Toys R Us collapsed because it neglected its brand

After eight years of financial loss, Toys R Us has finally collapsed. So, what did this well-known retailer - once seen as an institution on the high street - fail to do?

Toys R Us waited too long to refresh its brand and now it's too late, argues Laura Tallett
Toys R Us waited too long to refresh its brand and now it's too late, argues Laura Tallett

A modern successful brand needs to move with the times. It’s important to constantly re-evaluate how best you can resonate with and excite your target audiences.

Toys R Us failed to do this.

Sadly, a mixture of failing to invest in its online offering and neglecting to make the in-store experience attractive have led to the closure of the business, both of which spell doom in today’s fast paced and demanding business environment.

Yet, plenty of toy stores continue to thrive, particularly online retailers such as Amazon, which has taken over much of this market share.

This demonstrates the power of an innovative and flexible brand that listens to audiences and constantly innovates.

Whether you are a consumer or business, when you buy a product or service you expect experience, value and innovation. A successful brand strategy should learn from the mistakes made by Toys R Us. Let’s take a look.


You need to understand your audiences and what they are looking for. Today’s children want electronic games and innovative new activities. The world we live in has digitised and so have audiences and markets. It’s important you look at this and what your audiences want from you and continually evolve your approach.


People want to experience a brand. What do you stand for, how can you engage your audiences and take them on a journey? In-store personalised experience and engagement between staff and customers, opportunities to try things out and play in break-out zones could have enhanced the brand’s position. You need to be adding value to the end customer – your product or service alone is no longer enough.

Competitor market

Reviewing your competitor market is key to demonstrating value and achieving market share. Failure to do this results in a tired brand, unaware of other market innovations and competitors. It’s hard being at the top, as there will always be a challenger. For Toys R Us there were many, and they finally stole their market.


What value are you bringing to your customers? This isn’t just about price of goods or services, this is about the additional value they receive from you, linked to experience and other offers available in the market. Toys R Us were sadly priced out of the market by more affordable digital toys and online stores.


How are you being different? Creativity can be everything from product innovation, through to engaging with customers via a new channel and in a more innovative way so they feel they understand the brand, and ultimately become loyal customers. Brand buy-in is a key component when building an effective communications strategy. What do audiences think of you as a brand: traditional and out of touch, or innovative and forward-thinking?

It’s not too late to make a change and refresh your brand image. Unfortunately for Toys R Us it was.

Laura Tallett is director, business and corporate, at Speed Communications

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