(In)Definite Article #3: The Curious Case of Toys “R” Us and the Traveling Giraffe

Dying is easy. Comebacks are hard. And modern public relations are weird.

August 2018 marked the end of an empire when Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy, liquidating its US stores. Curiously, a number of stores outside the US remained open, continued promotions, and even stocked new exclusive items as normal. And now the plot thickens even further. . .

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Image Credit: Instagram Action Figure Insider

I did a little more research on my own. I’m not sure what the “traveling giraffe” business is about but signs point toward a comeback. Comments on this post indicated that Toys “R” Us (as well as comments pointing towards TRU’s Facebook page) that this announcement has been, in short, getting “mixed reviews” to put it nicely. Obviously I’ve edited the comments out for the sake of trying to see some positives here – there’s plenty of people who will find every last negative, and while I won’t ignore the drawbacks, they aren’t my focus here.

On the negative side of this announcement comes accusations against Toys “R” Us. Unpaid workers and vendors, a lack of funds to make it right with those people and companies, and the recent mass loss of jobs and a staple franchise are no wounds to ignore. And the wounds are fresh. It was just this past summer that shelves were emptied in my local Toys “R” Us, and days later I took this picture for one last memory of toy hunting there.

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I was a Toys “R” Us ‘Grown-ass adult’

So with all that bad blood surrounding the bankruptcy, what good can come from Toys “R” Us trying to start over?

Based on comments I’ve read, TRU social media seems to have been reactivated and deactivated several times over, likely due to damage control regarding how it all ended. But a press release on October 2nd, which I’ll link to here, remains optimistic about a Toys “R” Us comeback. Details are of course light at the moment, and all we can do is speculate.

First and foremost, Toys “R” Us needs to make things right with its people. Hiring people, bringing back jobs and stores, that’s all great. But if it doesn’t include some kind of plan to compensate people who lost out a few months ago, they’re going to face rightful backlash. And really, I don’t know enough to make the judgement call. Should they make it right? Absolutely. Will they? Well, probably not. The world usually doesn’t work the way it should. So who knows if there’s another announcement or plan in the works for recompense. I’d like to think there’s hope.

Now, not that I know how to run a multi-million dollar business, but as collectors or other toy-buyers, we all know Toys “R” Us needs to work on its pricing. There’s multiple reasons the stores weren’t doing well, and we’ll probably never know the complete stories about their dealings behind closed doors. But what I do know is that the pricing models made next to no sense.

Consider these scenarios. . .

Option A: The sizeable toy section of a department store. While they don’t have everything all the time, there’s reasonable distribution (hahahaha), occasional exclusives, and sales, plus clearance after something has been on the shelves for a while. Sometimes you pay full price, but often enough you have a sale, coupon, or something on clearance to save some money.

Option B: The actual toy store. This store has all the big brands and the little ones too, and the main-draw toy themes (Star Wars, Marvel/DC, Lego, and so on) have their own dedicated sections and aisles. And yet for some reason, there’s only marginally more items available, though sometimes they do have slightly older items you might still be tracking down. However, the sales are very limiting and coupons only crop up around Christmas. To make matters worse, everything seems to cost more than the same items across the street.

These are my experiences at least when I compare Toys “R” Us to other nearby stores like Target. Is Target perfect? No, it isn’t flawless either. But it’s where I buy a lot of toys, probably more so than TRU in the past couple years. And it comes down to price. Sure, I had moments where I hit the jackpot at TRU or there was a really good sale, but I can only ever remember one really great sale. I never lucked out on clearance items the way I do at Target or Wal-Mart, and the exclusives were pretty hit or miss – I’d either have no problem finding the item for months to come, or a limited quantity was scooped up and scalped online. Items no one seemed to want sat on shelves for months to years, which held up new products coming in. Toward the end they did start having good deals on Marvel Legends figures, but by then it was too late.

So while we don’t know much yet, I’m hopeful for a Toys “R” Us return. And what about that Kaybee Toys rumor? Competition between two companies trying to get back into the market would be something to spur them both on. I want them both back. I want options other than staring at my computer – it actually puts off my purchases when there’s too many choices, and then I have to wait for shipping because I didn’t just grab my toys off the shelf!

What are your thoughts on TRU’s imminent comeback?

Thanks for reading!

-Supreme Leader David

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