I’m sick of your bad takes about Toys R’Us

Some people have turned Toys R’ Us impending bankruptcy into an opportunity to pontificate on socio-economic matters, using the collapse of a frankly tired retail franchise to signal about the direction of society as a whole.

Take this sentimental bilge from Alberto Brea on LinkedIn, which I will then take apart line by line.

Did video games and Amazon kill Toys R’ US?
Toys R’ Us kill itself with bad customer experience.

Toys R’ Us declared bankruptcy on Monday.
This is a BIG DEAL, the largest ever by a specialty retailer.
What happens next will determine the future of the company’s 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.

Today people go to a toy store for the experience, not just the product.
They want to learn the latest games.
They want to interact with the product at a whole new level- augmented reality video games.
They want to have fun in the store, even host birthday parties.
They want to engage with knowledgeable employees, who are passionate about games.
They want to buy simple, not do lines.
They want frictionless experiences that bridge the online and physical world.

Toys R’ Us feels old, dirty, disorganized, overwhelming and overpriced.

As a father of a 6-year-old, I am always playing or looking for new toys.
We all have a kid in us. We stop growing because we stop playing.

I’d love for Toys R’ Us to reimagine the future of toy stores.
A magical place to let your imagination run wild and have fun.

Feeling suitably inspired and engaged? Here we go.

Did video games and Amazon kill Toys R’US?

An opening gambit, but I have a feeling that Brea isn’t going to be answering this in the affirmative.

Toys R’ Us kill itself (sic) with bad customer experience.

Hmm so Toys ‘R Us bankruptcy has nothing at all to do with the fact that kids now have tens of thousands of games available to them through a smartphone, for free?

Little Timmy is really saying to mommy “Mommy, Toys R’ Us really aren’t doing enough to engage me through their multichannel customer experience?” Or is this going to be an extended treatise where you hem and haw about customer experience for a bit before giving us a totally shoehorned solution?

Toys R’ Us declared bankruptcy on Monday.

Actually, TRU filed for bankruptcy protection. When you get your facts wrong in the first sentence, it’s not an encouraging start.

This is a BIG DEAL, the largest ever by a specialty retailer.

I’m not sure why Brea wants to separate out “specialty retailers” or how this is in any way more significant than the wider “retail apocalypse” that’s happening, and Brea sure as hell isn’t going to tell us. Anyway, if you hadn’t noticed, lots of retailers are going bust at the moment.

What happens next will determine the future of the company’s 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.

I’m guessing they should start looking for other work.

Today people go to a toy store for the experience, not just the product.

That’s nice, but if people go to Toys R’ Us for the experience and then buy the product somewhere else, that doesn’t really help Toys R’Us much does it?

They want to learn the latest games.

They have them on their phone.

They want to interact with the product at a whole new level- augmented reality video games.

Toss a few buzzwords in there, why the hell not?

They want to have fun in the store, even host birthday parties.

No-one has ever wanted to host their birthday party at a shop.

They want to engage with knowledgeable employees, who are passionate about games.

Or they can read hundreds of online reviews from people who have actually used the product.

They want to buy simple, not do lines.

This is kind of the thing driving people to Amazon in the first place.

They want frictionless experiences that bridge the online and physical world.

And what better place to do that than a bricks-and-mortar store?

Toys R’ Us feels old, dirty, disorganized, overwhelming and overpriced.

Oh shit, I wonder why no-one wants to host their birthday party there?

As a father of a 6-year-old, I am always playing or looking for new toys. We all have a kid in us. We stop growing because we stop playing.

Nothing in this sentimental mush speaks to why people would buy things from Toys R’Us.

I’d love for Toys R’ Us to reimagine the future of toy stores.
A magical place to let your imagination run wild and have fun.

I am sick to death of this “retail stores need to re-imagine themselves as experiences” line that gets trotted out every time a retail store goes south.

First of all, what if you sell fridges, or carburetors? Are you going to try to give me a white-goods based sensory experience? Second, no kid *wants* to be driven to an out of town aircraft hangar style retail store to play with some overpriced Lego when they have Snapchat and Candy Crush sitting right in front of them.

Every time the concept has been tried, it’s failed. HMV gave it a bloody good go, going as far as to buy out music venues and open their own cinemas. And every time it fails, the analysts just say “oh, it wasn’t executed right”. It’s an idea that exists only in the mind of analysts and it falls apart every time it comes into contact with the real world.

Toys R’Us is a corporate bankruptcy. They happen all the time. Usually when executives try to force their vision of the world onto a customer who doesn’t want it all that much.

So turn up, ride the bikes round the store one last nostalgic time, and then watch a franchise you didn’t care about all that much slide into oblivion.

Response from Tom Goodwin on LinkedIn:

Totally with you. The reality is the retail as experiences costs an absolute fortune to do and in tier one cities can just about work, or if you sell ACG items over $700 at 50% margin ( hello Apple) it works. But this idea that stores can become places people can love all aspects of shopping and be a treat to look forward to at the weekend, just won’t work outside a few freak cases. It’s certainly worth stores getting modern, having amazing apps and good website, training staff better, but retail is just really really hard and its nothing like as simple as everyone on this thread assumes. It’s a great goal but it’s not easy. Especially paying over $1m per day in debt interest per year.

 

 

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