Few places scream “childhood” like the once-ubiquitous, warehouse-meets-Santa’s Workshop toy emporium Toys “R” Us. Geoffrey the Giraffe, the brand’s mascot, is synonymous with “fun” for generations of kids. But as Amazon and other online retailers, as well as big-box stores like Walmart and Target, picked up toy retail, Toys “R” Us floundered until it famously shuttered its doors in 2018. The public mourned its downfall--its brand power is strong--and now the toy giant is being reborn as its parent company, Tru Kids Brands, reopens its doors. But in order to succeed, the company will have to make some changes. Here’s what the store will need to keep in mind to stay afloat in a changing kids’ retail market:
A Shifting Focus
While purchasing decisions ultimately come from the grown-ups, brand loyalty in kids’ retail is most powerful among the kids for whom the toys are being bought. If a kid doesn’t like a toy, the parent is less likely to go back to the place the toy was bought. And if a kid doesn’t like a store, a parent will be uninclined to drag their kid through a shopping experience that’s nominally for the kid themselves. A focus on what kids will like, then, is just as important as marketing towards the people who will buy the toys. If Toys “R” Us wants to succeed in reclaiming the market from big-box stores, they will have to build brand loyalty among the “4-foot-and-under” crowd. This can be done by providing a stellar in-store experience oriented towards kids’ fun, as well as marketing and displaying toys such that kids can better connect with the products--rather than leaving them packaged and shelved for parents to buy.
We all know that the in-store experience is the key to competing with online retail; emphasizing the assets of physical retail and focusing on what online can’t provide is essential in our changing marketplace. In a toy store, this is even more pronounced--kids value fun, and parents value wholesome entertainment for their kids. Where Toys “R” Us may have gone wrong in the past was their emphasis on quantity of products over space for play--shelves and shelves of packaged toys mean a broad selection, but it also means little room for toy demonstrations or on-the-ground playplaces. As Tru Kids Brands moves to reopen Toys “R” Us’s doors, they will need to focus on the play element of their stores in order to draw in parents and kids, making a shopping trip into an outing and building a connection between kids and the store’s products. A shift towards smaller stores with bigger play areas will be key in getting kids to want to visit. It will also let parents see toys in action, helping them buy more confidently. While experience-based retail can be a fun and flashy way to get consumer attention, it’s particularly important in children's’ retail--kids love fun, and parents love their kids. If Toys “R” Us wants to stay afloat, they will need to leverage their potential for fun.
Technology and Convenience
While it’s impossible to compete with the convenience of online-shopping, it’s still essential that stores optimize their stores with convenience in mind; customer expectations are changing, and the demand for a quick-and-easy shopping experience is high. With that in mind, stores like Toys “R” Us are falling behind because of outdated checkout processes and slow or limited in-store technology. A key to rebooting Toys “R” Us effectively will be using innovations in retail technology to keep checkout and in-store product searches quick and easy. A mobile-equipped staff member, for instance, can help a customer find a toy, demonstrate how to use it, and then let the parents check out right on the sales floor. And, just like with experiential retail, convenience is particularly key in kids’ retail--no long lines means no bored kids, no tantrums, and no exhausted parents.
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