Money & Power

Store We Love: 7 Interesting Facts About Toys "R" Us

The beloved toy retailer continues to do business in the Philippines.
IMAGE MIKE KALASNIK/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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It’s been a heartbreaking week for the Toys “R” Us company.

Last week, the company declared it was shutting down stores in the United States and the U.K. to prepare for liquidation. It will, however, continue to do business in the Philippines. The company has assured its partners that global toy retailer will continue operations in Asia, Australia, and Europe

Just days after the announcement of the closings, the company's founder, Charles Lazarus, died on March 23. The 94-year-old passed “after a period of declining health.” His company issued a statement which said, “We will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere.”

Having grown up with this beloved toy retailer, we trace its history through its milestones:

1. The company’s beginnings intentionally coincided with the baby boom.

Charles Lazarus began as an entrepreneur in 1948, when he began selling children’s furniture at his store called Children’s Bargain Town.

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In an interview with Entrepreneur in 2008, he said the idea had come after he served in the military. His fellow soldiers during World War II had expressed their desire to return home, get married, and start families, which is where Lazarus saw the opportunity for a business.

Two years into the furniture business, Lazarus introduced a few toys into the mix. He later realized that toys were more disposable—they would break or fall out of trend and pretty soon, parents would have to replace them.

2. The iconic backward ‘R’ has a significance.

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In 1957, Lazarus was inspired by the supermarket format and restructured his business so that customers can shop for toys using shopping carts. This was the year that he established his second store, but this one was dedicated to selling toys alone. The logo was created and the ‘R’ was intentionally inverted to make it look like it was written by a child.

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3. The toy store’s mascot Geoffrey was first named “Dr. G. Raffe.”

Hoop-y birthday! Get it? Hula HOOP. ????Have a good one, November #ToysRUsKids!

A post shared by toysrus (@toysrus) on

Dr. G. Raffe was designed to be the face of Children’s Bargaintown. When the brand identity changed, so did its mascot. The original artist altered Dr. G. Raffe to look more realistic, while a sales associate renamed him “Geoffrey.” The spokesanimal” appeared on commercials and promotional materials, saying things like “Toys ‘R’ Us.” Before that, he had his own line of Geoffrey-themed products.

4. Toys “R” Us has a history of giving that dates back to 1985.

With the betterment of children’s well-being and health in mind, Lazarus organized his first charity dinner in New York in 1985. Since then, the company has helped many children in need, donating over $120 million in products. It also established the Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund, which provides financial support to children’s charities, such as the Save the Children organization.

5. To maintain its good image, Lazarus sold trendy toys for little to no profit.

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Customer’s perception was important to Lazarus, so to lure in customers, he offered the best deals across the industry. When there was a trendy toy that was in demand, he would price it at a minimum, while other stores would take the low supply as an opportunity to charge more. Lazarus thought this was the best way to keep customers coming back.

6. Lazarus resigned as chairman and CEO in 1994 but continued to be Chairman Emeritus.

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It’s said that since Lazarus stepped down as CEO, business was no longer the same. The emergence of online shopping hurt the business even more.

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7. There’s currently an active GoFundMe account geared toward saving Toys “R” Us.


Billionaire Isaac Larian, the toy maker of dolls such as Bratz, started a GoFundMe account to earn enough money to save the beloved retail store. He and other investors have raised $200 million and are looking to close at $1 billion to acquire the dying business. He hopes that other billionaires will get on board and donate to his goal. “They all were kids at one time,” Larian told Forbes, “Who doesn’t want to be a Toys “R” US kid? So, I hope they do.”

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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