Bankrupt Toys R Us is looking to close another 200 stores. Locally, 70-year-old Metro Detroit institution Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley is closing for good once its remaining inventory is sold off. Quietly, Brilliant Sky Toys and Books in Rochester Hills shut its doors a few weeks ago.
The first instinct of many is to blame “big box” retailers for “swallowing up the little guy,” but people are shunning the mighty Toys R Us too, so it can’t be them.
Deservedly, Amazon and online shopping in general is getting a lion’s share of the blame for problems of toy stores, but Amazon isn’t the only reason that toy stores can’t compete.
I wish I could blame the convenience of Amazon shipping my kids’ toys to my front door while I’m wearing my sweats for killing off the local stores. I’m sad to say that the equal accomplice to Amazon in the death of toy stores is electronic devices.
The love of electronic devices among kids kind of ruined what I thought was going to be years of fun shopping for them for Christmas. I can’t remember one Christmas or birthday since they were 4 or 5 where an actual, physical toy was the highlight of the day. A tablet, a new phone, a video game system, a handheld DS, an electronic SOMETHING always trumped the chemistry set, LEGO sets, PlayMobile, Matchbox, and board games. ALWAYS. Every year my wife and I would gather the remnants of Christmases and birthdays past, old toys in new condition, to sell at her folks’ annual garage sale. Were my Christmas present ideas terrible? Nope, those toys just couldn’t compete with the electronic devices. When my kids hit 8 or 9 years old, I wasn’t even shopping at toy stores any more… I was shopping at Best Buy or (gulp!) Amazon.
It’s sad that shopping at neighborhood toy stores has gone the way of the Dodo… toy stores were a large part of my childhood. A trip to Toys R Us or even the local K-Mart toy aisle was like a field trip. Toy store shopping was about the best part of an 8 year-old’s trip to the mall with mom. She had to shop for clothes and my reward for enduring it was being allowed to rummage through the Kay Bee Toys Atari cartridges bins. Business was brisk. Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley even aired TV commercials during WKBD afternoon cartoons!
It’s not easy to come to terms with the effect that smart phones, tablets, and screen time has done to childhood.