Some of us have been around long enough to remember when the marketplace offered a multitude of retail options. In the 20th century, consumers had their choice of Bradlees, Ames, Caldor, Alco-Duckwall, Kmart, Hess, Child World, KB Toys, Kiddy City, Noodle Kidoodle, Zany Brainy, Jamesway, Woolco, Jamesway, Venture, and of course Walmart, Target, and dozens more.
Contrast that time with today, where Target, Amazon, and Walmart are the only game in town for a lot of people. Do consumers care?
They do care, which may be why Macy’s has been so upbeat about its resurrection of Toys R Us, and Dollar General is dramatically expanding its Popshelf stores.
Toys R Us
Macy’s started its embrace of Toys R Us by putting a toe in the water. When they found out how wonderful the water felt, they jumped in with a commitment to Toys R Us stores in 451 Macy’s locations. Here is how Forbes writer, Joan Verdon, put it in her article, “Macy’s Partnership Signals A Brand New Future For Toys R Us.”
In the fourth quarter of 2021, 25% of Macy’s online customers who bought toys under the Toys R Us partnership were new to the Macy’s site. In the first quarter of 2022, 87% of toy customers also cross-shopped other Macy’s categories.
While the official launch of the in-store shops didn’t take place until last week, Macy’s has been setting up the toy displays for several months, and the cross-shopping boost also appears to be occurring in stores in the same way it has been happening online.
When Toys R Us went bankrupt in 2017, Amazon, Target, and Walmart picked up the bulk of former Toys R Us shoppers. They did so because there was nowhere else to go.
Visiting a big box retailer during the Christmas shopping season is not a joyous experience. There is no charm in sandwiching a visit to the toy aisle between purchasing a turkey baster and a shower curtain. That is not a childhood memory I would wish for any child.
Consumers may want a low price, but they also want an experieince. By picking up the Toys R Us franchise, Macy’s is offering more than toys by the pound. They are offering a memorable family experience. Consumers are responding.
Dollar General opened its first two Popshelf stores two years ago. One hundred stores later, they are calling the concept a success with plans to have 1,000 locations by 2025.
Here is how CSA Editor-in-Chief, Marianne Wilson, describes the experience in her article, “Dollar General’s Popshelf concept on fast track for expansion.”
Popshelf is designed to make the shopping experience “fun” and “affordable,” with the vast majority of items priced at $5 or less. Stores are bright and colorful, with a treasure hunt ambience. The merchandise offering is updated frequently and includes on-trend seasonal and home décor, health and beauty must-haves, home cleaning supplies, household and specialty items, toys, arts and crafts and party planning and home entertaining supplies
A few years ago, the United States was deemed as having too many retail doors. But then stores started closing due to bankruptcies and cutbacks. There were 9300 store closings in 2019, and 12,000 in 2020, for a total of 21,300 abandoned retail outlets. Things started turning around in 2021.
Now we are seeing new (Popshelf) and re-imagined (Toys R Us) retailers finding success. Consumers want more choices, and they are starting to get them.