Toys R Us may shutter all of its U.S. stores as soon as next week. According to a Bloomberg News report, the toy store giant failed to find a buyer or work out a debt restructuring deal. Now, while the Toys R Us situation is in flux reports say liquidation seems a likelihood and so goes the temple of my youth.
Maybe millennials don’t get it, but Gen Xer’s like myself and back, we get it. You might think it’s so convenient to order online, and sure, it is. But have you ever taken your kid, or when you WERE a kid, had you ever been taken into a Toys R Us and given a budget or number and told you could ‘pick a toy?' Because if you had, I guarantee you’d get it. There’s no replacement for the feedback of a physical store in that scenario. The overwhelming joy as either a parent, watching your child, or an adult watching ANY child, or as A child being in that situation, it’s unmatchable. NOTHING comes close to that, not even Christmas morning, to being let loose in an entire retail wonderland ENTIRELY for children and then told, “You, yes you, can pick any one thing you want...GO!”
In the pre-internet days, I would get my ideas for Christmas by going to Toys R Us after Thanksgiving to see the new offerings and come up with my list. Well, it was that store and the Sears/J.C. Penny catalogs. I could always tell when the Wishbook came in the mail, because it had this particular thickness that was unlike the larger clothing catalogs my mom would get. You would open the mailbox and could just tell. “Yes! The Christmas catalog is here!” It had such great stuff too: Legos, train sets, musical instruments. Oh man, as I kid I lived for the annual four page spread with the Star Wars toys. It’s a shame at what’s being lost to the internet.
The stuff that drew me out of the house as an adolescent - movie theaters, arcades, toy stores, malls, Blockbuster - are all dead or dying. It’s not a problem for me personally, since I’m an adult now. But in my ignorance, I do sort of wonder what kids today actually do for fun that involves going outside. Libraries are making a comeback, so that’s cool. Pokemon Go came and went, but that was a fun summer while it lasted.
I wonder what this generation of kids will be sentimental about?
Back in the day, my friends and I would kill entire afternoons riding around aimlessly on our bikes in the summer, maybe stopping somewhere for a Slurpee if we happened to have the money but more often just wandering. We didn’t even have cellphones, it was just assumed we’d be home in time to clean up for dinner, even though most of us didn’t have watches.
Is there an equivalent to that for kids these days?
Once we get driverless cars, that whole “let’s just drive and see where we wind up today” romanticism will be long gone. You need a destination, a place to go spend money, and you need to get there right away. No more off the beaten path, no more fun and games. I always thought walking through the aisles of a toy store would be one of the few retail enterprises that would be immune from the internets. I don't want to grow up.
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