How Toys R Us Blew It With Millennials

by Jacob Laskowski

Hollywood quickly learned years ago that millennials are a nostalgic bunch. They love movies that remind them of their youth. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Star Wars. Marvel films. Ghostbusters. Beauty and the Beast.


At a time when many brands are boasting their nostalgic attributes, Toys R Us missed the mark.

"Many millennials remember getting the Toys R Us Christmas catalog in the mail" writes Forbes contributor Wes Gay. "Studying every page to see the best toys was a thrill unto itself. Circling the items for the Christmas list was almost like a sacred ritual."


Toys R Us wasn't able to capture millennials who are now becoming parents themselves (16 million millennial women are becoming mothers each year, according to Pew Research).


When Charles Lazurus started selling toys in his father's furniture store in the 1950s, he never dreamed how big of a company he would someday have. Decades later, his toy store took in 15% of the $12 billion market share of the toy industry.


Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the Toys R Us brand experience was unparalleled in the US. Millennials begged their parents to take them to the stores (just to "look around," of course).

Toy R Us had a unique opportunity to follow other brands in rebooting vintage versions of themselves to re-capture this generation of consumers (see: Pepsi, KFC or Nintendo).


Why does nostalgia work so well with millennials? Because positive reminders from our past feels good. And millennials are feelers. We respond to our emotions, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions.


"When we feel or care for something, we’re much more likely to act," writes Forbes contributor Lauren Friedman. "Share a compelling blast from the past with a millennial, and you’re likely to reach them on an emotional level — the holy grail of brand marketing."


Unfortunately for the thousands of employees now facing unemployment, Toys R Us didn't react to the changing trends of millennial parents.


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