Another retail giant appears poised to bite the dust, and this time it’s an invaluable part of children’s memories across the country. Toys ‘R’ Us will be closing or selling all of its U.S. stores, the Wall Street Journal reported today, six months after initially filing for bankruptcy. The liquidation will likely impact over 30000 employees and 700 stores in America, spread across both the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us brands.
Toys ‘R’ Us has struggled for years under billions of dollars of debt it was saddled with after a leveraged buyout in 2005. Increased competition from discount department stores like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as Amazon and other online retailers, have also hurt it significantly over the last few decades. If the liquidation goes through as planned, it’ll bring an end to a 70-year-old chain that once dominated both its market and the dreams of kids.
If you were a child during the store’s peak in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s, you’ll probably never forget how special Toys ‘R’ Us felt. It was a store the size of a K-Mart, but exclusively and thoroughly stocked only with stuff that kids loved. I grew up in a town without a Toys ‘R’ Us, where K-Mart, Zayre, Sears and the mall toy chains were the only options for G.I. Joes and Transformers, and Toys ‘R’ Us felt like a magical, distant place I’d only get to visit in my dreams. When my parents finally took me to one in Tampa when I was 10, I didn’t even care that the only thing they’d let me buy from these tens of thousands of square feet of fun was a one dollar variety pack of Marvel comics; just stepping inside that place was a special and powerful moment for me.
Times and interests and children change, and obviously the diminished Toys ‘R’ Us of today didn’t hold the same allure. On one level it’s sad to see it go, and another scary omen for the entire retail industry that’s a crucial part of our economy; on another level it’s probably time to lay it to rest if it’s no longer capable of filling its function.