Toys R Us – A Eulogy

Toys R Us Australia is no more.

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After 25 years serving Australian toy fans the company has now closed all of their Australian stores.

Growing up my closest store was at Garden City in the Brisbane suburb of Upper Mount Gravatt. I used to go up that shopping centre almost every weekend, but I went to Toys R Us less frequently. My parents weren’t the type to take me toy shopping every weekend, and even when I did have some pocket money to spend I usually found myself at Big W.

Toys R Us always had a perception of being expensive. They were the fancy dedicated toy store. Their stock and range was amazing but you paid a bit extra for that.  I know that I got plenty of toys from there over the years.

One thing that I loved Toys R Us for was that they tried to be a destination for toy fans. One of my most clear memories of the store is when my older brother drove a friend of I up there so that we could play in a Pokemon Trading Card competition. They were the place that organised these sort of events. They did more LEGO Make and Take events than anywhere else.

When I grew up and had a child of my own I got several things from the Babies R Us part of the store. My son spent the first few months of his life in a fantastic Toys R Us bassinet.

The downfall of Toys R Us may have been that people became smarter consumers. With the internet they could research their purchases and find the best prices. It no longer became a case of if you wanted a hard to find toy you went to a dedicated toy store and paid whatever they asked.

The thing is that Toys R Us did have regular sales. Some weren’t great but plenty of times they were good. I know this because I posted about them for 5 years. Almost every Tuesday you’d see if the new Toys R Us catalogue had LEGO on sale. Almost every second catalogue had some discounted LEGO. Checking the past posts reveals that there were over 130 about Toys R Us, most of those sales of some description.

I am not going to pretend that Toys R Us was the best toy retailer because they weren’t. They were one of the few stores that charged more than RRP for some sets. But they were an option, one that isn’t there anymore. Less competition is never good for consumers. The Toys R Us stores were also staffed by real people who lost their jobs.

Farewell Toys R Us Australia and good luck to all of their former staff.

Got a fond memory of Toys R Us? Share your story in the comments.

7 Responses to Toys R Us – A Eulogy

  1. Mark says:

    Thank-you for an excellent article. Perhaps Amazon will fill the void left in the market. In the meantime I hope former employees pick up a job quickly.

  2. Magmafrost13 says:

    “The downfall of Toys R Us may have been that people became smarter consumers”

    While that certainly didn’t help, TRU’s downfall was at the very least hugely accelerated by being bought out by vulture capitalists who took out an enormous loan to buy them and then saddled said loan onto TRU with the express intent of crippling the company.

  3. Owen says:

    Well written Michael. I very rarely saw a TRU for a brief time there was one within 100km but after it closed it was only on trips that I would find my way there. I had often wanted to buy from them online but somehow they never got the freight worked out so it wasn’t worth doing. Really hope the staff find new jobs soon.

    • Michael says:

      They really did struggle with the shipping side of their online store. It was always expensive and I heard lots of stories of stuff arriving in poor condition

  4. Dave says:

    I grew up in the UK, and a fairly remote part at that. I remember my first trip to a Toys R Us and being amazed at the sheer size of the place, and seeing Lego sets that I hadn’t actually seen anywhere else- my first purchase was the Unitron monorail and monorail expansion track.

    I think that became their downfall though- despite the size of their range, their pricing meant that I’d only consider them for one or two sets a year, and Myer and David Jones are more accessible to me.

    But I’ll always remember that first visit. And the regret of not buying the Goblin Battle Wheel when I had the chance,

  5. Mr Smith says:

    As a collector of diecast cars, I was very disappointed to find out that staff member would pick out majority of “hard to find” items and general public had absolutely no chance of finding such items. This issue was raised with manager and also with customer care online but, they were not too interested in my opinion. With such activity, it really turned me off from going there and few of my friends as well. Ah well, I believe TRU was their own worst enemy. It’s all over now..

  6. Jonathan Wilson says:

    The venture capital crap that killed the US parent was part of why TRU Australia went bust but I think the changing face of local retail had a bigger impact.

    I think more and more parents were opting for the convenience (both location and all the other things they could buy in the same store) and lower prices of the discount department stores (K-Mart, Target and Big W) or the convenience and ease of ordering online from somewhere (and for that again Toys R Us lost out on price most of the time).

    So the combination of convenience and price (neither of which TRU could beat other stores on) probably was what ultimately killed TRU.

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