The "Toys R Us" Experience

Toys R Us has a new strategy.

Toys "R" Us made its mark on American retailing by selling children's toys, but its days of dominating that market are past. Now it hopes to regain some of its stature by selling "the childhood experience."

This week the company will roll out its newest concept – named Geoffrey's Toys "R" Us after its giraffe mascot – in its four remodeled Louisville-area stores.

Originally designed to introduce Toys "R" Us into small-town America, Geoffrey's is a hybrid of the Toys "R" Us, Kids "R" Us and Babies "R" Us brands with a little of its Imaginarium stores sifted in.

Kids and parents can still find toys at Geoffrey's, but they also can buy clothes, get a haircut, sit for a family photo, have a birthday party or join an activities session with Play-Doh or other store products.

I think this is a great idea. The landscape of retailing has changed. Retailers used to be able to compete on price and location, but with Wal-Mart, the Internet, and UPS, those things aren't so important any more. Now it is all about experience. (If you don't believe me, look into how Lowe's has kicked Home Depot's ass over the last two years – by improving the shopping experience). The question is, can a retailing company pull this off? The focus has to change from pricing and supply chain management to customer service, store presentation, and the like. Those things were important before, but now they will make or break the new strategy. I don't shop there because I don't have any kids, but I may have to check it out next time I visit Louisville.

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