Abandoned Toys “R” Us – Whitehall, PA – 6/29/18

“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R’ Us kid.”  It is hard to imagine a world without toy stores.  Sure there are still the mom and pop ones here and there, but the magnitude of Toys “R” Us to a kid when they walk into the store will be forever lost going forward.    Being someone that grew up in the 90’s, the height of places like Toys “R” Us and K.B. Toys, I take pride being the last generation to grow up without internet.  These toy stores were our internet, they were the places we went to look at all things we imagined.  For me it was the countless Legos, the best figures known as The Real Ghostbusters, the always crime fighting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all the video games, and the countless other toys I collected during that time.  I never stopped visiting my local Toys “R” Us store as I got older, obviously I wasn’t there to buy except for the occasional Lego, but visiting was more for a nostalgia trip.  I would visit the store every so often just to escape my current life situation.  This would be during the good or bad times.  Walking into these stores helped the “older kids” disconnect while the younger kids would start to grow new memories.

We are moving into a more click and ship sort of buying habits, but we can still find the toy aisle at our local Target or Wal-Mart yet none of it is the same as a Toys “R” Us.  I for one, and this might be a generational thing, tend to check the brick and mortar stores first before I order online.  I may pay a little extra, but it is more about the experience than the price.  However, I am in the minority here and at the time of this writing places like K Mart, Sears, and Macys are all closing up for multiple reasons.  In the case of Toys “R” Us and other stores, we can easily blame the internet, it’s the easy way out.  However, if we all still bought directly from Toys “R” Us, would it have saved them?  Probably not, having worked in the business world for more than 10 years, you learn that the problems start with the decision makers.  Toys “R” Us, at least to me, was the same Toys “R” Us as it was 10 years ago.  Different colors, but still following the same business model.  It is key to adapt or you die.  I think in Toys “R” Us’ case they had many factors as to why they closed up shop.  Ones listed above along with other internal issues dealing with debt and pricing.  Worthy of a case study along with other stores like them that have met their end, I am sure when you get into it you will see it isn’t always Amazon.  Amazon is merely part of the problem.

The store I frequented many times was based in Whitehall, PA.  A stand alone store with two malls surrounding it, countless restaurants and other stores made this a prime location for a toy store.  Looking at the next closest toy store in the area would be Wal Mart which is less than a mile away.  During the prime years, the mall housed a little K.B. Toys which has now become a American Eagle I believe.  Once the Whitehall store closed up for good I wanted to make one more trip to pay my respects.  When I arrived it looked like employees, at least 15 of them, were all saying their final goodbyes.  Some were in regular clothes while others proudly wore their work shirts.  As they left one by one I walked up to the doors I have entered so many times, but this time there was no automated opening inviting me into this place of wonder.  The only thing I was greeted with was a handwritten sign that said closed and it is time to grow up.  I walked along the store to see if there was any Toys “R” Us brand labeling or way inside, but besides a line of carts, Toys “R” Us wasn’t joking around when they said it is time to grow up.  As of today, the store still stands, with the front of the road sign and above store sign still standing almost as a tease of revival.  However, the for sale sign below it signifies that is not the case.  The local news reported a home store was taking the place almost like a IKEA, but it must’ve fell through for it has been two years now.  The hope is maybe Toys “R” Us will put a store back there since they did open two new stores in New Jersey and Texas, but from news readings there is no talks of expanding.  Also the format of the new stores are a lot smaller with less inventory than the previous stores.  Whatever the case my be, future generations may never experience a toy store, or at least a toy store like Toys “R” Us, but there will still be toys and their imaginations will run and I only hope they know they don’t ever have to grow up.

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