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Business Lessons We Can Learn From Toy Stores

One of the most prominent industries that have suffered from recent bankruptcies and closures is the toy industry. Toy stores everywhere have faced bankruptcy and shutdowns or have forced themselves to take their business online.

One of the biggest casualties in the past years is Toys R Us, an iconic brand and household name, now lost to time, just like the oldest toy shop in the nation, FAO Schwarz, back in 2015. However, it seems you can’t keep a good toy store down.

Last holiday season, FAO Schwarz, or at least a location in Rockefeller Center, New York City near its iconic birthplace on Fifth Avenue, came back with a revamp and a new focus on providing experiences that shoppers can’t get anywhere else.

Thanks to the new owner, ThreeSixty, FAO Schwarz is ready for the next generation of customers. Now, Toys R Us could face the same revival under the company Tru Kids, which is composed of former Toys R Us executives.

Toys R Us, as well as any other revived, aspiring, or remaining toy stores, can learn from the recent success FAO Schwarz experienced and bring toy stores back for the new digital age.

Focus on Unique Experiences

One way that FAO Schwarz hopes to stay ahead of the online competition is by providing an in-store experience that no online alternative can offer its customers. Last year’s revival featured store employees engaging children with unique events within the store that they couldn’t find online.

Some of these unique experiences include:

  • Mad science demonstrations
  • Baby doll adoptions and care lessons
  • Customizable remote-control cars
  • Live magic shows
  • A toy grocery shop with supplies and carts
  • A massive, 27-foot tall Build-A-Bear rocket ship that encourages interaction
  • The famous floor piano from the 1988 film “Big,” also reproduced on the ceiling

This direction isn’t entirely new, as other retailers have embraced the use of additional services to enhance their shoppers’ experiences. Yet, it seems to work wonders on the toy store, and it’s something Toys R Us and other toy shops can learn from.

Integrating Nostalgia

FAO Schwarz is combining unique experiences with the nostalgia associated with its status as the oldest American toy store to bring new appeal to customers old and new alike. The store still heavily promotes old-fashioned stuffed animals, the dance-on piano, and the musical clock tower. At the same time, it integrates these elements with new experiences and modern toy lines to adapt to the times without compromising its identity.

Toys R Us, also a beloved brand that made headlines when it closed locations, has the potential to tap into that fame. After all, the public loves nothing more than a good comeback story, and the brand is recognizable and established enough in American culture that it can pull it off.

Embracing New Trends

At the same time, relying too much on nostalgia and the familiar can end up hurting chains such as Toys R Us. The toy store’s familiar theme song, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid” could end up being a prophecy of why it eventually went under: the inability to change and adapt to modern times.

One example of this is the company’s later years that lacked unique, distinguishable products. Toys R Us never invested in bringing unique products, in favor of big-name, familiar brands and products.

By missing out on trends such as Kickstarter-funded toys, the company neglected an opportunity to increase engagement with customers and pack the shelves with something else besides expensive, familiar toys that won’t excite today’s shopper.

Online Revamp

In addition to improving the in-store experience, Toys R Us can also work on revamping its website so it provides online shoppers with a better experience. While the chain can strengthen its store presence and provide incentives to visit, nothing beats the convenience of online shopping. Increasing the value on both store and online ventures can help the store thrive by covering all areas.

The company’s website did not age well and provided a disappointing experience for shoppers. It featured clunky menus, some confusing structures, and advertisements for competing websites and stores. Performing a revamp on the basics can go a long way toward improving customer relations.


In addition, Toys R Us can also add more online components with its store shopping experience. Many businesses now use smartphone apps and other tools to increase the ways customers interact with their shopping experiences, such as ordering, special scanning interactions, etc. Children also connect to their phones, so adding games, VR or AR functions, and online incentives can add flavor to their visits.

Social Media Engagement

Another aspect where Toys R Us might need help is engagement on social media. While the company has social media pages, all of them focus solely on selling specific products. Social media should not only serve as a place where stores can promote their services and offer basic information, but also as a method to engage with consumers and interact with current trends.

FAO Schwarz is making some steps toward this engagement. A driving focus behind the in-store experiences is to create unforgettable moments one can record and upload to Instagram or Snapchat. Other toy stores can combine experiences with social media engagement to encourage customers to discuss their experiences and promote their features to a wider audience.

Customer Service

A basic requirement for businesses hoping to stay afloat, an enhanced customer service experience always goes a long way to improve a customer’s experience. FAO Schwarz and its focus on providing experiences are an excellent example of this. The toy store not only provides attentive detail to customers, but also offers customizable options for certain products, such as remote-control cars.

The demand for quality customer service doesn’t only apply to the store, either. Online shopping should also remain a convenient experience. Responses to customers should not take hours to get there. Automated response systems are available to businesses of all kinds, from a larger chain like Toys R Us to more modest businesses.

Steady Growth via Small Locations

Providing all these services can sometimes mean forgoing the large retail locations in favor of smaller, more intimate locations, at least at the beginning. For instance, FAO Schwarz is currently focusing on its New York City store, with plans to expand to small, pop-up and retail locations in airports throughout the United States and Canada, as well as other countries such as Australia, England, and Spain. The company is also planning a permanent mall location in Beijing.

Smaller, more intimate locations and experiences can allow Toys R Us and other toy chains to make a steady recovery, while also expanding their reach to as many locations as possible, and differentiating themselves from their previous efforts.

A Second Chance

Toys R Us, as well as any returning business, can learn from the approach FAO Schwarz has taken to not only successfully revive itself, but also to create a new strategy to ensure the company services the next generation. By embracing nostalgic charm, but also modernizing functions and services, toy stores can make their second chance be worth more than just a rehash of their brand name.

Toy store lines and other businesses need a strong online presence to attain a reliable client base in the next generation.

SPINX offers guidance and services that can improve website developing, marketing, and other aspects. Consult our SPINX team to learn more about improving your company’s digital presence.

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