Take a moment to remember the days when kids couldn’t find more happiness than in a toy shop. Knowing they were going to rewarded for their good behavior, good grades, or perhaps to pick out a birthday gift was a very exciting time. I remember walking through the aisles in Toys R Us when I was a child, looking up and down and all around in awe, wishing I could have it all, knowing that the decision I would make was very important, for picking out a toy was a unique, and infrequent experience.
Slowly but surely, children’s toy stores such as Toys R Us, Build A Bear and FAO Schwartz have been closing their stores down. The famous Toys R Us that had a Ferris wheel and a real-life Barbie Doll House in Times Square, NYC closed in 2016. According to Forbes (2016), the company could not afford the rent. In fact, “the 21,000 square foot ground floor is now being marketed at $2,500 a square foot”.
Others are saying that the real reason are product margins. “If Toys ‘R’ Us would spend more time on proprietary product and innovation in general, they’d have less trouble paying rent in any of their locations.” Similarly, FAO Schwartz, owned by Toys R US, closed their Fifth Avenue location after three decades of being there and filed for bankruptcy.
Shoppers in front of the large FAO Schwarz toy store, 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, May 22, 1973. (AP Photo/Anthony Camerano) Photo retrieved from: https://fortunedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/ap_7305220399.jpg?quality=80
Among many others, smaller family owned Toy Stores such as Phyl’s of Bristol in Virginia are having to shut down too, despite having done their best effort to increase foot traffic, hurting their businesses. One of the reasons Katy Pimp, the owner describes, is online shopping.
Small specialty toy shops that aren’t all about Disney are being affected too. The Enchanted Forest, in SOHO has been selling specialty toys for over 20 years that they meticulously imported from Europe.
So why aren’t toy shops able to afford their rent now? Why is foot traffic slowing down? The answer is right in front of our noses, the internet. Parents find only two-click shopping hassle free and convenient. Also, it is becoming less common to see kids prefer actual toys over video games, or iPads or movies.
Although, according to the Toy Industry Association (2017), while toy sales aren’t specifically declining in the US, toy shops are. It was interesting to see that within toy categories, arts and crafts sales are declining.