What Happened at Toys R Us?

Toys R Us may be a memory in a matter of weeks.

That stirs a boat load of emotions for many of us.

Personally, this conjures up the toys my own children enjoyed; Barney, Pokeman cards and Star Wars miniatures. Once again this confirms that time marches on, whether we like it or not.

The same axiom also applies to the quickly evolving environments in which organizations must live. The landscape evolves, whether or not organizations are ready to respond effectively. Brick & mortar operations have been hit particularly hard over the last decade. Like many that have struggled, Toys R Us has been a formidable company. A storied brand that continues to sell a lot of toys.

However, things have changed.

I frequently discuss how organizations have gone down the wrong path; how they might have chosen the wrong strategy or invested in leadership that led to only problems. However, I’m not sure this tells the entire story with Toys R Us. Yes, leadership could have been more agile, shifting more intently to a focus on customer experiences. Yes, they have faced extreme financial challenges. Yes, they should have been ever-responsive to the e-commerce landscape.

However, I have the distinct feeling these weren’t the only reasons why Toys R Us could be leaving us. You see, as an organization, Toys R Us may represent an era that no longer exists. (Please know I deeply respect what Toys R Us has accomplished as an organization.) A time when children played predominately with toys. When they were not using a device of some sort. A time when lingering in a toy store was on the “to do” list.

Somehow I can’t blame that shift entirely on one organization.

It seems that Toys R Us is verging on extinction. (Hoping this does not come to pass.)

The environment may not support its species any longer.

The reasons why — may have deeper ramifications.

Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.


2 thoughts on “What Happened at Toys R Us?

  1. Interesting theory, Dr. Gottschalk. I would consider a survey be given categorized per generation that have been blessed with the opportunity to reward our children with a visit to the land flowing with candy and toys- 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000+. You might get a different point of view as well as purpose for such an excursion. My 21 year old grew up in the new age of digital yet always loved a hands on toy to really feel “in the game.” My 28 year old grabbed every Barbie in the hopes of becoming just like her one day. She is a very gifted artistic and athlete that loves fashion as a result. My 32 year old knew what a board game is (competition and striving for one’s best) and still has such parties for his friends. A world without Toys R Us would be like a world without imagination for the new generation (my future grandchildren). While the prices may have soared due to supply and demand, the name brands and quality of product never has been a downfall. A child’s ability to learn at different levels, speeds and modalities (auditory, visual, tangible physical) certainly hasn’t. I dread a world where one’s ability to read and comprehend electronic instructions supersedes the ability to “figure out” how to problem solve through a cardboard puzzle. To “try the merchandise” with all one’s senses is a gift for children of all leaning curves and abilities- something an online store could never provide. So difficult for depression era and baby boomers to learn the speed of light transactions on ordering and returning online (the hearing and visual loss as well as dimentia) takes these generations out of the gift giving opportunity for the new generation and leaves the choice of learning tools at the hands of children who aren’t mature enough to “know better.” You might as well tell Disney to stop producing books because of digital availability (the reason why bookstores are closing and selling their merchandise to online sellers who increase the price up to 500% for the very same book). If threats to close is a wake up call or strategy to see if the dinosaur is still viable is irrelevant- we all have the kid in us and would regret the decision to close its doors. At least we all know the authenticity of the products and not question fake ripoffs like we do when purchasing online. Babies R Us was threatened to close down years ago in NY as did Macy’s. We are all happy that both are still in business as proof that supplies go hand in hand with demand. I hope thus news is a wake up call for all the generations that want, appreciate and value Toys R Us.


  2. I see your point Dr. Gottschalk and thank you very much for sharing. I thought of this for a while. I think you’re right. Perhaps a business model change to reduce footprint and focus on early childhood goods at brick and mortar and move middle and late childhood goods increasingly online. Also a name change to “WeRFun,” with a marketing campaign highlighting that “we” emphasized the target demo. These things might have bought time for the company to really evolve. But hindsight is always clearest. Thanks


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