As we read today that both Toys R Us and Maplin have gone into administration, are a reminded of how much the retail market has changed over the past 30 years.
At the height of their success both of these retailers were famous for offering shoppers unrivalled range authority in their respective categories. When Toys R Us entered the UK market, the concept of a toy superstore was revolutionary, while Maplin was the go-to retailer for all shoppers’ more obscure electronics needs, from disco equipment to a specialist SCART cable.
As we stand here today however Toys R Us and Maplin both find themselves built upon increasingly obsolete business models. The advent and growth of online retail – in large part driven by Amazon – means that distribution centres and websites, not vast store estates, are now the homes for retailers competing on range depth and breadth.
Granted Maplin and Toys R Us have their own individual strengths, but these too are fading in relevance. While online retailers may struggle to match the advice offered by Maplin’s in-store colleagues, the reality is that increasingly tech-savvy shoppers are comfortable seeking answers to their technical questions using Google. And while stores have a role in inspiring children, in truth Toys R Us feels more like a toy warehouse than a home for interactive play and engagement.