Toys R Us always had a sense of wonder and joy about it. The giant toy retailer was every kids’ happy place for decades. So, it’s appropriate that the soon-to-shutter chain is closing down not on a sad note, but with a joyful story of making children happy.
A summertime Santa recently spent $1 million to buy all the remaining inventory at several Toys R Us stores in the Raleigh, NC area with the intention of giving the toys to needy children. While the donor purchased toys in person at one store, his or her identity has not been revealed.
As the result of the mega-purchase, at least one Raleigh Toys R Us closed down ahead of schedule. Instead of waiting on customers on that final day, the staff packed up all the remaining toys and loaded them on a truck for the mystery buyer. There is no word yet on when, where or how the playthings might be distributed.
The story of Toys R Us embodies many retailing trends of the last half-century. The company began as a small department in Charles Lazarus’ children’s furniture store in Washington, DC. The toys proved so popular that Lazarus changed his store’s focus and name. At its peak, Toys R Us was considered a “category killer,” a retailer that markets a specific type of product so efficiently that other stores can’t compete.
But, like other “big box” specialty retailers, Toys R Us eventually began to lose business to mega-retailers like Walmart and Target. The internet also took a toll on the chain’s business. Toys R Us was also saddled with heavy debt in 2005 when a group of private equity firms acquired it. In March, the company announced it was going out of business after 70 years of making children smile and laugh. At that time there 735 stores were operating in the US. Today, there are fewer than 200.
So, if you’re inspired to emulate Raleigh’s secret Samaritan, you better get a move on.