Are You a Toys “R” Us Adult?

Voltaire is quoted as saying:  “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  For those who work in the toy industry, a paraphrase may be in order:  “If Toys “R” Us did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.”  I exaggerate (a little) but whether you like the way they do it or that they even exist, Toys “R” Us is an essential piece of 21st century toy retailing and one, that if were to cease to exist, would badly damage the over-all toy economy for years to come.

That is why I find myself frustrated by the question:  If Breaking Bad action figures are toys and Toys R Us is a toy store; why do people get upset?  If its okay for Barnes & Noble and Party City, why not Toys R Us?  Here is my answer:

Barnes & Noble with its origins in books and freedom of speech is taken for granted as an adult destination.  No one blinks that books with art nudes lie across the store from children’s books with talking puppies.  

Party City clearly positions itself, particularly at Halloween, as a family destination with a special appeal to adults.  Again, no one questions why the erotic shares space with the innocent.

Toys “R” Us is, in its DNA, a children’s destination.  Arising in a mid-20th century America recovering from the social dislocations of World War II, the company reflected a world where hard work was for adults and toys were exclusively for kids. 

We now live in a 21st century world in which children have to some degree walked away from traditional toys and adults have embraced them.  Toys “R” Us seems to have had difficulty seeing itself in this new world.  Even though it does have adult themed departments, its messaging continues to be almost entirely about being a “Toys ‘R’ Us Kid”.  Can’t someone be a Toys “R” Us adult; a Toys “R” Us Teen or even a Toys “R” Us Senior?

In short, Toys “R” Us merchandises as a family destination but markets itself as a place for children.   My hope is that Toys “R” Us and the entire toy industry will go about the business of being vendors of all forms of play to all those who want to play. 

Everyone one from 0 to one hundred wants to play.  Let’s make them all welcome.



2 thoughts

  1. John Charles is right. TRU is not only setting itself up as a model of hypocrisy, but alienating a large customer base.

  2. I really wish Mr Gotlieb had looked further into the issue; how can a company that makes more than 20% of its revenue from video games, the vast majority of them rated MATURE as well as DVDs rated PG-13 or even R (I went to purchase a Diaper Genie online at and it recommended I add on THE BIG LEBOWSKI, rated R)and happily sells toys from other mature films like Aliens, Predator, Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Game Of Thrones (a nude in every episode!), American Horror Story, Pulp Fiction (Funko’s bondage Gimp is adorable!) decide to cave in to pressure from a misinformed and misguided parent and remove action figures from a TV show hailed as one of the greatest in the history of television? Despite the fact that the show itself was rated TV-14 , Mezco clearly labeled the toys as 15+ using the second largest font on the packaging. Yes somehow, Mezco was painted as the villain, its products pulled from shelves, and its employees threatened with death. It is telling that the online petition to KEEP the toys in TRU gathered more than 6 times the signatures as those who wanted to remove the toys. TRU hovers near bankruptcy each year, yet has decided it is a wise move to alienate 60,000 shoppers to appease 10,000. Not seeing the wisdom in that.

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