Sorry Not Sorry, Toys R Us

 

Several months ago, word got out that Toys R Us and Babies R Us would be filing for some bankruptcy protections and closing some stores. Today they officially announced they would be closing all of their stores, as early as this week.

Seeing today’s news from a mile away when that first announcement hit a few months ago, I decided to use up all of the gift cards we had received over the course of the last years of having babies. I had several hundred dollars worth, and went on the website, and later, in store when I couldn’t find anything I wanted on the website. Eventually, I just decided to buy a dozen cases of diapers and wipes, knowing I would at least go through them eventually (I have three kids four years old and younger).

After spending over an hour on the website trying to purchase these diapers (which were cheaper on Amazon), I decided to try to make the purchase over the phone. I was on the line almost another hour and a half before I was able to complete the purchase and use up all of the cards I had. I decided to buy a few pairs of socks to round out the order, and half of those socks never arrived, and I received notice that they were out of stock several weeks later. Not wanting to spend another two hours trying to use up my remaining $10 in gift cards, I ate the rest and washed my hands of dealing with them again.

A few weeks later, I had to go into a store while on vacation in Los Angeles because I lost my baby carrier. It was a similar experience; I called ahead to see if they had the items I wanted, and after spending twenty minutes on hold, I was given a non-commital “yes, probably.” I went into the store, which was dirty, disorganized and half-stocked, and wandered for 30 minutes looking for someone to help me find the item. When I could find no sales associate and ran out of patience, I called the store while inside the store asking where the baby carriers were. I eventually located the baby carriers, and checked out, spending more money than I would have directly from the company or on Amazon (I needed it immediately, for the flight home).

I’m always sad to see businesses close and individuals lose their jobs. With the closures of a lot of these brick and mortars, though, I’m starting to think that it’s the market just correcting itself. We were once at the mercy of giant stores like Toys R Us and Sears; we had few choices for places to shop for the items they carried. But now thanks to the Internet, I could have purchased that baby carrier from Amazon if there’s a sale, directly from the company, or from a small boutique baby shop in Tennessee (I’ve purchased baby carriers from all three; yes I have a lot).

I once had fond memories of visiting Toys R Us and picking out toys with my mother for special occasions; now my children imagine a toy they want, and we sit together trying to find out of it exists somewhere on the Internet. The experience of visiting a store was special, but the Internet holds a different kind of magic.

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There are 53 comments.

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  1. Member

    Our local Toys R Us store closed over three years ago. Aside from all the problems you mentioned, stupid parents would drop off their kids in the store and LEAVE to go do who knows what and the police were often called to the store because a “lost” child couldn’t find their parent and no one responded to the overhead announcement. Toy store as babysitter…. who needs that kind of liability?

    • #1
    • March 12, 2018 at 9:44 am
    • 7 likes
  2. Thatcher

    I sort of liked being able to go in and see the stuff first hand before we got it. Registry was nice too. Sounds like they just gave up.

    • #2
    • March 12, 2018 at 9:49 am
    • 8 likes
  3. Coolidge

    Just four years ago we registered at Babies ‘R Us when my wife was pregnant with the twins. But after that initial rush of stuff, it never really made sense to go back. Diapers and formula were cheaper on Amazon, furniture was cheaper at Ikea, and my wife is a genius at finding coupons and deals to get us the most for our money at stores much closer to our house than Babies ‘R Us. They just couldn’t compete. Didn’t compete, I suppose. Whether or not they could have is irrelevant now. As far as Toys ‘R Us goes, the writing for them was on the wall years ago when they outsourced their online store to Amazon. That mistake killed them in the long run.

    • #3
    • March 12, 2018 at 9:52 am
    • 4 likes
  4. Member

    Amazon rarely competes on price, they mostly compete on selection and service, sort of like the old time huge Department stores once did. Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Ward were once despised for creating catalog sales based on the same business model to the extent possible back then. It’s amusing to see folks my age who likely may have taken advantage of those catalogs to value and convenience shop back in the day decrying the loss of Mom and Pop stores to Walmart and the Internet. Innovation hurts some and helps everyone but many see only those who are hurt since the damage is concentrated and the advantage is diluted over many more folks and those hurt by the change are very vocal while those enjoying cheaper or better goods are generally silent. As for Toys is Us, we never gave them much business and won’t miss them at all, they were always over priced and under helpful in our experience.

    • #4
    • March 12, 2018 at 9:53 am
    • 7 likes
  5. Thatcher

    They also had to compete with the Targets and Walmarts of the world that managed to continue to make their customers happy.

