How Toys R Us Can Expand its Field of Play to be Customers R Us

How Toys R Us Can Expand its Field of Play to be Customers R Us

Tom Pirovano, Director, Industry Insights

There’s been some buzz in the news recently about Toys “R” Us acquiring FAO Schwartz. I’m confused by some of the perceived pessimism regarding toy retailers struggling to keep pace with mass merchandisers. From my “food guy” perspective, Toys “R” Us and FAO Schwartz have some very strong brand equity that has the potential to be leveraged in several creative ways. Here are a few opportunities I’d love to see Toys “R” Us pursue if they haven’t already been tested or discussed.

  • First, change the focus from toys (their products) to families with young kids (their customers). I’ve often said that the best retailers define themselves not by the products they sell, but by the shoppers they sell to.
  • Create a section reserved for birthday parties (who doesn’t enjoy a pit of colored balls?). We spend a fortune on these types of parties for our kids.
  • Hire more moms willing to work from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm. Thousands of well-educated moms would sacrifice big salaries to work around their kids’ school schedules.
  • Connect with Hispanic families. Nielsen’s Homescan panel consistently shows how Hispanic Americans index highest with baby-oriented products like baby food and diapers.
  • Continue to expand food sections with private label supplied by supermarkets. Supermarkets bend over backward to attract young families. Why not introduce a grocer’s brand to shoppers in a completely separate retail channel?
  • Offer in-store focus groups for marketers trying to reach kids and moms. Each store has the potential to become a laboratory for understanding how kids and their parents shop, play, and interact with products.
  • Conduct midnight release events for DVDs, video games, books, (and new toys?) Toys “R” Us is a player in each of these categories. Book stores and electronics stores do a great job of creating excitement around midnight releases. This could also be a way to attract a new shopper demographic.
  • How about… Movie Night at Toys “R” Us?
  • Whole Foods has done a great job of developing their brand around healthy living. By co-branding with Toys “R” Us, they have the opportunity to reach new shoppers while Toys “R” Us can benefit from products (not just food) focused on healthy eating, exercise, and environmental sustainability.
  • Get vendors to sponsor video game tournaments with gift cards as prizes for winners.
  • Offer In-Store pediatrician clinics. Alright, this may be a stretch, but if Walgreens can be successful with their Take Care clinics, why not Toys “R” Us with a specialist focused on kids?
  • Offer In-Store Seminar Events for parents on college savings, healthy babies, child-proofing, and have local supermarkets sponsor healthy eating demonstrations.
  • Book Signings from children’s book authors.