Update: Looks like Toys R Us is planning a come back to North America. Via IGN, the brand management company WHP Global aims to open new Toys R Us locations ahead of the 2021 holiday season. Maybe they will take some cues from this article.
As my wife and I drove by a vacant, dusty former Toys R Us, I uttered: “That’s so sad”. My love looked at me and asked: “Is it, though”? Thinking for a moment, I concluded that the loss of the Toys R Us and Babies R Us brands is a complete and utter travesty. I know full well this comes from a very emotional place deep in my core. Toys are amazing. There are scores of action figures, Vinyl Pops and DC Comics statues littering every desk I use.
As a child, Toys R Us was the place to get my action figure fix. From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to every weird iteration of the Batman figures, Geoffrey the Giraffe had me covered. Those toys helped inform my creative thinking process as I crafted imaginary words where Panthro raced to rescue Junkyard Dog from the wrath of Juggernaut. Knowing that my daughter may not be able to run the aisles of a Toys R Us and have that same joy I did is pretty sad.
There’s hope my fellow 80’s kids.
Toys R Us may be able to return, as they stop their bankruptcy auction and aim to get the brand back up on its feet. My mind started racing thinking of all the ways I would help elevate the joyful brand to not only be competitive but also a must-visit destination.
Keep the logos and the equity they hold
The Toys R Us word mark holds a lot of brand equity. Many of the former Toys R Us kids are now adults with kids of their own. Seeing that logo is a reminder of simpler times. Back when you’d beg your parents for the newest plastic figure on the market.
When brands get acquired or revived, a logo change usually follows (ex: Mobile PCS to Metro by T.Mobile). Even Dupont explored a new wordmark after ditching its original 100-year-old logo. The Toys R Us logo with its classic backward R is the only TRU version of the company’s face. Anything different would lose its quirky, fun history.
Be online. Always.
A major downfall of Toys R Us was its inability to embrace emerging technology, mainly digital shopping. It simply jumped on the bandwagon too late. By the time they entered the online game, they could not compete with the digital retail giants. Amazon, Target, and Walmart all dipped into the Toys R Us toy pool with better online experiences than TRU. The toy giant did little to stay relevant online.
This time around, the new toy giant will need to put a heavy emphasis on its digital offerings. Whether that’s better pre-order bonuses for games (helping them compete with Amazon as Prime members lose pre-order bonuses), or offering exclusive online deals on the hottest piece of formed plastic on the market.
The sky is the limit for the brand; they need to embrace the online space. Perhaps VR store tours for kids? I’m spit-balling here.
Be like Nintendo. Create a 1st party toy line
Nintendo is a brilliant company. Its gaming consoles are supported by a dedicated, hardcore base of life-long fans. Whenever Nintendo announced a new Mario, Zelda, or god-help-us Metroid game, they print money before the game is even released. Sure the Wii and Switch have 3rd party and independent games on them, but the money-makers are more often than not a Mario Game. Nintendo owns Mario, making that a closed loop of endless revenue.
Toys R Us needs a Mario. Is it Geoffrey the Giraffe and his cuddly animal pals? Animal Crossing and Pokemon proved you can have a massively successful franchise centered around a plethora of cute animals. I am sure Geoffrey can find some buddies. With that long neck, he can see everyone!
Embrace sideshow collectibles and other luxury toy brands
I love a good Sideshow Collectible. Finding one in the wild is always a treat. Stores like Midtown Comics or Forbidden Planet in New York cater to folks like me. The adults with disposable income who enjoy the finer toys in life. Toys R Us can get in on this, using high-quality collectible figures as a means to get guys and gals like me back into their stores. The answer could be an offshoot brand called Toys R Us Gold, or Toys R Us Old. Again, I am spitballing.
Hold Toy-Cons for independent toymakers
Conventions are big business. Every brand with a sizable audience invests in a meetup at some point or another. Comic-Con, Designer-Con, Digital Thinkers Conference. The sky is the limit. Open your doors (virtually for now) to burgeoning toymakers to show off their new ideas and sell their products to the Toys R Us fanbase. Who knows, the next Super Soaker or Nerf Whistling Football could come from one of these conventions.
Just bring Toys R Us back already
Whatever the proverbial “they” decides to do, having Toys R Us once more is a net positive for humanity. We can all use a little childish joy in our lives. That’s what Toys R Us can generate in people. The sight of Geoffrey welcoming people into the world of toys is sorely lacking.
Do you have any ideas on how to help Toys R Us return and flourish? Drop me a line on Twitter and let’s talk about toys.