Online Shopping Didn't Kill Toys 'R' Us

So, who gains from Toys ‘R’ Us’ Losses?

Author: Krista Garcia

March 28, 2018

Where will toy shoppers turn if there is no Toys 'R' Us to buy from?


According to a March 2018 Coresight Research survey, Toys ‘R’ Us ranked fourth among retailers where US toy buyers purchased a children’s toy or game in the past 12 months, with 36% buying from the now bankrupt store. The top-ranked three, Amazon (53.7%), Walmart (45.5%), and Target (38.6%) would appear to be successors.

On closer inspection, Walmart and Target could potentially benefit more than Amazon. Coresight compared all toy buyers to Toys ‘R’ Us buyers and found behavioral differences. Toys ‘R’ Us buyers were less likely to purchase on Amazon than toy buyers in general and more likely to buy on both Walmart and Target (46.8% vs 38.6%). It’s plausible that shoppers who would prefer a traditional big box experience like Toys ‘R’ Us would be more inclined to shop in-store rather than online. 

The study also found that Amazon Prime members disproportionately bought toys on the retail platform compared to non-members. Nearly three-fourths (73.5%) of toy shoppers with Prime memberships bought toys on Amazon in the past year while 23.8% of non-members did. Toys ‘R’ Us buyers were almost evenly split between Prime members (34.2%) and non-members (36.0%). These non-Prime Toys ‘R’ Us buyers are likely to turn to Walmart, Target or even dollar or department stores.

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While Toys ‘R’ Us ecommerce revenues have risen in each of the past five years, overall revenues have declined steadily. The toy retailer actually has higher ecommerce penetration (13.0%) than either Target (5.5%) or Walmart (3.2%), according to the eMarketer Retail Company Database

Similar to Best Buy, Toys ‘R’ Us was one of the last remaining specialty big box stores in its product category. While Best Buy is attempting to stay relevant by using its stores as experiential showcases for brands like Dyson and connected devices in partnership with Vivint, a smart home service provider, Toys ‘R’ Us’ problems' stemmed less from changing consumer behavior and the rise of online shopping but from billions of dollars of debt.

eMarketer principal retail analyst Andrew Lipsman cautioned against writing off all big box specialty retail as a thing of the past. “It can definitely work,” he said. “Best Buy has been able to succeed by creating more of a showrooming environment, and you can see how a toy retailer could potentially provide a great experience, but Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t afforded the opportunity to make the necessary investments.”