    • #5
    • March 12, 2018 at 9:56 am
    • 6 likes
  6. Thatcher

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Amazon rarely competes on price, they mostly compete on selection and service

    So true. Being a guy, I typically don’t browse. I know what I want, and I hate going from store to store trying to find it. On Amazon, the odds are I’ll find exactly what I want, and it usually arrives in two days. Speaking of the way men shop vs. women:

    • #6
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:06 am
    • 13 likes
  7. Member

    I work for Costco Wholesale and our main competition has been Amazon for a couple of years now. Their prices are highly competitive, and the selection is limitless. Brick and mortar stores have to be highly selective about what will sell on its limited shelf space.

    I almost never buy at a store if i can get it on Amazon because of the convenience. They have better cat litter at a great price and I don’t have to lift the bag. Kid stuff, toys, shower heads, books (where I get to choose the binding and cover)…its so liberating.

    On spending up the gift cards though, I’d buy Legos. They never decrease in value, and you can always resell them. Plus you have emergency birthday gifts for friends kids in a pinch.

    • #7
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:11 am
    • 11 likes
  8. Thatcher

    When our area got the first Toys ‘R’ Us store near the local mall, we kids loved it. It was huge, it had a lot, and then there was that one aisle where they had all the weird toys — the Japanese mechs and fun stuff like that which an 80’s kid couldn’t find anywhere. I’ve been to Toys ‘R’ Us a few times in the last decade and it’s never been the same. They had less, there were few special items that weren’t a name brand toy, and in general there were few people to help and the store never felt clean. The two locations near us now in Utah — one Toys, one Babies — never had any significant amount of customers, unlike the early days when parking near one was impossible. In the end, it seems the company hasn’t been able to adjust to the times.

    • #8
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:13 am
    • 7 likes
  9. Thatcher

    Concretevol (View Comment):
    They also had to compete with the Targets and Walmarts of the world that managed to continue to make their customers happy.

    Target and Walmart has problems too, a lot which has been hidden by the massive regulatory burdens of the last several years. Primarily, both struggle with stocking and shrinkage, but because they are less hindered with the regulatory burdens on smaller businesses, their struggles even out some.

    I actually should do a post about Walmart — mostly from my lovely wife’s experiences there. She has explained in detail why the chain is struggling and how much of Sam Walton’s successful company policies and practices were quickly abandoned after he passed on.

    • #9
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:17 am
    • 7 likes
  10. Reagan

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    I sort of liked being able to go in and see the stuff first hand before we got it. Registry was nice too. Sounds like they just gave up.

    The problem some of these retailers have is that they become uncompensated “Amazon showrooms.” There are a lot of things you want to see before you buy but you always compare the price at Amazon, and often buy it there. If the retailer is lucky, you’ll tell them and they’ll get the opportunity to match Amazon’s price. I suspect we’re heading for a world where retailing splits into the things you just buy (online), and the things you want to see first, which’ll have some (but fewer) brick and mortar retailing options. Also look for what’s left of brick and mortar to find ways to rope you into buying from them once you get in the store.

    • #10
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:25 am
    • 5 likes
  11. Member

    Really? I’ve never had a bad experience with a Toys R Us, in my life. But I haven’t gone to one in a two years, the last time was to go buy my niece a happy you were just born present (which having been just born I don’t think she cared too much about). Still I recall as a kid coming to America and going into a Toys R Us of the first time was amazing.

    • #11
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:29 am
    • 4 likes
  12. Coolidge

    Heh. Looks like I’ll finally have to grow up.

    But yeah, Toys R Us really went downhill.

    • #12
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:29 am
    • 3 likes
  13. Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Amazon rarely competes on price, they mostly compete on selection and service

    So true. Being a guy, I typically don’t browse. I know what I want, and I hate going from store to store trying to find it. On Amazon, the odds are I’ll find exactly what I want, and it usually arrives in two days. Speaking of the way men shop vs. women:

    My wife watched me buy shoes once. Only once. It took four minutes. once I was inside the store.

    • #13
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:37 am
    • 3 likes
  14. Member

    Even without Amazon, the concept of Babies R Us, a store that narrowly focused, seemed like a loser–was it ever a big revenue producer for the company?

    Because even as a kid, I saw that most toys were shlock, I never liked Toys R US, and can’t gather much sadness for their demise.

    On the other hand, I wish Target and Walmart and other major retailers were moving faster to compete with Amazon. I don’t want to send so much $ to Amazon, but until there’s some viable alternative, I will. The adage “time is money” has never been more true. Even if Amazon isn’t the lowest price source for many things, the time saved more than pays for any premium (and honestly, I have no idea how price-competitive Amazon is because I no longer have the time to comparison shop on many items).

    • #14
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:49 am
    • 3 likes
  15. Thatcher

    Israel P. (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Amazon rarely competes on price, they mostly compete on selection and service

    So true. Being a guy, I typically don’t browse. I know what I want, and I hate going from store to store trying to find it. On Amazon, the odds are I’ll find exactly what I want, and it usually arrives in two days. Speaking of the way men shop vs. women:

    My wife watched me buy shoes once. Only once. It took four minutes. once I was inside the store.

