I was eleven years old when I first set foot in Toys “R” Us. Back then, in the 80’s going to Toys “R” Us wasn’t a shopping trip, it was a pilgrimage. These days, with millions of toys at your fingertips it’s easy to forget the feeling of walking into that mammoth store, stacked floor to ceiling with nothing but toys.
Imagine being an eleven year old kid, an absolute action figure and toy freak, and going to your first Toys “R” Us. Action figures were in aisle 7c back then, somehow I knew that, I have no idea how, and I swiftly navigated my way through stacks of diagonal bicycles, frantically looking at the aisle signs, looking for those two precious characters.
It was a life changing moment for young me.
For the whole trip down to the store, I had dreamed of what I would find, and recently becoming enamored with the Silverhawks animated series, I desperately hoped beyond hope that this mythical toy mecca would have them.
I walked out with a handful of chrome, plasticy goodness (long since sold, I’m afraid to say) and my post-Toys “R” Us life would never be the same.
The retail toy giant announced that they officially filed Chapter 11 yesterday, in hopes for another restructuring and delaying of debts so that they might find a way to continue to survive. But with this being their second attempt at restructuring in the face of retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon, one must wonder just how much longer they have left, and then the kid in me dies just a little bit inside.
I can, more or less, go to Toys “R” Us any time I want to now. It’s an hour drive, but I’m an adult with a car. It doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me now as it did back then, but I still remember the look on each of my daughters’ faces the first time they set foot in those hallowed halls. The feeling that generations of children might never experience that same feeling makes me sad.
Let’s all hope that this announcement prolongs the toy giant’s life and doesn’t lead to yet another downturn in the recently failing brick and mortar retail market.
I’m 42 and have similar memories of TRU. I came from a small town, so when traveling through a large city and finding a TRU, it would be a holy moment for me to get to walk through those doors. As I got older, and TRUs became a bit easier to find, I never cared for their prices but certainly could count on them to be worth the trip every time.
But things have changed. I have three children ages 2-10, and every time I take them to TRU they run to the video game section (well, my 2 year old daughter doesn’t. She just holds my hand when I take her to the section that used to have G.I. Joes and quietly weep). Every big retail store has a video game section, so nothing they find at TRU can’t be found at Target or Wal-Mart. My two sons couldn’t care less about action figures of any sort.
I never leave there without buying a toy for each of them, but the fact is they really don’t care for toys. Despite me being a nerd with an incredible vintage and modern collection of both Joes and Star Wars, among other toys, and many others that they are welcome to play with. If they get any toy, it’s related to video games like Plants vs. Zombies, Minecraft, Mega Man, or Nintendo in general.
Justin, I think your concern about future generations not experiencing what you and I felt growing up is unwarranted. This is a different time. But I commiserate with you, brother.