Let the Kids Win

Bridget Johns
Bridget Johns
Head of Marketing and Customer Experience

With the exit of Toys ‘R’ Us, there’s no shortage of opportunities for others to fill the void, and there is no reason a kids’ toy concept can’t be successful if the right focus is placed where it should be - on the kids.

With this year’s demise of Toys ‘R’ Us disappointing children across the world, the question remains “who wins?” One could argue that Amazon, Walmart and Target are best positioned to pickup market share, and I am sure they will. However, as the parent of a six-year-old who has been scheming to open his own toy store to replace his beloved local Toys ‘R’ Us location, I am hoping there will be a more exciting options for children everywhere.

Sure, Amazon can win on price and selection, but who gets the win on the board for shopper experience? In today’s explosion of experiential retail, it seems criminal there is no one vying for the hearts and minds of the kids. I’m encouraged to see that FAO Schwarz is returning to Manhattan with plans for a new flagship at Rockefeller Center and an outpost at Laguardia. The legendary FAO Schwarz wrote the book on experiential kids retail – larger than life plush animals, interactive toys and experiences (not to date myself, but who else grew up loving Tom Hanks’ piano scene in BIG), and endless areas of kid fun. Everything a kid’s toy retailer should be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about who is best positioned to capitalize on the opportunity that is left by this market void. While the opportunity for the big guys (Amazon, Walmart, Target) is well documented, I wanted to explore the possibilities for some others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about who is best positioned to capitalize on the opportunity that is left by this market void. While the opportunity for the big guys (Amazon, Walmart, Target) is well documented, I wanted to explore the possibilities for some others.

  1. Barnes and Noble: Today, outside of my amazing local kids’ book store Hicklebee’s, B&N is my go-to. My early reader loves to explore the books, and toys make it an added draw. In my opinion, there are endless opportunities to better connect with consumers. More assortment, better layout, and enhanced in-store experiences could all drive greater market share for this struggling retailer.
  2. GameStop: This makes all the sense in the world. Video games are increasingly being sourced online, GameStop has over 3,000 locations, and financial performance has been soft. Adding all kinds of games to the assortment would boost traffic, in-store excitement and, I imagine, overall performance. I also wouldn’t be surprised if having a broader assortment also drove higher sales of the hero category – video games, gaming consoles and accessories.
  3. The Children’s Place: As TCP continues to exceed financial expectations, in turn accelerating their transformation investment, exploring other categories could add to its winning combination. Creating a complete one-stop-shop for all things kids.  Adding toys and books could increase conversion and average ticket.
  4. “Rocket”: This is the imaginary concept that my son talks about non-stop. He may only be six, but he is an expert in understanding what kids want in a toy-store experience. He says his store will have “master builders and famous gamers” in-store to meet kids and teach them how to be better lego builders and better game players.  His store will have secret tunnels to the superhero section so boys and girls can feel like they have special powers when they shop for their favorite gear. He also says he will be greeted by name and every time he visits the store there will be something else he wants to own. Of course, we are not opening a toy store (that’s our secret, okay?), but I hope someone will. Innovative retailers like b8ta could open a multi-brand toy store or, with its Macy’s relationship, they could partner on a Kids Marketplace at Macy’s.  Another interesting contender could be TJX – adding a discount kids’ concept to the mix could be very interesting and could give Amazon a run for their money.

To me, there is no shortage of opportunities to pick up the void where Toys ‘R’ Us left off and there is no reason a kids’ toy concept can’t be successful if the right focus is put where it should be – on the kids.

These are my thoughts on who can win – who is on your list?

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