Toys R Us, I don’t want to grow up…
I have a love-hate relationship with Toys R Us. As a kid, it was my favorite toy store! As a teen, it was my first job. As an adult, in my opinion, it has become one of the biggest reminders of corporate greed in Canada. Now don’t get me wrong, I have 3 kids of my own and I still take them to Toys R Us on occasion but as a toy collector, I try to avoid them like the plague.
Memories of Toys R Us: From David Hasselhoff to LJN Wrestling Figures
So how did we get here? When I was a kid, Toys R Us was pretty competitive. Prices were on par with other retail stores. I remember going there to buy GI Joe’s, Transformers, and LJN wrestling figures all the time. But I also remember doing the same at my local Towers or Zellers. I mean, even Sears carried toys back then. So the toy space was much more competitive than it is today. But Toys R Us had something going for it. It was a place where a kid could be a kid. Unlike other retail chains that sold clothing and an abundance of other stuff, you knew that when you were heading to Toys R Us, It was for one thing and one thing only. Toys!
They were different back then. My first introduction to Toys R Us was a commercial on one of the few American TV stations we got here in Canada, WUTV Fox 29. It showed this magical place. Full of toys, games, and anything a kid could possibly want. Years later Toys R Us opened stores across Canada. And to my surprise, our city was one of the first to get a location.
One of my fondest memories as a kid was the grand opening of our Toys R Us. Why you may ask? Well for the grand opening, they brought down one of the decade’s biggest stars. David Hasselhoff. Or Micheal Knight as I knew him. The line to see him was across the parking lot, around the entire store, and through a maze when you got inside. I think we waited 3 or so hours. I got to thank my Mom for sticking it out with us. It was a long day. But she did get a kiss from the Hoff for all her trouble. Best day of my life.
From a Customer to an Employee: My Experience Working at Toys R Us
As I got older, as they inevitably do, things change. I spent less on toys and more on comics, fast food, and hanging out with friends. And when I needed a job, Toys R Us was there. I worked the floor for a year and nights for 2. When working the floor, I would interact with customers, grab merchandise, and fix bikes. It was a good job. I enjoyed the events they used to promote back then too. As I remember, it was the peak of the Pokémon craze and we held Pokémon battle competitions for customers in the back. These events would fill up quickly and we would need to turn people away. But as a whole, it was a ton of fun. There was a magical feeling about Toys R Us back then.
The Evolution of Toys R Us in Canada: From Pride to Dilemma
During its time in Canada, Toys R Us was bought and sold a few times over. And not long ago, the American chain was shuttered and lost to time. The Canadian stores however were still profitable and carried on. It was a thing of pride at first. Knowing that our stores were good enough to stick around. But it was different. The website never became what it promised. The stores pushed heavily on their Baby’s R Us initiative and then they sold out to the company behind Sunrise Records. Now mind you, the prices of toys at this point weren’t great. They were always a couple of dollars more than Walmart or other retail chains. But it got worse! A whole lot worse.
Toys R Us is not what it used to be. Nowadays it is almost indistinguishable from your Indigo store. Baby’s R Us is their largest section. They have dug deep into selling books. Yes books, in the age of digital, they decided to go hard on books. The toy section has shrunk. And the selection is just ok. On the bright side, they seem to have embraced the collector’s trend. The collector’s corner is a nice size. And they seem to be always fully stocked. But could this be a case of prices being too high to move product?
Toys R Us is facing a dilemma. Stay on course and be prepared to shutter like your American counterparts or offer customers products at competitive prices again. Even Game Stop is a better option at this point!
Here are some price comparisons.
- Toys R Us | GI Joe Classified Series Spirit | $44.99
- Walmart | GI Joe Classified Series Spirit | $35.97
- GameStop | GI Joe Classified Series Spirit | $35.99
- Toys R Us | Playmobil SCOOBY-DOO! Mystery Machine | $84.99
- Walmart | Playmobil SCOOBY-DOO! Mystery Machine | $49.97
- GameStop | Playmobil SCOOBY-DOO! Mystery Machine | N/A
Will Toys R Us be around much longer?
In conclusion, Toys R Us holds a special place in the hearts of many who grew up with it. It was once a magical place full of toys and wonder, a place where a kid could be a kid. However, the once-competitive store has fallen from grace due to the changing retail landscape and in my opinion, corporate greed. Nowadays, the store has lost its charm, and the selection and prices are lackluster compared to other retailers. It is facing a dilemma: adapt or perish.