It’s been a few weeks since the news of Toys R Us making its exit from the industry in the most unfortunate way—total bankruptcy—after 70 years of operations, and even more heartbreaking to know that founder Charles Lazarus passed a mere week later, knowing that his legacy ended. We’re not here to debate or speculate what went wrong or what could have been done better, as there’s enough of that news out there to feed on. Instead, we wanted to hear from our fans on what it means to us as LEGO hobbyists, and how this may impact us moving forward. Toys R Us (TRU) is remaining open for business in several countries around the world, including Australia and Canada, so we’ve asked a diverse group of readers to join us in providing commentary that’s part retrospective, and part insight into how TRU affects the LEGO hobby, whether closing or continuing operations.
Ric Downell, Australia
Profile: Set collector, with occasional MOCs. In the LEGO scene since 2015
On TRU in General
For me personally, TRU will be missed for the Bricktober specials. I’m a minifigure fan and enjoy their varied exclusive specials. Then again the other stores will eventually offer the exclusives, hence it’s not a big deal. Compared to other Toy Stores, they do have the largest range and the overall look and feel is definitely the best. It’s clean, nice, bright and staff that are presentable and friendly.
With regards to their service, I can’t pre-order my Collectible Minifigure Box whereas the independent stores are more than happy to take my preorders. It has recently changed accepting pre-orders for the latest CMF series, so, looks like I may need to revisit my options.
On the Shopping Experience
I do my shopping and for my nieces and nephews so I do visit TRU for their Hotwheels and Barbie range. I guess kids will miss the most is the “Make and Take” events they sometimes hold.
Discounts go as low as the other department stores, of up to 20%, or the usual buy 1, get the 2nd piece at half off. I use TRU as my ‘back up store’ as they typically hold larger stocks than regular departmental which many only have section dedicate to toys.
On why TRU is visited less often
These days I visit the LCS (LEGO Certified Stores) more often as they lure me with their “Gift With Purchase” exclusives. I buy my City, Superheroes, Friends and Creators themes from Kmart, as their everyday price is already 20-30% off retail, so I don’t actually have to wait for a sale. Their loyalty programs are also linked to my Shell Petrol (Gas) and Supermarket shopping outlets. The other reason for the LCS visit is they have their seasonal and exclusive sets (i.e Ideas) that you can’t get anywhere else and over and above, the PAB wall that’ll come in handy. So in general it’s almost like a one-stop place to be.
I guess if I had to put a figure to my shopping spread, it’d look like this. 50% – Large discount stores (Kmart, Bing W, Target), 20% Lego Online, 20% LCS (Lego Official Store), 10% Others – consisting of ebay, TRU, and independent stores. I still visit the independent stores for the EOL goods and Bricklink older sets.
On final thoughts
In my opinion, TRU isn’t failing due to LEGO fans — in fact, during a 20% sale, the sections are particularly busy. It’s the other departments such as bicycles or large infant accessories which are putting a heavier burden on them. I rarely see folks shopping in those sections. Then again, I don’t have kids, so I may be wrong.
Matthew Hocker, Pennsylvania, USA
Profile: LEGO Ephemera collector, builder
On the fallout
It’s just sad to see the disappearance of a large toy store that’s been around since I was a kid.
It does not impact me that much that LEGO sets were marked above retail. With the nearest store 30 minutes drive away, there was never a planned visit unless I happened to be in the area. And the TRU that had been closest to me was performing quite poorly and closed down perhaps 3 to 4 years ago. The writing was on the wall. The only reason folks still shopped there was the rewards program, which some of my LUG members were pretty upset about with the current news.
On the shopping experience
There are many other cheaper and better alternatives. Walmart does not have an extensive selection but the prices are retail and reasonable when there are good clearance deals. There are many other online shopping alternatives as well. LEGO Shop@Hope is probably my first resource as it’s retail price and there are good deals and free shipping for anything above $35. I guess to some extent the distance to the nearest TRU was also a deterrence for me to avoid TRU.
On the future
I do hope that another toy store would step up to fill in the TRU experience. We’ve already lost KB Toys and Kiddie City years ago.