    One of my favorite beer commercials was the one where guys shopping with their wives hid in a circular rack of clothes. Inside was a small lounge area with an HDTV, easy chairs, and a cooler of beer (Bud Light?). The wives came out of the dressing rooms wondering where their husbands went.

    • #15
    • March 12, 2018 at 10:59 am
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    Restaurants, bookstores, and garden centers in the Northeast responded to the emergence of the big chain stores by creating niche marketing strategies. Today, consumers can find things and/or have pleasant shopping experiences in these small bookstores and garden centers that are not possible in the big chains. The garden centers particularly have really worked hard to hold onto their customers, and they have succeeded.

    Our local garden centers have a charm that the big box stores never will, and because gardeners are always looking for inspiration, they choose the local stores over the big box stores for most of their purchases. I think in some ways it has been good for the local garden centers. They don’t have to carry some of the low-margin inexpensive products that take up a lot of room and that people are apt to run into the store and buy quickly without buying the higher-margin nursery stock. The tools they sell are also high end.

    I was very surprised to see Borders go out of business before some of our local bookstores did. I guess Borders was competing with Barnes & Noble and lost that race rather than competing with the niche market smaller and local bookstores. Now we have Barnes & Noble and host of small, warm and friendly bookstores that specialize in certain types of books.

    When Amazon.com first emerged in book publishing, the publishers were really nervous about the competition. But a strange thing happened: the publishers discovered that the more people bought and read books, the more they wanted. In other words, the entire industry experienced a spike in volume. It was a surprising effect. But actually, it shouldn’t have been.

    I think that effect has occurred in other industries too. Certainly on Cape Cod, the easier it became to get home renovation materials and to get how-to information from Home Depot, the more people decided to embark on those DIY projects. So there was actually more building going on, and those DIY builders split their time and money between the local hardware and lumber stores and the big chain stores.

    Banks have made a similar trek through the modern marketplace. Our local banks hold their own in competing for business with the big banks like Santander.

    That said, I live in an area that has rural characteristics most of the year (Cape Cod), and we were thrilled to see Home Depot open up here because the local hardware and lumber stores had no competition. They were miserable to their customers and took them for granted.

    It has been interesting to see some of the big chain restaurants and stores move into our area. I think these chains have helped the kids a lot, given them a window on a more sophisticated world. Being trained in customer service by the Gap stores has helped a lot of kids hone their social skills.

    Like everything else in life, change creates winners and losers. :)

    • #16
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:03 am
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Israel P. (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Amazon rarely competes on price, they mostly compete on selection and service

    So true. Being a guy, I typically don’t browse. I know what I want, and I hate going from store to store trying to find it. On Amazon, the odds are I’ll find exactly what I want, and it usually arrives in two days. Speaking of the way men shop vs. women:

    My wife watched me buy shoes once. Only once. It took four minutes. once I was inside the store.

    Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t be looking as efficient if they re-did the chart, replacing the Macy’s, Penney’s, and Sears with a hardware store, a gadget emporium, and a boating shop.

    • #17
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:04 am
    • 8 likes
  18. Member

    “Nice Guy” Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital striped mined both Toys R Us and KB Toys the # 1 and 2 toys retailers, loading them up both with debt after stripping them of their assets. Both entities eventually filed bankruptcy as a result.

    Those retailers filled a niche in the market. They are now gone. They likely will not be replaced. Many middle and lower class serving retailers are failing. Amazon and the like are only a small part of the their problem. Severely declining disposable income ( Thank You Buraq Hussein!) is the leading cause.

    • #18
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:22 am
    • 3 likes
  19. Thatcher

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I was very surprised to see Borders go out of business before some of our local bookstores did. I guess Borders was competing with Barnes & Noble and lost that race rather than competing with the niche market smaller and local bookstores. Now we have Barnes & Noble and host of small, warm and friendly bookstores that specialize in certain types of books.

    Borders invested heavily in the CD and DVD sales about the time when streaming was in its infancy. Then when eBooks were starting to take off, B&N got its “Nook” and Borders had nothing. Essentially Borders stuck themselves a decade late and couldn’t catch up.

    • #19
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:41 am
    • 2 likes
  20. Thatcher

    Toys R Us has a small store in my local outlet mall, and I walked in there just for fun. It seemed to me that the entire store was pink. Have they just stopped stocking toys for boys? The vast majority of the boxes on the shelves seemed to be dolls, or doll houses, or play kitchens, etc, stuff that appeals to girls.

