Charles P. Lazarus – Founder of Toys"R"Us, Inc.
Charles P. Lazarus was born on October 4, 1923 in Washington, D.C. Son of a local entrepreneur, Lazarus’ father operated a bicycle shop. From a young age, Lazarus shadowed his father while he worked in the shop, and as he got older, began helping his father fix bicycles and assist customers. A budding young businessman, Lazarus often thought about ways to grow his father’s business, and how one day he, too, might operate a store of his own.
After returning from World War II, Lazarus began to consider what type of business he could open. Inspired by his uncle who was in the baby furniture business, Lazarus opened his first baby furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town in 1948, in Washington, D.C.
“Give the Customer What They Want” – Charles Lazarus
After two years in business and several customer requests, Lazarus began to feature a select assortment of toys along with the baby furniture. Lazarus learned early on in the toy business that, unlike furniture, toys broke or fell out of fashion with children. This prompted parents to make return visits to the store, which positioned toys as a lucrative commodity.
Generally, toys are a seasonal business. However, Lazarus sought to appeal to the everyday shopper, whether it be a mother searching for the perfect birthday present or a young child seeking to purchase something fun with their allowance. Lazarus always focused on two things: what the customer wants and how to deliver it. As customer demand for toys grew, the store’s merchandise became more varied, and soon included a much broader assortment of playthings.
Lazarus, motivated by the success of emerging self-service grocery supermarkets, restructured his business in the late 1950s. Following a supermarket store format enabled Lazarus to stock a broader assortment of products, and allowed customers to serve themselves and utilize carts to shop. After this reorganization, Lazarus opened his first store solely dedicated to toys – Toys“R”Us®. The iconic Toys“R”Us logo was created featuring a backwards “R,” in order to give the impression that a child wrote it.
Lazarus continued building his fledgling business into a global toy conglomerate and eventually saw his brainchild become a public company in 1978. Today, Toys“R”Us sells merchandise in more than 1,700 stores, including 870 Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us® stores in the United States, and more than 725 international stores and 235 licensed stores in 37 countries and jurisdictions.
Giving Back to Those Less Fortunate
In 1985, with the simple goal of improving the health and well-being of children, Lazarus gathered colleagues and manufacturers in the toy and juvenile products industries for a large-scale benefit dinner in New York City to raise money for charity. This later inspired the creation of the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund, which was founded in 1992. Over the years, the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund, a public charity, has donated millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations that keep children safe and help them in times of need.
In 1994, 46 years after founding the company, Lazarus stepped down as Chairman and CEO, but remained an important member of the board as Chairman Emeritus. Today, Toys“R”Us, Inc. continues to embody the same ideals set forth by Lazarus upon establishing the company. Toys“R”Us customers are treated to an exceptional shopping experience, with a broad assortment of toys and baby products and outstanding customer service. In addition, the company remains committed to serving as a caring and reputable neighbor in the communities it serves.