Alyssa Rain, Australia
Profile: Builder and Photographer. In the LEGO scene since 2009
On how it all started
So I started buying LEGO for myself in 2009. I was in a department store looking for a toy for a gift for a disadvantaged/poor kid for Christmas. I saw a small LEGO City car, like Emmet’s car in the LEGO movie. I ended up buying gifts for a charity and then also a LEGO car for myself. From then on I’ve been buying LEGO almost every week. In 2010, I discovered LEGO website and Pick A Brick [LEGO’s online à la carte parts service]. It was limited at first. Then we had the Bricks and Pieces [a different online à la carte parts service from LEGO]. So now I probably order parts for MOCs from LEGO every few weeks. I don’t count bricks anymore. But it would be well over 1 million
On TRU in general
I think if I was a kid, it would be more fun going to TRU, but as an adult, they don’t really have much more range than the big department stores. I only went there because I wanted the Old Fishing Store and the other shops had sold out. TRU in Australia is viewed as being expensive by most AFOLs. They usually sell at RRP. If I’m honest, I don’t think it would affect me much at all if they closed. The only thing I’d miss is the Bricktober sets. Even with the sales, their prices aren’t usually that competitive.
On alternate sources
I am very loyal to shops that give good customer service. I usually buy my LEGO at Kmart. The Kmart I go to, there is a girl who is really helpful. She will always go out the back and look for stock for me. Kmart is almost always first for new sets. Big W is a little bit more expensive, but still below the RRP. The problem with Myer (I think) is that it’s expensive. The customer service isn’t that great. They often are out of stock for LEGO and other items. In general, most customers would say that Myer is not what it used to be like. I actually think Myer is more likely to close down or go into liquidation before Toys R Us in Australia does. TRU in Australia are in areas where there are lots of families. They also cater to AFOLs. They put a set on hold for me. When I went into the store, the staff were happy. I had 3 different staff ask if I needed help. In comparison, Myer doesn’t seem to listen to its customers.
On final thoughts
So I think, if TRU did close down, I probably wouldn’t notice it much. I’d be more worried for the staff who lost their jobs.
Jean Tan, Singapore
Profile: Set collector, with the occasional MOCs. In the LEGO scene since 2015
What will be missed the most
The TRU brand is going to be missed more for nostalgic reasons if it closes in this part of the world. It’s more about walking through all the toy sections and enjoying the large selection they have.
On shopping at TRU
I only shop at TRU when there’s a sale or need to claim my TRU points. I typically only shop enough to get about a USD 15 voucher a year. And typically they don’t really have the best prices, so its just really one less place to enjoy the shopping experience. I only worry a little for their exclusive sets, of which I’m sure will all end up in LCS (LEGO Official Stores) anyway.
The discounts go at best 30% with Credit Card promotions tie in. And only the 3 for the price of 2 promotions makes it worth. There point system is quite mediocre, its just more for loyalty, where once you start buying I tend to want to go back not to lose those points.
Yes, I do go to TRU for the non-LEGO items like board games and Paw Patrol, especially Nerf guns and bullets. Those products are at retail price everywhere, so I’d rather earn points at TRU instead.
Toys R’ Us Store with empty shelves, Photo Source: Steven Kelley
On moving on
I personally don’t think their service here is outstanding or gotten any better for me to miss it a lot.
Jennifer Lee, Malaysia
Profile: Active LUG Builder, in the LEGO Scene since 2015
On what it means if TRU closes
It’s going to save me money! Woohoo!! Jokes aside, it does not affect me at all. What will affect me if Bricklink closes down, that’s going to be game over to my MOCing days.
On reasons to head to TRU
Before I got very focussed into LEGO building, I’d get my other general toys from TRU, such as Play-Doh, etc. But I feel that these days there are many more educational toys available online, and they’re more focused on learning as opposed to entertainment and distraction to my kids. And even Play-Doh is now available at less prominent stores so there’s very little reason for me to visit TRU.
On where you get your LEGO
If there’s a need, there are many online sites with free shipping. Why should I queue when it can be delivered to me?
