Local Toy Shops Prepare For Toys 'R' Us Demise

Brett Blume
June 05, 2018 - 4:30 am

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Locally owned toy shops throughout the St. Louis area are making plans to bring in more customers, now that Toys "R" Us stores are in the process of closing their doors.

"Well we're shrinking other areas," explained Arthur Schaefer, president of Schaefer's Hobby Shop at 11659 Gravois Road. "You look through our store and you'll see blank, empty area and those are soon going to be filled with toys. We going to the ASTRA toy show in New Orleans coming up next week."

While not gloating over the imminent shutdown of more than 700 Toys "R" Us stores nationwide, the local toy shop owners are definitely making moves now to handle an influx of new customers.

Rich Morgan, owner of Saga Toys in south St. Louis County, says he's been diversifying his inventory since the Toys "R" Us announcement came down several months ago.

"Our primary focus has always been superheroes and sci-fi," according to Morgan. "We're trying to kind of broaden that a little bit to help meet some other needs for people who were doing all of their toy shopping at Toys 'R' Us."

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

He gave an example of how they're changing their thinking.

"We started adding the stuff that appeals more to little girls," he said. "It's still within the theme of what we carry, for instance we've expanded our Lego line."

Like other area toy shop owners who spoke with KMOX News, Morgan said business has taken a hit in recent years with the advent and spread of Amazon online sales.

He's countering with an emphasis on improving the in-person experience -- for example he's 2-to-3 weeks away from completing an in-store, life-sized spaceship that will serve as a "party shuttle" for parties, but also as a lab for teaching others to build dioramas and create costumes.

At Andy's Toys on Watson at Mackenzie, owner Andrew Tolch is counting on the visceral experience of playing with toys to keep bringing customers through his door, despite Amazon's influence.

"We try to go over and beyond service for our local customers," said Tolch. "Help them to find things that they just can't find -- too oddball, too nitch. And we also want it to be a fun experience...people can bring their kids into the store where they can actually hands-on play with a lot of the toys, more so than people would think. There's a lot of people that will still come out to a brick-&-mortar (store) if you offer them something that they can't readily get online."