R” Us, at its peak, was one of the country’s biggest toy retailers.
— Jeff Delgado (@Jeff_Delgado) September 19, 2017
First they take our blockbuster…
Now they take our Toys R’ Us…
Truly this is the worst timeline… pic.twitter.com/zKuPG2jAbw
— Rick Lyons (@MymanRick) September 19, 2017
With more than 30,000 employees losing their jobs at Toys “R” Us, the shutdown of hundreds of stores has created not just a heartbreak for shoppers, but many who have worked in the retailer for years.
The saddest part about my lunchtime trip to the local Toys R Us is the “please don’t be a jerk to our sad employees” sign that management felt they had to post at the store’s entrance. pic.twitter.com/QLsjiyaRJx
— Phil Theobald (@WhimsicalPhil) March 26, 2018
There are a number of factors and history that led to the demise of Toys “R” Us, but the why of the matter is enough to warrant its own story. For the time being, let’s take a look at how a number of other toy retailers have met a similar fate.
Death of KB Toys: Toys “R” Us Competition and Purchase
Once a candy store in the early 1940’s, KB Toys rivaled Toys “R” Us in an expansion, with many of their toy retailers located in a majority of U.S. outlet malls. Company troubles arose after KB Toys closed more than a hundred stores in late 2007.
They would eventually face bankruptcy and close down the rest of their stores. The KB Toys brand would later be purchased by (ironically enough) Toys “R” Us. However, Toys “R” Us would later allow the KB Toys registration to lapse.
Like Rocky Balboa, KB Toys is planning a comeback into the big leagues, as they prepare to bring pop-up stores before Christmas 2018.
Zany Brainy: An Ambitious Retailer of Educational Toys
Founded in 1991, Zany Brainy always felt more than just another place to get toys like beanie babies and legos. They also provided a huge selection of educational toys that were non-violent, safe, and gender-neutral.
How many times does the market have to say it: Kids don’t want to learn. ??? I don’t have a ton of memories of Zany Brainy (born 1991, died 2001), other than my friend’s sister worked at the one in our hometown for like eight years. That’s a pretty impressive run at a company that only lasted a decade. ? Zany Brainy sold educational toys for kids. Unfortunately, putting a modifier like “educational” before toys has never been a great recipe for success. ? The guys who founded the chain went on to start Five Below. Which is not focused on educational toys in any specific way. —– #zanybrainy #toys #education #educationaltoys #smarttoys #brains #books #book #bookstore #? #malls #mall #mallstores #defunctstores #1990smalls #90smalls #1990sstores #90sstores #1990spopculture #90spopculture #retro #nostalgia #vintage #oldschool #backintheday
One of the biggest draws that set it apart from other toy retailers were the daily events that would range from concerts and author appearances to workshops that all children could participate in. Financial woes would hit Zany Brainy in 2001, with its assets sold to Right Start. All their stores would close down by 2003.
On a positive note, founders of Zany Brainy would eventually bring forth the still-standing retail chain, Five Below.
FAO Schwarz Crippling Tumble: Your Grandpa’s Toy Retailer
Founded in 1862, FAO Schwarz is considered the U.S.’ oldest toy store. It has mostly been known for its tourist flagship location in New York. Its popularity would spawn several stores all over the country, and caught the eye of Toys “R” Us.
— FAO Schwarz (@FAOSchwarz) January 4, 2018
After purchasing FAO Schwarz in 2009, Toys “R” Us used the acquired brand by implementing permanent FAO Schwarz boutiques in a number of their own retailers. Of course, the good times would not last long, as Toys “R” Us’ own financial troubles would force a shut down of all FAO Schwarz toy retailers. Even its iconic New York location closed its doors in 2015.
Hooray for a new year! ?? https://t.co/jGNQhyiMy6
— FAO Schwarz (@FAOSchwarz) January 1, 2018
This was rather short-lived, as FAO Schwarz made yet another comeback last year after being acquired by another company.
Toys “R” Us: The Long Graveyard of Major Toy Retailers
A loss of childhood experiences, jobs, and toys are just some of the effects that came with the closures of these toy retailers. But is it necessarily all bad? According to some locally owned toy store owners, it may bring more growth to them.
Toys “R” Us held almost 15 percent of toy market sales, but locally owned stores have been experiencing increasing sales since the company plummeted into bankruptcy. “We’re looking more at the long-term,” said toy shop owner, Brice Elvington, to CNN, “And there is huge market share up for grabs with Toys ‘R’ Us closing.”