In 1948, 25-year-old Charles Lazarus turned his dream of creating a child-oriented business into a reality. A visionary for his time, Lazarus started a baby furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town, in Washington, D.C. to cater to the post-war baby boom era. Lazarus filled his store with cribs and baby furniture and ran it single-handedly, overseeing everything from bookkeeping to delivering merchandise to customers’ homes.
Continually looking for new ways to satisfy his customers’ needs, Lazarus introduced infant products and toys for older children into the company’s growing product assortment. The first toy he added to the inventory was a cradle gym. When it proved a strong seller, he added tricycles, books and other toys. Lazarus learned early on in the toy business that unlike furniture, toys broke or fell out of fashion with children, prompting parents to return to the store again and again.
Almost 10 years later, Lazarus adopted the supermarket model for his store, which allowed customers to examine and pick out products on their own and pay for them at a checkout stand. With the opening of his second store, he settled on the name Toys“R”Us® with a backward “R.” Although the name drew ire from parents and teachers alike for its grammatical incorrectness, Lazarus knew it was an attention-getter.
Lazarus believed that success meant focusing on the everyday shopper, such as a parent searching for the perfect birthday gift or a child hoping to spend his or her weekly allowance. In the pre-mall, pre-discount store days, specialty retailing and off-price positioning were revolutionary concepts that Lazarus leveraged to his advantage. Through his ingenuity, Lazarus expanded his fledgling business into a toy conglomerate that became a public company in 1978 with established community roots and a loyal customer base from coast to coast. With its iconic mascot Geoffrey® the Giraffe introduced in February 1960 and the catchy jingle, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up, I’m a Toys“R”Us Kid®,” Toys“R”Us has become one of the most recognized and beloved brands in the world.
By the early 1980s, Toys“R”Us looked to diversify its portfolio by finding new incentives to attract parents with an extension of the “R”Us® brand. In 1983, the company branched out into children’s clothing when it opened its first Kids“R”Us® stores in Paramus, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York. Although Toys“R”Us, Inc. closed its freestanding Kids“R”Us locations in 2003, the company remained committed to the apparel business and continued to sell a wide variety of name-brand designer and private label boys and girls clothing. Thus, in 1996, due to positive apparel sales, the company added apparel to most of its Toys“R”Us stores across the country and gave birth to a new addition in the “R”Us family with the launch of its first Babies“R”Us® location in Westbury, New York.
Today, Babies“R”Us is the nation’s leading baby products specialty retailer and the chain has grown to approximately 250 locations across the country since its first store opened. The stores offer new and expectant parents everything they need for their baby, including an incredible selection of baby products and supplies from leading manufacturers at prices to fit any budget.
In addition to expanding “R”Us stores and brands in the United States, Toys“R”Us launched a worldwide presence in 1984 when the company opened its first international wholly-owned store in Canada and licensed operation in Singapore. Almost 10 years later, former President George H. Bush traveled to Japan to open the country’s first Toys“R”Us store. More than 30 years after the first store opening, Toys“R”Us, International operates more than 730 international stores and over 205 licensed stores in 36 countries and jurisdictions outside the United States, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, among others. The company continues to grow internationally, and made its most recent entry into a new market in 2011 when it established operations in Poland, where it opened several wholly owned locations throughout the next year.
Also, in 2011, Toys“R”Us, Inc. formed a joint venture with Li & Fung Retailing for the Toys“R”Us business in Southeast Asia and Greater China, acquiring a majority stake in its previously licensed business. With this agreement, Toys“R”Us, Inc. assumed ownership and oversight of 90 existing Toys“R”Us stores in Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
More Ways to Shop Toys“R”Us
Recognizing the incredible potential of the Internet, Toys“R”Us launched Toysrus.com in June 1998, and it quickly became one of the fastest growing sites in the toy and baby products shopping categories. Today, Toysrus.com is one of the most visited sites in the specialty toy and baby products retail category with a vast assortment of toys for kids of all ages. The site also offers exciting exclusives, helpful and distinct services, as well as fantastic deals every day. In addition, Babiesrus.com offers a wide selection of baby products and supplies and a convenient, premier baby registry.
