Toys 'R' Us has apparently emerged "as a new company, with new leadership and a new vision to deliver the magic of its iconic brands around the world."

With Richard Barry, the former global chief merchandising officer at the helm of Tru Kids Brands, a new parent company which owns the Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us brands there is hope that this once iconic bastion of kids excitement, fun, and endless imagination will once more entertain a generation of little ones.

The thing is, it won't. Not like this anyway. Here's why:

1. There's too much old blood.

Mr. Barry is a 33-year-old veteran of Toy's 'R' Us. His career is old enough to have kids to bring there! Accompanying him is an 'experienced management team' from guess where? Toys 'R' Us. Given that the company struggled for years to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, the push to commodification of toys along with the ubiquitous access and instant delivery from places like Amazon, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this team of veterans will be able to pull together the innovation, creativity, and vision to become a leader in the industry again.

Turnarounds of once giant companies are hard and extremely unlikely (See: Sears, Kodak and Blockbuster) and the only instances in which they work is to truly gut the old way of thinking and install some fresh blood. I fear that in this instance there's too much legacy to re-invent the organization.

2. The company has a complete lack of vision.

You can already see that there is a complete lack of Vision for what Toys 'R' Us V2.0 might look like. In the release that went out this week, Mr. Barry said this:

"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write the next chapter of Toys 'R' Us by launching a newly imagined omni channel retail experience for our beloved brands here in the U.S. In addition, our strong global footprint is led by experienced and passionate operating teams that are 100 percent focused on growth."

There's no excitement here, no clarity of direction and quite frankly not a single word that would differentiate the old company from the new. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple his desire to 'put a dent in the universe' coupled with his four-quadrant focus on product development transformed the old Apple into something much more focused on user experience.

The Tru Kids team says there'll be more on the new Vision soon. I suspect it will be just as jargon-filled and no more exciting than this.

3. The company is relying too much on its brand.

The press release also states "In the U.S., Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us continue to have incredibly strong brand affinity and loyalty with more than 9.5 million followers across their social media channels."

The reliance on the brand seems to be the only thing the Tru Kids team are anchored around. The problem is, consumers are much more fickle when it comes to brands these days, just look at Blockbuster! In fact, an over-reliance on the brand and that loveable mascot Geoffrey is what got the company into trouble in the first place.

The Tru Kids team needs to set itself a part as a company that instills joy in children, that's bigger than the toys themselves and that becomes the destination for every parent because they know the impact it has on their children.

My advice would be to install an outside CEO with a track record of building experiences alongside a leadership team made up of less than 30 percent veterans as a first step. Then they need to craft a truly exciting vision not dependant on the current brand but with their end customers, children, at the heart.

Unfortunately, I suspect we'll see more of the same thinking as before. You can expect to see weak partnerships with well-known companies that fall on their face and probably an attempt to build an app that doesn't work. But don't expect to see the resurgence of a global brand, at least not like this.

Published on: Feb 12, 2019
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