Toys “R.I.P.” Us

“I don’t want to grow up; I just want to be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid!” This catchy slogan will be etched in the mind of many millennials for years to come, but it will sadly not have any meaning to the next generation. Toys “R” Us, the massive chain retailer of toys and games that granted so many children’s holiday wishes, has begun its liquidation sales in over 700 locations due to its current state of bankruptcy. The company is not alone; many big-name chains have suffered serious meltdowns and have had to shut down several stores, including Sears and Sam’s Club. The general consensus is that the online shopping industry has catapulted into a league of its own, pushing physical department stores out of business. Is digitalization the new norm?

Not just yet. Rather than acquiescing, some corporations have elected to reinvent the in-store shopping experience altogether. Since the Internet can be utilized to shop for wants and necessities, brick-and-mortar stores are forced to provide a unique experience that can only be enjoyed in person. For instance, Boston-based athletic company New Balance has built Run Hub shops in their stores for a shopping experience unmatched by online consumption. Consumers can test out New Balance’s state-of-the-art technology such as receiving eight-second digital foot scans and interactive wall touch screens. Instead of simply being a place to shop, it aims to be a meeting place for the running community at large. By providing bib pickups for local races as well as exclusive footwear and apparel, runners of all ages come to this store in hopes of improving their health and overall fitness.

This trend is not exclusive to pre-existing traditional stores. Because the new concept of providing an innovative experience to customers in-store, even virtual shops are following the trend of becoming physical because they recognize the value of this market. Revolve, an luxury fashion brand that previously only sold online, has shifted its original visions. The business recently built a Revolve Social Club to capitalize upon the new wave of offering real-world engagement. A qualifying member, who may gain such a title through being a top-spending customer or active social media follower, can schedule an appointment for a private shopping experience with an array of stylists and even catered meals. During this one-on-one event, the store is customized with products that are tailored to the customer’s fashion sense based on past purchases.

In business, one must adapt to its environment; in order to avoid becoming a bigger shipwreck than the Titanic, it is crucial to take certain risks. The role that was once held by traditional retail stores has been stolen by online shopping outlets who saw ahead of the curb. However, this does not mean that all hope is lost for brick-and-mortar stores. They simply need to provide an experience that cannot happen through a computer screen. By actively engaging with the customers to give them a sense of community and togetherness, companies seem to have successfully find the feasible way to reinvent retail.