We have so much to unpack here and none of it is good. Therefore, I will present this information half journalistically, and half editorially, because I have thoughts.
Hell– we all do.
Ever since Toy Wizards launched at the end of 2018, Toys ‘R’ Us has been a topic that we’ve reported on regularly. And who can blame us– the topic is fascinating. I know I’m not alone when I say that it was a huge surprise to us all when the stores began shutting down in rapid fire succession in 2017. It was TOYS ‘R’ FREAKIN’ US– at one point for all of us Nickelodeon Toy Run kids, the store was a utopia. Toy Valhalla. A sanctuary. A place where shelves were, for the most part, filled with goodies that we could actually find and all (well, that’s hyperbole, but some) of our collecting dreams could become reality.
But then the stores became dirtier….and dirtier. The prices began to climb higher and higher above other retail stores. Physical media (like DVDs) and baby items began to reach, lurk, and creep into more and more aisles. And then, the collapse.
Logistical grown up stuff sucks.
However, once the company folded there were stories about the Toys ‘R’ Us IP being auctioned off. Now of course, we as sensible beings understand that this grand dark plan was in place the entire time, but to the casual fan or outsiders looking in, it seemed as though there was a small collection of people on our side– people who understood that sentimental value of Toys ‘R’ Us. Intelligent business people who knew that we all wanted to forever be Toys ‘R’ Us kids and would in time rebuild that Neverland experience where we lifelong toy lovers could hunt for our goodies and spend an afternoon wandering the toy aisles, remembering simpler times and imagining a better future.
Nope– not with the TRU Kids Brand model in mind.
I’ll speak for myself– the moment I heard the TRU Kids and Geoffrey’s Toy Box were “on their way”, I knew it was going to be a disaster. And the reason for that? Boutique toy sellers, for one reason or the other, all seem to have a grudge/vendetta/aversion to actual freakin’ toys. I (without proof, evidence, or fact to back this up, this is simply an observation) honestly think that parents today have a reputation for hating toys. Somewhere out there, I think toy manufacturers read too many angry posts in crunchy-granola-natural Montessori Facebook groups and now seem to think that all toys need to be STEM, educational, tactile, and made of wood. Yes, without a doubt these toys are important and valid, but they are not the baseline. They are not the status quo. And when stores like TRU Kids or holiday kiosks like Geoffrey’s Toy Box pop up filled with gentle, soft, wooden boutique toys or building toys, you’re not serving toy lovers. You’re not filling the hole in the action figure community. You’re not providing the toys that legitimately sell.
In short– you’re wearing the skin of what looks like a toy store from afar, but up close is nothing more than a vanity project and baby shower destination. Even with TRU Kids LEGO section lighting the way, we need more from a toy store. We need toys back! And since the closing of the for real and true Toys ‘R’ Us stores, no one has wanted to do it. They all just want to wear the skin. I mean hell, look at the ToysRUs Official website. It’s powered by Target!
TRU Kids had two physical store locations in the U.S.– one in a mall in Houston, Texas. And one somewhere at a mall in New Jersey. There was word that there were tiny little stores in some airports, and to be honest even after research, I can’t keep track of whether or not those were even based in the States, or if that location was in Wales or something.
This Toys ‘R’ Us story continues to be a messy whirlwind. But that’s not the point– the point is that amid low sales and the ongoing pandemic, TRU Kids could no longer stay open. The stores quietly shut their doors, unceremoniously, after evidence shows that one location had 50% off sales (minus LEGO and Nintendo products) and the other just slipped away unannounced into the stillness of the dark.
James Zahn’s article on The Toy Book shows screenshots from social media of parents showing pictures of the cleared shelves, and complaining that they had driven x number of minutes to take their kids to TRU, and bam… just like that… gone again.
Children, parents, and toy collectors are still waiting for a company to step up and open a legitimate toy store. Not toy aisles. Not exclusive toys being handed to the place where I buy my tampons. Not shelves of wooden tchotchkes and slime smugly touting to be the future of play or gentle baby dolls demanding to be the status quo. We want the immersive experience. We want toy Neverland, toy Valhalla, toy Utopia. We promise that if someone opens it, we will go to it. In the meantime, remember to check locally and support your comic book stores that sell toys, or that small independent second hand toy store in your neighborhood. Remember to support local businesses brave enough to open toy stores. And remember that shopping e-stores isn’t a crime, even though “damn you resellers” is the sexiest tantrum on the block right now.
And as always, have fun collecting what you love.