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Before I address the topic of Toys R Us and what we can all learn from the unfortunate demise of this iconic (if not grammatically challenged) retailer, let me first throw out that I know next to nothing about toys. What I do know is few brands authentically understand what they’re selling, and I think the unfortunate demise of retailer is case in point.

Before the ‘shopping with your fingertips and not your feet’ concept took over, Toy R Us had a perfectly rational business and brand strategy. Their years of success were a testament to that. However, as the world began to change, I can only assume they did not, at least not enough.

According to an article dated September 19, 2017, from The Washington Post, Wall Street believes that the Toys R Us faltered because of:

  • Lousy in-store customer service
  • A second-rate website
  • Prices that are often higher than at many of its big-box competitors
  • Piles of mounting debt

Perhaps. But I assert that the real cause of their fall from grace is this:

Toys R Us had no business selling toys.

They didn’t, especially when they were up against a world obsessed with e-commerce, free shipping, and cyber-Mondays. Had Toys R Us seen themselves in the role of selling playtime and not the instruments of playtime, they might have found themselves in a different place today.

With their geographic footprint and massive amounts of square footage, they had the potential to do what could never do: make toy buying an experience not a transaction.

Instead of selling cases of games, mountains of stuffed animals, and oceans of plastic action figures, they could have sold the thrill of imagination through on-site playtimes, the wonder of education that’s fun and useful, and the laughter of children happy to be who they were, children.

To me, it seems like an opportunity missed. But enough about them, let’s talk about you and, as a business owner myself, me.

What are you and I actually selling? It’s a question that we have to ask ourselves continually and one that I do not, admittedly, ask myself as much as I ask it of our clients.

I’ll stop there and leave that thought here for you to, well, play with.

— Douglas Spencer

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