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The Loss of Toys ‘R’ Us Is A Loss for Star Wars Editorial By Victoria Brazil

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Editorial By: Victoria Brazil

There are many parts of our childhoods that we continue to hold dear into adulthood.  Birthday parties.  Family gatherings.  Holidays.  Summer.  Trips to McDonald’s.  And visits to Toys ‘R’ Us.  From now on, that final example will be no more.  On June 29, 2018, Toys ‘R’ Us shuttered its remaining U.S. locations.  It was the end of an era.  For decades, Toys ‘R’ Us had been a staple of the typical American childhood experience.  It was a place that you went to on a summer day with your parents to escape the heat.  It was the place where millions of grandparents, aunts, and uncles went to find that special toy you had your eye on for Christmas.  It was where you bought your first LEGO kit.  Or your first Barbie.  Or your first Star Wars action figure.  And for many of us, Toys ‘R’ Us continued to be special into adulthood.  Trust me when I say that many of us took Geoffrey at his word when he suggested we should never grow up.  We continued visiting Toys ‘R’ Us long after that last big birthday bash with our families and long after we left home to make it on our own.  Some of us, myself included, even worked there for a time.  While there is so much I will always remember about Toys ‘R’ Us, one thing I will always recall is how valuable it was to my Star Wars collecting.

 I began actively collecting Star Wars toys in 1996.  The Power of the Force (2) line had been brought back by Kenner the year prior.  One day, my grandmother brought home a 3.75-inch C-3PO from that line.  It was my first step into a larger world.  From then on, I was a Star Wars collector.  Despite being just 11 at the time, I saved all of my allowance money for Star Wars toys.  When Christmas came around, I asked my aunts and uncles for Star Wars toys.  Walmart, Target, Kmart, Service Merchandise, and KB Toys were all regular staples of my toy hunts.  In my small hometown in Texas, we did not have a Toys ‘R’ Us.  The nearest one was 45 minutes away in a somewhat larger town.  While I had visited it quite rarely, it had not become critical enough to my toy hunts at that point.  Then, in 2001, a new location opened just 20 minutes away.  From then on, Toys ‘R’ Us had revealed itself to be so important to completing my Power of the Jedi toy line.  In fact, during our occasional visits to San Antonio, my family made sure to help me and my brother visit as many Toys ‘R’ Us locations as possible.  I cannot even remember how many Episode I figures I picked up for $2-3 each, but I was essentially able to acquire the entire line for that price per figure.  A few years later when I headed off to college, I relocated to San Antonio.  Now officially on my own as an adult, I was frequently at Toys ‘R’ Us trying to find the latest in Star Wars action figures and collectibles.  The Vintage Original Trilogy Collection.  Revenge of the Sith.  The Saga Collection.  30th Anniversary Collection.  If it were not for Toys ‘R’ Us, many figures would be missing from my collection today.  In 2008, I relocated to Southern California.  Although I was working full-time, I took a part-time job at Toys ‘R’ Us to bring in a little extra cash.  (OK, let’s be honest.  I partly took the job for the toys.)  This was during what collectors now refer to as the “Golden Age” of modern Star Wars collecting.  The Clone Wars and Legacy Collection lines were in full swing, with new releases practically every month.  Sure, there were quite a few Walmarts and Targets I could visit.  But after the initial launch of these two popular lines, it was Toys ‘R’ Us that kept the momentum going what with their gigantic displays and shelf space dedicated to Star Wars.  And long after my departure from working at Toys ‘R’ Us, it continued to be critical in my figure searches in The Vintage Collection.  And The Force Awakens.  And Rogue One.  And The Last Jedi.  (And who can forget all those big midnight product launches?)  Last Friday, that all changed.

