How The Toys R Us Bankruptcy Proves Consumers Like to Shop Small

Decades ago, Toys R Us killed the independent toy store. And now the toy retailer is being pummeled by online retailers like Amazon and, according to The Washington Post, a growing number of thriving mom-and-pop toy shops that allow kids to test-drive toys and just hang out and play.

Certainly, it’s dark days for many big box retailers and department stores; Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 protection last week, making it the third-largest retailer in history to go bankrupt.

But the shift in consumer spending from hulking, brick-and-mortar retail emporiums such as Best Buy and Toys R Us to online retailers could be a promising development for independent retailers—especially those dealing in merch that’s best appreciated in person, such as toys and jewelry.

Here’s how I figure it: When basic-need items such as groceries and school supplies are purchased with a few clicks online (with zero hassle and zero joy), shoppers are liberated from walking the sterile aisles of Walmart.

But they still want to experience the fun of brick-and-mortar shopping. Recent studies show that 62 percent of U.S. consumers say they prefer to shop in stores rather than online.

Shoppers have good reason to opt for local indies, the best of which provide more personalized shopping experiences than their big-box brethren.

A 2017 study from Cox Communications celebrating Small Business Week breaks down the reasons why. Respondents in the study said they like shopping at small and local businesses to support their community (67 percent); because it’s convenient (63 percent); and to experience better customer service (26 percent).

Of course, small businesses that don’t modernize will always be at financial risk. But for independent retailers firing on all cylinders—making those all-important consumer connections and creating shopping experiences that delight and surprise—the future suddenly looks a little brighter.

(Top: Shop Small balloon, image: @shopsmall)

JCK Magazine Editor