The biggest event in pop culture happens this week, and for the first time ever, I will be making the trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego. After "covering from home" for the better part of a decade across several sites, I'll be appearing as a program participant for a special panel on Saturday, July 21, 2018. I'm a late addition to the lineup for Living in a Post-Toys 'R' Us World: Navigating the Future of Toy Retail. Having written at length about the collapse of Toys 'R' Us, this will be an exciting chance to take part in a discussion about what the future might hold! Details below...
The year was 1980. Charles Lazarus had been crowned "The Toy King," with his retail empire having grown from its modest beginnings as the Children's Bargain Town into a household name as Toys "R" Us. What started in 1948 as a place to buy baby furniture had evolved into a place that kids across the country would dream of - a rainbow-striped paradise of toys and games stacked floor-to-ceiling. His mascot had become an icon, and Geoffrey the Giraffe would soon start a family of his own, with wife Gigi, son Geoffrey Jr. and daughter Baby Gee entering the fold. Of course, a growing family will often prompt a search for a bigger ride, and for Geoffrey that search led a meeting between The Toy King of the East Coast and The King of the Kustomizers on the West Coast - legendary car builder, George Barris. It was time to build "The Geoffreymobile."
The demise of Toys "R" Us has an unexpected upside - other retailers are starting to get more creative and enthusiastic about the business of play. Following rumors of adding an expanded selection of toy offerings in their Party City stores, Party City Holdco Inc. has announced the company’s strategic decision to expand its temporary store offerings through the piloting of approximately 50 new ‘Toy City’ pop-up stores. Party City will launch the new, temporary Toy City locations alongside its Halloween City pop-up stores in select markets across the U.S.
It was almost a month ago exactly when I reported news that Toys "R" Us Australia was entering voluntary administration. Now comes news that the toy store down under will be facing the same fate as its U.S. counterpart, announcing this morning that they will close all 44 Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores in Australia, resulting in around 700 jobs lost. The first Australian Toys "R" Us opened back in 1993, with the chain gradually expanding nationwide and adding 11 Babies "R" Us locations to the mix. The most recent news in North America finds Canada moving forward at a brisk pace, while more than 115 parties have shown interest in picking up select IP assets from the U.S. operation.
As the saga of Toys "R" Us here in the United States just continues to drone along, it appears that the much-anticipated June 18th intellectual property auction has failed to happen. As filed on June 11, an extension was being sought that would place the auction on August 6, dragging things out for nearly two more months. Up north, however, things are looking bright for the folks at Toys "R" Us Canada, and they've wasted no time in getting things back to fun - welcoming customers with a message that they're "here to play, here to stay!" With that comes a search for a "fun, energetic tween who loves to play with toys" as TRU Canada kicks off the search for its next Chief Play Officer (CPO). As the spokesperson for Canada's leading dedicated toy product retailer, the CPO is the toy expert for Toys "R" Us Canada and gets to share expert recommendations on the hottest toys and trends with parents and gift-givers from coast-to-coast.
On this week's episode of the Power Kid Podcast, the featured guest is a familiar one... me. Each week, toy industry veteran Phil Albritton interviews amazing people making amazing things for kids. Toys, games, books, media - he covers it all in the only podcast dedicated to the modern children's entertainment industry. Phil and I had connected over on LinkedIn, and one big question he had was how my career trajectory took me from covering horror movies and entertainment for FANGORIA to penning columns for Sprout Channel's late Sprout Parents site. On the show I explain how all that happened, and discuss a bit of my backstory, from working in retail 20 years ago to entering the world of film & tv to winding up here, covering toys and pop culture for the likes of The Toy Insider, Toy Book and The Pop Insider. We also discuss my deep-dive into the collapse of Toys "R" Us, and close things out with some words about raising kids and parenting in the "gig economy" - where success today is still staring-down an uncertain tomorrow. Check it out on Stitcher, iTunes or in the player below!