    The closure of Toys ‘R’ Us is one that represents the continual evolution of the retail environment.  A decade ago when Amazon was really beginning to take off, stores like Circuit City were impacted so greatly by online retailers that they had to shut down completely.  Since then, Kmart stores have all but ceased to exist.  Even that other once big toy chain, KB Toys, disappeared back in 2009.  Somehow or another, Walmart and Target continue to thrive.  Though it has not been without losing much of their economic footprint to Amazon, which is now the most valuable retailer in America.  In light of that, I suppose it is only natural that a specialty chain like Toys ‘R’ Us would follow the path of Circuit City, Radio Shack, and KB Toys.  And while we can blame Amazon for its competitive pricing and service (both of which were arguably superior to Toys ‘R’ Us), there is also something to be said for the shifting play patterns of today’s children.  Unlike those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s with our big playsets and our doll houses, modern children are often drawn to electronics such as tablets and computers.  Indeed, the world is always changing.  And while progress is generally good, it signals a paradigm shift for those of us who were exposed to those infamous toy commercials during Saturday morning cartoons.  

    Since its return to stores in 1995, Star Wars has consistently rated as one of the most popular toy brands out there.  Its availability across major retailers has played a huge factor in its success.  With Toys ‘R’ Us gone, how will that affect collectors?  I suppose it depends on how much you relied on shopping at Toys ‘R’ Us while it still existed.  If you mostly shop online for your Star Wars fix, it is safe to assume this pattern will continue.  If you frequented Target and were able to buy most of your Star Wars toys there, you will likely continue shopping there.  However, if Toys ‘R’ Us was the most important stop on your toy hunt, you will likely feel its absence more than most.  While it can be assumed that big Toys ‘R’ Us shoppers are likely to move on to Target, Walmart, or Amazon, there is no doubt that the absence of Toys ‘R’ Us will mean significant change not only for Star Wars, but for other brands across the board.  In terms of Star Wars, Toys ‘R’ Us was a regular Hasbro partner that helped deliver popular exclusives.  Recently, Toys ‘R’ Us had been offering Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch figures that otherwise may not have been made available.  Critically acclaimed figures like Commander Gree and Admiral Ackbar came to light thanks to this unique partnership.  There were also numerous action figure sets in the 3.75” scale in recent years that served as ideal birthday and Christmas gifts.   Even when you move beyond Hasbro,  Toys ‘R’ Us carried so many Star Wars products that simply were not offered at Walmart or Target.  Alarm clocks, plush, giant electronic figures, and more were continually offered alongside the established Hasbro and LEGO products.  It is a safe bet that as consumers, we will see less of these more experimental and unique initiatives offered not only by those other companies, but also by Hasbro.  The loss of Toys ‘R’ Us will mean less exclusives and perhaps less product overall without such a major player to help support it.  In the future, Hasbro will continue to offer its mainstays such as 3.75”, both in the 5-points-of-articulation format as well as The Vintage Collection, and The Black Series 6” will continue shipping.  There will still be vehicles and roleplay.  And if you are more keen on Funko Pop or LEGO, Walmart and Target carry those too.  Even GameStop and Walgreens have been stepping up their toy game lately, with both selling exclusive figures.  But without a big player like Toys ‘R’ Us in the mix, Star Wars collectors will have to adapt to the loss of a major source of toys and collectibles while also contending with a reconfigured toy line.  While we can all choose to remain kids at heart, we can no longer be Toys ‘R’ Us kids.  And perhaps beyond Star Wars or Marvel or Barbie, that may be the biggest loss of all.

 

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Yeah, TRU had many gaffes which lead to their downfall. Chief among them were not innovating the stores, leaving them bland in presentation and lacking in fun ways to draw people in, as well as mismanaging their online sales and way high sticker prices compared to other big box stores.

 

My local TRU was the only place that carried the latest Black Series figures, albeit only a case or two. Sadly, I could never get there in time to grab any, as the sharks would have cleaned them out. I blame Hasbro for over-producing TFA, TLJ, and RO material.

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Truth be told, most of the figures I get my hands on these days — and for a long time now — have had to be via online sellers and sites. If Toys R Us hadn’t had to be so far away from where I live, and I’d still had a car, I’d probably have gone back every couple of weeks. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Man. I just introduced Toys R Us to my kid just last year as we moved literally right down the road from one and now they are closing. I just hope that the man who is trying to save Toys R Us is successful so that way my kids will have a life of Toys R Us. I really hope KB Toys comes back as well. With both of those stores around when I was a kid, I always had great times. I hope the same for my children's future.

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