Charles P. Lazarus, the World War II veteran who founded Toys “R” Us six decades ago and transformed it into a giant empire which symbolised the great America at it’s finest. Yesterday, Lazarus passed away at the age of 94 after the chain announced it was going out of business in the U.S.
Toys “R” Us confirmed Lazarus’ death in a statement:
“There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” the company said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”
There are offers and assumptions about Toys “R” Us Canada too. Sources have it, the Canadian stores aren’t fully cleared either. There are bidders who have expressed interest in buying out the stores.
Lazarus, who stepped down as CEO of Toys “R” Us in 1994, transformed the toy industry with a business model that became one of the first retail category that is so devoted to one thing and have such an impressive selection that they drive smaller competitors out of business.
More recently, Toys “R” Us found itself unable to survive the trends of the digital age, namely competition from the likes of Amazon, discounters like Walmart and mobile games. No longer able to bear the weight of its heavy debt load, the company announced last week that it would liquidate or sell its 735 stores across the country, including its Babies “R” Us stores.
But for decades, it was Toys “R” Us that drove toy trends, becoming a launchpad for some of the industry’s hottest toys.
Lazarus modelled his business after the self-service supermarkets that were becoming popular in the 1950s, stacking a lot of merchandise to give shoppers the “infinite number of everything” feel. Toys “R’ Us stores especially created a magical feeling for children roaming aisles filled with Barbies, bikes, lego and countless other toys. It will be a big vacuum to fill, since this affects every generation of kids because of how long it has been around for.
The chain has its roots in Children’s Bargain Town, the baby furniture store that Lazarus opened in his hometown of Washington, D.C., after returning from the Second World War. He began selling toys after a couple of years when customers began asking for them, and he quickly concluded that, in the baby-boom years, toys were a more lucrative business than furniture. But from the looks of it, same model didn’t help the digital age.