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Sunday, November 06 2011 18:00

Toys "R" Us Ultimate Kickoff to Christmas 2011 - The Rock Father Report

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The 2011 Holiday Shopping Season is officially underway for Toys "R" Us, as the company invited shoppers to''Join Geoffrey for the Ultimate Kick Off to Christmas'' at it's stores yesterday afternoon. As we did for Geoffrey the Giraffe's Birthday Celebration back in September, we made it a family affair and headed out to the local TRU store so that the little one could meet Geoffrey once more, and we'd set her up for a Holiday Wish List - for which TRU had pledged to donate $1 for every list created to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

trugreenI love Toys "R" Us, and as a child of the 80's, the company is very obviously targeting my demographic by bringing back their "nostalgic" commercials in hopes that those like me that were there as children, will bring our own kids to the store. Much in the way that the new STAR WARS figures come in very retro-packing (I've resisted the urge to buy any), nostalgia sells - and yes, it's a draw. The big difference in the Toys "R" Us of today is that it's a bright place filled with interactive displays and a lot more variety (such as the included Babies "R" Us) vs. the dark stores that felt cavernous with merchandise piled ceiling high back in say, 1985. I kind of miss the colorful wood striping from the exterior of those old stores (I know that some still exist out there), but the modern incarnation of TRU feels like a much "safer" environment.


Watch: Toys "R" Us 2011 Holiday Commercials

 

Toys "R" Us is also important on a number of levels, from keeping the "big boxes" like Walmart and Target from completely monopolizing the toy market, to remaining a place for kids to get a memorable "experience." TRU is the last warrior standing from an era that once included places like Child World, KB Toys, Circus World, and more. And special events like the Holiday Kickoff are ways to keep that spirit alive.


Geoffrey and the little one...
 We were in the store for about 30 minutes before Geoffrey emerged with his bodyguard. As I stood at the registration desk getting set up for the Holiday Wish List, the little one spotted Geoff as he made his way down one of the main aisles, his neck reaching high above for all to see. Little one was one of the first to spot him, immediately heading over with Auntie Jill to get a hug and a kiss from the TRU mascot. A few moments later, and word spread to the children of the store that their hero had arrived, and we bid Geoffrey farewell as we were off to make our list.

What I still have pegged to be one of the top toys for my daughter's age group is Sesame Street's LET'S ROCK! ELMO by Playskool (which I previewed on The Rock Father™ back in June), which we didn't add to our list as I'd already reserved and picked up the furry red monster back in September.  With the economy the way it is right now, I don't know if ELMO will reach "Tickle Me Elmo" levels of mayhem, but I expect him to be under a lot of Christmas trees this year. It's looking like A Very Caillou Christmas for our little one, as she's been obsessed with the little guy since she was just a few months old. For TRU, they were putting a huge in-store emphasis on CARS 2, along with some stuff aimed at older kids such as SKYLANDER'S SPYRO'S ADVENTURE (look for more on that here shortly), and ANIMAL PLANET'S AIR SWIMMERS.

Overall, we were in the store for about an hour and a half, and it was an enjoyable way to start the season.

Now, I do have one gripe about our experience at the store - one that I'd hope is an isolated incident...smokers directly outside both the entrance and exit.

TRU ashtray
I quit smoking cold-turkey eight months ago. I quit 100% for my daughter. It's not been easy (I smoked for about 14 years), and it's still a day-to-day struggle as the cravings still emerge. That said, I haven't suddenly become "anti-smokers," nor will I tell anyone what to do with their own lives. But - all smokers know the potential consequences, and they know that smoking in front of kids is wrong. When I smoked, I made a concerted effort to hide it from my daughter. I'd planned on quitting, and with the worst behind me - I'm fairly certain that she never had to see Daddy with a cigarette in his hand. I'm trying to set a good example, even when doing so isn't always easy.

In Illinois, we have a smoking ban in place, along with a law that all smoking take place no less than 15 feet away from the entrance to a building. With that alone, I wonder why the local Toys "R" Us would have an ashtray placed directly next to the store entrance - and another less than 5 feet from the exit. When we arrived, there were two people smoking next to the front doors, which meant that the entire family had to pass through a smoke cloud to enter the store. That really bothered me throughout our visit to the store, and on the way out I snapped the picture seen above for reference.

I have no problem with those that choose to smoke. I just don't want it in front of my daughter, and I certainly think that common sense and courtesy would tell you not to do it in front of a toy store.

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, a writer for the Netflix #StreamTeam, and serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. Current special projects include promotional campaigns for PJ Masks (eOne/Disney Junior) and Beat Bugs (Netflix). 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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