In 2001, Toys“R”Us opened its international flagship store in New York City’s Times Square, which quickly established itself as The Center of the Toy Universe®. Complete with a 60-foot Ferris wheel, a 20-foot animatronic T-Rex dinosaur, a life-size Barbie dollhouse and a New York City skyline constructed entirely of LEGO® bricks, Toys“R”Us Times Square has become one of the top tourist attractions in the Big Apple for families from around the world. The prestigious Zagat’s U.S. Family Travel Guide has rated Toys“R”Us Times Square the top family destination in New York City.
Positioning the global franchise for the future, Toys“R”Us became a private company in July 2005 when an investment group consisting of affiliates of Bain Capital Partners LLC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and Vornado Realty Trust completed the acquisition of Toys“R”Us, Inc. for $6.6 billion.
Since the acquisition, Toys“R”Us, Inc. has become a leader in the industry through its differentiated product assortment and special offerings that continue evolving to meet customers’ needs. Following are highlights:
- Growth of Exclusive Brands: Further growing its proprietary offerings, in 2009, the company introduced an exclusive line of baby essentials marketed under its trusted Babies“R”Us brand name. Since then, it has continued to expand the Babies“R”Us-branded assortment offering customers more than 1,600 affordable, high-quality products from a brand they identify with and trust. The collection includes infant formula, diapers, wipes, laundry detergent and purified water, as well as apparel, bedding and room décor, food, snacks and other essentials. It also provides parents and caregivers a wide-range of infant and toddler care products, gear and accessories for everyday needs at a great value.
- Toys“R”Us Express and Outlet Locations: Further assisting time-strapped parents during the 2009 holiday shopping season, Toys“R”Us opened Toys“R”Us Express pop-up stores nationwide in malls and other shopping centers, as well as Toys“R”Us Express shops within the company’s Babies“R”Us stores. Through this concept, the company continues to increase its presence in malls and shopping centers during the holiday season, making Toys“R”Us more accessible than ever for busy shoppers. With customers responding extremely well to these smaller format stores, in 2010, the company began opening permanent Toys“R”Us Outlet locations across the country, many of which were successful Express stores during previous holiday seasons.
- Omnichannel Offerings: The company continues to focus on creating a seamless in-store and online shopping experience for customers, allowing them to shop with Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us whenever, wherever and however they choose. With enhanced omnichannel offerings including “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” and “Pay In Store,” a robust e-commerce site, mobile platform, social networking sites and a vast network of stores across the country, it has never been easier to shop with THE toy and baby products authority.
Building a Portfolio of Brands
Understanding the nature of evolving merchandise offerings in the retail industry early on, Toys“R”Us, Inc. purchased its first competitor, educational and learning toy business, Imaginarium® in 1998. The company has since maintained the exclusive product assortment, and today, all Toys“R”Us stores in the United States showcase Imaginarium products, offering a broad selection of toys that promote creativity, learning and smart play.
Looking to broaden its web-based portfolio, in February 2009, Toys“R”Us, Inc. acquired the highly regarded e-commerce site, eToys.com. This respected brand, combined with Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com, provides online shoppers with a differentiated assortment of toy and baby product offerings, as well as valuable resources for parents and parents-to-be. Around the same time, the company acquired Toys.com, providing a new way to redirect online customers to its family of e-commerce sites.
In May 2009, Toys“R”Us, Inc. obtained the exclusive right to operate FAO Schwarz®, one of the most iconic children’s retailers in the world and a brand synonymous with quality and innovation. Together, Toys“R”Us and FAO Schwarz have a combined 215-year history of delighting kids, and the combination of these two marquee brands represents expertise in toy retailing. Along with FAO.com, the company operates the legendary FAO Schwarz flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Through this venture, Toys“R”Us, Inc. has a unique opportunity to grow its toy specialist market share and advance its authority position in the overall toy category.
With a story as unique and exceptional as the customers who have shopped in its stores for more than 65 years, Toys“R”Us has solidified its position as THE toy authority by becoming the place for the hottest product launches and most in-demand toys. And, with the company’s foray into the baby products market, Babies“R”Us has become a quintessential source for everything new and expectant parents need when preparing for baby’s arrival and keeping baby safe and happy once home.