The biggest event in pop culture happens this week, and for the first time ever, I will be making the trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego. After "covering from home" for the better part of a decade across several sites, I'll be appearing as a program participant for a special panel on Saturday, July 21, 2018. I'm a late addition to the lineup for Living in a Post-Toys 'R' Us World: Navigating the Future of Toy Retail. Having written at length about the collapse of Toys 'R' Us, this will be an exciting chance to take part in a discussion about what the future might hold! Details below...
It was almost a month ago exactly when I reported news that Toys "R" Us Australia was entering voluntary administration. Now comes news that the toy store down under will be facing the same fate as its U.S. counterpart, announcing this morning that they will close all 44 Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores in Australia, resulting in around 700 jobs lost. The first Australian Toys "R" Us opened back in 1993, with the chain gradually expanding nationwide and adding 11 Babies "R" Us locations to the mix. The most recent news in North America finds Canada moving forward at a brisk pace, while more than 115 parties have shown interest in picking up select IP assets from the U.S. operation.
In the interest of full disclosure, GameStop has been a great promotional partner and ally of The Rock Father™ Magazine over the past few years, as has their sister company, ThinkGeek. I feature their content often (I was even wearing ThinkGeek-supplied Marvel High-Tops to the World Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War) and do so not just because of our relationship, but because I'm a fan first and I like their stores. I hope I can continue working with them for a long time to come, but then there's some occasional rumblings... word that things on the business end aren't as sunny as they could be. They're facing some challenges, but I don't think it's beyond fixing - in fact, quite the opposite. They could be on the cusp of an evolution that could set them up for years of success, or they can bow to investor pressure and wind up in a leveraged buyout situation with private equity involved. If GameStop is playing with private equity (which they confirmed this morning), they might add a few extra credits to gain a few more lives temporarily, but the debt they may incur could have them facing a "boss" they can't beat, ultimately leading to a premature "game over."
With changing habits and interests, we've been hearing a lot about how retail is moving toward being "experiential." This is also leading many brands to get creative in how they connect with families, and that means creating the experiences themselves. For the folks at Whirlpool Corporation, that meant a fresh approach to their World of Whirlpool in Chicago, now open to the public as a new consumer experience center. At the media preview this week, I had the opportunity to experience it first-hand, and my immediate thought is that this is exactly what companies need to be doing because it's going to allow the general public to learn in ways that have in many cases been limited to media or expensive courses. Whirlpool is going well beyond the typical appliance showroom by teaching "life hacks" and culinary literacy that will help people save time, save money, and most importantly - improve the time spent with family.
As the remains of Toys "R" Us continue to be sold off for scrap here in the U.S., our neighbors to the north have a much brighter picture... the sale of Toys "R" Us Canada to Fairfax Holdings Limited. The sale keeps the iconic Toys "R" Us brand alive in Canada, along with Geoffrey the Giraffe and Babies "R" Us. TRU Canada is now an entirely Canadian-owned and operated business employing more than 4,000 Canadians as the only exclusive coast-to-coast business with over 80 locations dedicated to kids and babies.
Monday, May 14, 2018 marked the end for many employees working at the Toys "R" Us Global Resource Center in Wayne, New Jersey. While "several hundred" staffers are said to have stayed on as the wind-down of the U.S. businesses continues, there's the "highly unusual" early exit of many top executives, including Chairman and CEO David A. Brandon. "Unusual" seems to be the key word as this story just gets weirder... could former CEO Jerry Storch want back in on the Toys "R" Us action?