Kevin Hyatt, Sheffield, UK
Profile: Chairman at Sheffield LUG. In the LEGO scene since 2013
On how it’ll affect purchases
I can’t remember the last time I or anyone I know bought LEGO from TRU. Prices are RRP or higher, sales and offers are poor. The only reasons to head there was for retailer exclusives
On non-LEGO needs
I’d bring my boys for Christmas or birthdays but other retailers like Smyths has better range and prices and The Entertainer has a decent range, good prices and excellent services
On TRU exiting the scene
It’s a shame to see a big store go and people lose their jobs, but it’s not going to be a problem for getting toys in this area anyway. I usually get my LEGO fix from Brand Retail stores in Meadowhall, and even clearance stuff in supermarkets or 3 for 3 offers at Argos
Chris Malloy, Washington, USA
Profile: Managing Editor of The Brothers Brick, former TRU employee. In the LEGO scene since 1992
On TRU in General
Toys R Us was a retail giant, and the last major chain that specialized in toys. With TRU gone, there is no other large retail venue that caters solely to the kid in all of us. I worked for TRU for several years, and while the job had all the usual ups and downs of any retail establishment, I largely enjoyed it and I’m sad to see it go. However, I don’t think the loss will be felt too hard by LEGO fans. It’s more likely to impact kids whose parents and grandparents viewed TRU as the one-stop-shop for Christmas and birthday shopping. As a LEGO fan, however, even while working there I rarely considered TRU to be my go-to spot for purchasing LEGO.
Both as a former employee and as a customer, I never found the service to be exceptional. If that sounds cynical, hear me out. Where I worked, the employees were fantastic people who loved helping customers and providing them the best experience possible (though I understand that like most low-wage retail, that’s highly variable depending on location). But importantly, there’s simply no way that an average employee in a retail chain as large as TRU can have any sort of in-depth knowledge about most of the products they sold. I happened to know LEGO inside-and-out, but couldn’t tell you the first thing about Power Wheels or My Little Pony unless it was written on the box. Official LEGO stores, which have become increasingly common, will naturally be able to provide a much better customer experience in this regard, as their employees can focus on a much smaller pool of products.
On the Shopping Experience
The one area where TRU excelled was in selection. TRU carried a huge swath of LEGO’s current lineup, far exceeding any other retailer except for LEGO itself. And of course, TRU negotiated exclusive sets for itself every year that not even LEGO carried, the infamous Bricktober sets being a prime example. I have mixed feelings about these, as the prices for them has crept up over the past decade to where you often had to spend ridiculous amounts of money to qualify for all the sets. But to the original point, TRU was a great venue to find the Hard-to-Find LEGO sets such as Ultimate Collectors Series Star Wars sets or large Technic kits.
OK, we all know that TRU had high prices. Their saving grace for the savvy buyer was that they frequently had sales which brought prices down to at or below MSRP. Still, because of the high prices, I rarely began my LEGO shopping there, and turned to TRU only as lesser option.
On final thoughts
More competition is nearly always a good thing, and having more retailers vying for customers’ attention and money for LEGO products can only benefit us as consumers. However, I don’t think the loss of TRUwill impact LEGO buyers all that much. I didn’t know many people who bought large volumes of sets at TRU like they’re prone to do with other, cheaper retailers. The biggest loss will be their exclusive promotional items, which were usually quite cool despite my dislike of exclusives. Somewhere out there on a designer’s desk in Billund are the plans for Bricktober 2018 sets. I can only hope that they’ll be discovered somewhere down the road and trotted out for another retailer—or better yet, revealed online for free.
There seems to be a common theme with feedback from different parts of the world – while most have nostalgic ties to Toys R Us and worry for the well being of staff eventually, it won’t be dearly missed as a go-to outlet for LEGO. Bricktober did come up in a few instances and looks like these specials are something that AFOLs really look forward to. One thing we do know, LEGO fans will not be short of any alternative sources which offer better costs and even service satisfaction.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Will you miss Toys R Us? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
- While Toys R Us has announced broad store closures, this has only been confirmed for their US and European operations. The other remaining corporate regions — Africa, Asia, and Oceania (Australia & New Zealand) — maintain that they are separate legal entities or privately owned and are in a good financial position to carry on business as usual.
- Store numbers are cited from CNN Money and other news websites.