On April 20 of this year I wrote a piece entitled: “Neil Friedman, Toys R Us and what it may really mean.” At the time, Neil had just accepted the position of President of the US Division. He was previously been president of Mattel brands and considered one of, if not the, top product people in the toy industry.
So, upon his appointment to the Presidency of a retailer, I asked the following question: Why would Neil, whose most recent and by far largest body of body of work has been on the product side, be hired for a retail position. At the time I speculated as follows: “[I]it seems logical to me that Toys R Us has bigger plans for Neil’s strengths in manufacturing. Is it possible that they not only plan to use Neil to expand their private label business (Toys R Us just opened a new Shenzhen sourcing office) but to help them develop into a full-fledged manufacturer as well?
That blog posting turned out to be one of the most heavily read pieces we have published. So, it was of great interest to me when my contacts filled me in on Jerry Storch’s comments regarding Neil at the September 14, 2011 Toys R Us Analyst Update on September 14, 2011
Jerry introduced Neil, not only as President of the US Division but also as “Head of Product Development. Jerry went on to call Neil “the best product guy in the industry.”
In addition, the Neil’s official bio for the event included this added aspect of his job description: “Oversees
all merchandising, marketing, store operations, merchandising presentation, global sourcing and product development as well as merchandise planning and allocation.
Words are one thing. Actions are another and you can already see the results of Neil’s efforts. Here is a quote from a Mainstreet article entitled, “Toys R Us expands exclusive toy offerings:”
Toys R Us, based in Wayne, N.J., always has offered exclusive toys, but this year it's "dramatically" expanding the number… They include store-brand toys… The Company also plans to promote its exclusives more, starting with a 44-page direct mailing Friday promoting deals on 350 of them.
It is my understanding that many of these exclusives are Toys R Us branded toys and that they are being positioned as premium products. Toys R Us is changing the way the game is played and the hire of Neil Friedman may well turn out to be one of Jerry Storch’s best moves.