Helpful Employees at Toys R Us (and similar oxymorons)
By Rick Moss
If anyone has an understanding of what has made Target successful, it’s probably Gerald Storch, who joined the retail company in 1993 as senior vice president of strategic planning. His 12-year tenure there was regarded highly enough that many saw him as the likely next CEO, but his path led, instead, to the helm of Toys R Us beginning in February of this year.
TRU, having been acquired from shareholders in July 2005 by a private investor group, was looking for fresh leadership, specifically someone who understood the challenges of competing with Wal-Mart, the only retailer selling more toys than nation’s largest discount toy chain.
However, according to an Associated Press article, which includes his first interview since taking over, it’s not so much a “Target-ed” approach that Mr. Storch will pursue. Rather, as his new plans for change are revealed, it appears that working on fundamentals, such as improved store cleanliness, a better edited product mix, and enhanced customer service, will be the focus. (Yes…you read that correctly. We said customer service.)
“When a customer comes in our store, our people can tell them what’s a great toy for a 10-year-old boy for their birthday, because all we do is toys. When you go to a large, multiproduct discount chain, you’ll be lucky to find someone who can point you to the toy department, or will even take you there, much less answer specific questions,” said Storch.
If nothing else, Storch seems to be running straight at what have historically been TRU’s biggest problems in the eyes of customers. For example, by trimming lowest-selling items, in what may amount to a 20 percent reduction in overall inventory, and eliminating displays from the selling floor, Storch hopes to make product selection much easier.
“It actually looks like there’s more in the store when we unclutter it, even though there’s a little less,” Storch said. “You can see the dominance. When it’s so cluttered, you can’t even see two feet in front of you.”
Moderator’s Comment: Is Gerald Storch focusing on the right things in order to turn around Toy R Us? Can the chain successfully make the transformation
from its discount roots to become a customer-driven specialty retailer?
The third item on Mr. Storch’s agenda for remaking TRU is a concentration on catering to younger children. And (perhaps because he’s also the company’s
largest personal investor), he says he’s taking a personal interest in keeping up with trends by reading People magazine and other mass media pubs so he knows the “hot
stars” and “hot TV shows” that influence consumer attitudes.
But, overall, perhaps the biggest transformation that Storch could bring to the company is a mindset of a consumer-focused, specialty retailer. Toys R Us
has enjoyed the top spot among toy retailers for 27 years, but at no point did its “pile it high; move it out” approach endear it with consumers.
As a young parent, I remember the dread of making the periodic trip there to stock up on diapers. As a loss leader item, the merchandisers would position
the product at the far end of a labyrinthine floorplan, subjecting you to a virtual trial by fire of screaming kids, tumbling merchandise and parents one provocation away from
If Mr. Storch can transform the in-store experience so that parents WANT to go there, he’ll have taken one giant step in the direction of a brighter future
for the company. – Rick Moss – Moderator