‘Toys R Us’

One by one, many iconic companies who once dominated the global market fall. Those who survive, for the moment at least, are desperately reconfiguring their long-term strategies in order to resist the onslaught of competitors who ride on the digital platforms which provided a now proven game- changing power that disrupted many industries. One casualty, to the dismay of many children, parents and grandparents is Toys R Us. This toy-retailing giant is a victim in the fast-changing global business environment.

Riding the tide of the growing consumerist economies after World War II, Toys R Us was formally organized in Maryland, United States, in 1957. The new generation of baby boomers, their children and grand children, became the instant patrons of the toy champion, which was actually an offshoot of the ”Children’s Supermart” founded by Charles Lazarus in 1948. Children’s Supermart started only as baby furniture retailer but eventually diversified into selling toys because of the constant and strong demand for the kids’ imagined best friends.

From 1957 until the late-1990s, Toys R Us was crowned “category killer” for the toy-retailing business. Hundreds of stores sprung in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. Thousands of jobs were also created and countless smiles displayed by children even by simply entering the stores of Dr. G Raffe, the official mascot. Toys R Us was a paradise that would quell even the most difficult of the young ones’ tantrums. Perhaps, to many elders who would enjoy the bookstore for an anti-stress stroll, Toys R Us was a freedom and fantasy park for many kids.

Today, Toys R Us outlets are on the exit except in some areas in Hong Kong, Mainland China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian territories where the original brand entered into joint-venture operations with the locals. Perhaps, they’re also clinging to dear life and maybe being subsidized by angel funders.

Game changer

Technology changed the game. For many industries, the Internet disrupted the way business is conducted. It adjusted how income is created, distributed and amassed. Technology has created a different method of window shopping, purchasing, paying for the items bought and delivering the goods to the customers. Amazon and Alibaba, for example, humbled several retailers that were kings until they failed to cope with  the strides of the  digital revolution.  Macy’s, JC Penney, RadioShack, Barnes & Nobles are among the many who hoisted the white flag in the merciless merchandising war.

Even in the entertainment world, we now witness how Netflix overhauled the watching habits of worldwide viewers. Thus, revenue streams were redirected. Further disruptions were created by the likes of YouTube, iFlix, Prime Video, Google Plus and many more social media and digital platforms which rule the behavior of the market, advertisers and investors. Heard of Grab and Uber replacing the traditional yellow cabs?    And now, at the doorsteps of the financial world is the blockchain technology that ushers in a new era of how transactions will be done.

Entrepreneurs and mentors

The world is changing. Baby boomers, generation X, millennials and other batches would experience an almost different way of living compared to the previous generations at least in one of their lives’ major aspects—commerce.  The way wealth is created and transferred is much different than before.

Our business schools must scientifically convey and inculcate the different skills set and knowledge needed to equip our managers and budding businessmen in order to adjust and compete in the modern international arena. The changing world is also becoming smaller and ultra-connected. Our entrepreneurs must be mentored well and be made aware of the constantly changing rules of the game.

Our country has our own contribution to the world’s list of richest persons. Our local tycoons proudly and successfully joined the illustrious roll call of the world’s billionaires. We have Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei, Andrew Tan and the brothers Zobel. Competing in the international port operations is Ricky Razon, who has major footprints in many cities outside the Philippines. Even Ambassador Chan of the Oishi fame is in mainland China, his delicious snacks are fast-moving items in the new superpower’s stores. Ramon Ang has displayed his M&A savvy, which catapulted the San Miguel group in a much-diversified portfolio. Manny Pangilinan made a name for acquiring huge cash cows in major industries.

The point is, we have our own entrepreneurial class that can collectively mentor the next generation of business leaders. At the very least, they must consciously contribute to the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs into world-class managers and leaders. They must look beyond their own corporate backyard. They must impart, not so much about the digital agenda, but more on the ways on how they all succeeded and sustained their achievements.

The fates of many fallen giants provide a clear business case on the impact of technology, especially to commerce and business organizations. In fact, there are many sordid stories that would point to the same direction, and to the same stark business norm of either you shape up or ship out.  By the way, Toys R Us will be terribly missed in many parts of the globe.


For comments and suggestions, e-mail arielnepo.businessmirror@gmail.com.




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