Toys ‘R’ Us Offers Its Own Clunker Program

Discussion
Aug 27, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Products for babies such as cribs and car seats are among the
most likely to be handed down after use. Unfortunately, these same items
are also high on the list of items that are somehow damaged or otherwise
unsafe for use and the Toys ‘R’ Us chain is looking to take them off the
market with a clunker-like program that offers consumers a 20 percent discount
on any new product in these categories (from selected manufacturers) when
the old item is traded in.

“In today’s economy, we are all looking for ways to stretch
our dollars, but in doing so, children’s safety should not be compromised,” said
Jerry Storch, chairman and CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us, in a press release. “We hope
this program will help raise awareness of the importance of being vigilant
about potentially unsafe children’s items that may still be in the marketplace,
while encouraging customers to use the ‘Great Trade-In’ event as an opportunity
to remove used baby products, such as cribs and car seats, from their garages
and attics.”

The chain is hoping that it will succeed in taking dangerous
products out-of-use with this new program. The Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued 563 product recalls last year and
472 in 2007.

Despite this, only about 30 percent of recalled items are ever
turned in, according to the children’s
safety advocacy group Kids in Danger.

“People just don’t learn about recalls through the messages
that we’ve been using to date,” Nancy Cowles, the group’s executive director,
told The Wall Street Journal.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesperson for the CPSC, told the Los
Angeles Times
, “We have said for decades at this
agency that we do a very good job of getting dangerous and recalled products
off of store shelves. Our greatest challenge is always getting those products
out of people’s homes and out of circulation.”

The Toys “R” Us “Great Trade-In” event will run from Aug. 28
to Sept. 20.

Discussion Questions:
Will the Toys ‘R’ Us “Great Trade-In” event succeed in getting dangerous
products out of homes and drive new product sales for the chain? Do you
see similar programs working for other retail product categories?

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12 Comments on "Toys ‘R’ Us Offers Its Own Clunker Program"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

This initiative is definitely a good idea for a few reasons: First, it reminds shoppers that Toys ‘R’ Us is the “category killer” in this business, regardless of the competition from discounters like Walmart. Second, the program provides a legitimate public service (and good PR) by getting older and potentially defective car seats out of the market. Third, and most importantly, it should drive sales of high-ticket goods at a critical time.

Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Great idea! Parents can trade in for toys for growing children, or update for new babies on the way. Perfect for Loyalty. Other life-stage retailers should follow suit!

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
What’s next? Cash for Clippers to help the hair salon business? Cash for Killers for the pest control business? Cash for Kickers to help soccer retailers? We as a nation have gotten so bad at selling that we can’t sell anything without a “deal,” a haggle or a rebate. That cripples our economy. I wrote about this phenomenon yesterday at my blog. A radio ad the other day for a furniture store touted that they “didn’t have commissioned salespeople so you know you won’t be pressured.” They made it sound like commissioned salespeople dealt in black market nuclear arms or pornography. Yet commissioned sales people work to move the merch, not stand around passing out handbills for 30% off like I saw at Banana Republic the other day. It’s time we stop demonizing salespeople, disregarding what the merch is worth and settling for more discounting. With the wholesale adoption of car rebates as the “smart way” to market, what are retailers teaching customers to do but wait? And we saw how “smart” that was for… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
11 years 8 months ago
On the surface level, this sounds great. But the time frame, and the limits placed on what’s accepted and which categories the discount is good for will end up being disappointing to consumers. TRU needs to be careful how they market it. When I first heard about the initiative, it sounded like you could bring in this stuff and get a TRU discount, similar to Best Buy’s electronics recycling program. But it turns out it’s a lot more limited than that. A good idea in theory, but if I dragged a crib mattress to TRU to find out it was only worth a discount on a new mattress, I would be upset and feel cheated as a customer. They couldn’t come up with something more comprehensive than that? I would think they could play a hugely important role in this particular supply chain–give $10 off coupons on $50 or $100 purchases in exchange for old mattresses and car seats. Have the manufacturers commit to helping remove the “bad” ones (this is most important for car… Read more »
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
Guest
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
11 years 8 months ago

The trading program of Toys ‘R’ Us will succeed to the extent that public knows about it. The only place I read about it was The Wall Street Journal. An average consumer does not read The Wall Street Journal! This item did not make to our local evening or nightly news. I am sure this information is posted on a notice board at each Toys ‘R’ Us store, however, unless one goes there, one would not know about this program. Therefore, I think this program will have very limited success.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 8 months ago

Great idea. I just have to wonder how many parents will lug in a used crib to save just 20%. I would also like to know what restrictions exist regarding the kinds of products that can be returned. To many limitations on a campaign like this will just hurt the retailer’s reputation and do more harm than good.

David Dorf
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Clunkers for Cash was about stimulating the economy; getting gas-guzzlers off the road was a side benefit that made us all feel good about the program. The TRU program is similar; it’s more about getting people into the store than it is about keeping kids safe. That said, it’s brilliant marketing and sure to be a success.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Clever. Topical. Fun. Consumer Centric!

Leo Burnett pointed out that “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”

TOYS R US is borrowing from that thinking, and should pick up some added store traffic and register rings. And, they’ll be doing it with perfect timing–coming into the Fall/Holiday Season.

ken gronbach
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

We have watched Toys ‘R’ Us struggle before. They seem to be void of any understanding that fertility–the number of babies born in a given market–affects their sales. The United States is right at replacement-level fertility of 2.2 children per couple with certain regions of the country, the Northeast and the Midwest, that have fallen dramatically below replacement level. No clever promotion is going to attract a market that wasn’t born.

Marty Walker
Guest
Marty Walker
11 years 8 months ago

Ditto and kudos to Bob’s comments. When will we wake up and realize this is the “New Economy” we’ve created and the pundits love to dissect and analyze as though its intelligent progression. Let’s see how many ways we can put a new spin on this tired concept. Child safety? Come on….

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 8 months ago

TRU appears to be sincerely committed to safety. Recent changes and additions to the website as well as efforts to publicize recalls all indicate that the organization believes, particularly in the BRU division, that safety is critical and that products and services sold by BRU must deliver on that.

This program, whether it serves to stimulate sales or not, should be seen on the surface for what it is: a sincere attempt to help consumers. Certain products should not be kept in use when damaged or “spoiled”…and yet, given the economy, that has been happening more and more. If one parent is induced to buy a replacement that really needs to be bought by this program, then it’s a winner.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 8 months ago

I like this program. It’s similar to what other retailers have done over the years–most notably in the apparel category (think jeans, suits, ties)–wherein consumers bring in the used items, they get a discount on their next purchase and the used items are recycled or donated to charity. The extra nicety with the TRU program is the health/wellness component. That added element helps build trust and confidence in the brand and helps position the brand as a partner in keeping children safe. Good stuff!

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