    • #20
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:43 am
    • 1 like
  21. Thatcher

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Toys R Us has a small store in my local outlet mall, and I walked in there just for fun. It seemed to me that the entire store was pink. Have they just stopped stocking toys for boys? The vast majority of the boxes on the shelves seemed to be dolls, or doll houses, or play kitchens, etc, stuff that appeals to girls.

    Nowadays we have “Toys for girls” and “Toys for everybody” because the Patriarchy or something.

    • #21
    • March 12, 2018 at 11:44 am
    • 4 likes
  22. Member

    I still enjoy going to big box stores. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon too, but if I’m shopping for a gift from a registry, I much prefer to see the item in person and then browse through the aisles to find the perfect item to accompany the gift.

    The last few times I’ve been to Toys R Us or Babies R Us, though, the customer service has been so bad. I recall a time when there wasn’t even a single checkout line open…

    • #22
    • March 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm
    • 4 likes
  23. Thatcher

    ParisParamus (View Comment):
    Even without Amazon, the concept of Babies R Us, a store that narrowly focused, seemed like a loser–was it ever a big revenue producer for the company?

    The Baby Industrial Complex is real. Seriously, there’s so much you want/need for your little tykes that stores like Babies ‘R’ Us and Buy Buy Baby (probably a more accurate name) at one time were sure things. Nowadays their model is less successful than it once was.

    • #23
    • March 12, 2018 at 12:28 pm
    • 3 likes
  24. Member

    Does this mean dedicated toy stores will now be limited to a few walking cities like New York? This seems like an opportunity for Gamestop to expand its market.

    Window shopping will always exist in one form or another. Toyota recently unveiled plans for modular self-driving vehicles called e-Palettes that could act as mobile shops (similar to ice cream trucks, but with non-perishable merchandise). On the other hand, Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality improvements could facilitate online shopping by providing actual-size 3D representations for browsing.

    Amazon won’t dominate forever. With or without government interference in markets, the world never ceases to change.

    • #24
    • March 12, 2018 at 12:33 pm
    • 4 likes
  25. Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Amazon won’t dominate forever. With or without government interference in markets, the world never ceases to change.

    I was just thinking this past weekend while I was at my local landfill and recycling center that Amazon.com may have seen its peak.

    My town has just joined the anti-plastic-bag lunacy sweeping the country.

    When I look at the packing materials being deposited in our landfill and recycling center, I can’t help thinking there will be a backlash against this practice of shipping door to door. Amazon.com and the other online retailers have to be worried about this. Even Dunkin’ Donuts is changing its business model by going from Styrofoam to paper cups over the next two years.

    The solid-waste industry has a loud political voice.

    There may be a political coup against the online retailers in the near future.

    • #25
    • March 12, 2018 at 1:03 pm
    • 1 like
  26. Member

    Lately its been easier to find specifically what you want on line rather than hit or miss driving around wasting gas. I can see the appeal. But maybe it will (I wish) bring back charming local shops and innovative specialty stores – reinvigorating the local shopping experience, like @marci mentioned on Cape Cod. At the holidays, our area pushes the buy local mantra, to support local entrepreneurs.

    • #26
    • March 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
    • 2 likes
  27. Member

    Remember Amazon does not make money on there retail side. Their margins are tight. If they stop expanding, it might be profitable but nothing special. It’s their cloud computing services that makes them all the free cash flow which they invest in making retail bigger. Everyone is afraid of Amazon however they are not as powerful as you think. They are building is a consumer product distribution business not a retail business.

    • #27
    • March 12, 2018 at 1:10 pm
    • 4 likes
  28. Thatcher

    MarciN (View Comment):
    When I look at the packing materials being deposited in our landfill and recycling center, I can’t help thinking there will be a backlash against this practice of shipping door to door. Amazon.com and the other online retailers have to be worried

    Never happen. The convenience of home delivery will outdo any landfill concerns. Sure, the leftist landfill haters will yell and scream, but the ease of home delivery will win out in the long run.

    • #28
    • March 12, 2018 at 1:14 pm
    • 7 likes
  29. Member

    I find it most ironic that Sears has been collapsing, presumably from the pressures of on-line competition, but maybe just as much from competition from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. You’d think that the company that defined the buying-from-a-distance model would have profited most from on-line merchandising.

    Anyway, we need a new silverware basket for our Kenmore (bought at Sears) dishwasher. I feel bad that our local Sears store shut down last year, so I felt obligated to check Sears on-line for a replacement. Sears price: $75. On Amazon: $22. Feelings and obligations only go so far.

    • #29
    • March 12, 2018 at 2:00 pm
    • 8 likes
  30. Coolidge
    TBA

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):
    “They had less, there were few special items that weren’t a name brand toy….”

    My son pointed that out to me.

    Every ball, jack-in-the-box, or frisbee has a licensed character on it. It’s relentless.

    • #30
    • March 12, 2018 at 2:32 pm
    • 2 likes
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