Bob Wann shares his perspective on the evolving retail landscape and its impact on the business of toys

by BOB WANN, chairman of The Toy Association Board of Directors, chief play monster at PlayMonster LLC

It’s clear the retail landscape is undergoing seismic, disruptive change. Through all the confusion and uncertainty that everyone in our industry has been feeling in recent months—made far worse by news of the past week—the possibility that there might be an avenue to save some 200 Toys “R” Us stores in the U.S. by combining those in a sale with the Canadian operations finds me and everyone at The Toy Association both hopeful and supportive. Even just the potential idea of a new entity or entities emerging to fill some portion of the gap holds great promise.

We believe in the #SaveToysRUs movement. Why? Because we believe storefront retail is an essential part of how consumers discover and buy toys. And I’m not disrespecting the growth and importance of e-commerce whatsoever in saying that. The in-store experience of discovery, being able to touch and feel a toy, perhaps even play with it, is simply magic. Specialty toy stores do a masterful job of this, and I submit all forms of retail are significant in a healthy ecosystem that sustains the business of toys.

Brick-and-mortar business in all its forms, from wonderful neighborhood toy stores with curated selections, to nimble mid-mass chains and the powerful scope of mass marketers, to a range of other retail outlets now selling toys, all matter and deserve our support. And, for me, that certainly includes Toys “R” Us.

It goes without saying, The Toy Association is committed to fully supporting our members and right now that means helping those who need us work through the ramifications of the recent bankruptcy and potential liquidation. The Association fully supports a fair and equitable payment plan for post-petition administrative trade vendor claims. Our members need to be paid.

So, count us in. We’re devoted to the people, the products, the new channels of distribution and the physical places that make the business of toys a wonderful place to be.