Shopping For Toys Online
Possibly more than any other business, the Internet has transformed the way we shop for toy gifts for kids. The 80s and 90s were dominated by large box-stores and shopping mall outposts. Ask any kid of the 80s and I’m sure they’ll tell you that the excitement of shopping with their parents was the promise of the toy store at the mall. But as with most industries, the world wide web changed the economic sensibility of such brick-and-mortar storefronts. By the end of the millennium, those beacons of hope for kids stuck shopping with their parents were few and far between and fading.
The online toys market has been growing right along with the Internet. America Online, one of the first national Internet service providers, included shopping channels in their distributed software. I distinctly remember there being an icon for “Toys”. The timing was perfect. Just as a generation of kids raised on GI Joe and Cabbage Patch was entering early adulthood, the ability to shop for toys online was entering its infancy.
As the technology progressed, online shopping became more and more trustworthy, as well as user-friendly. America Online fell off the map as local service providers proliferated. The increased connectivity between people all over the world translated well to the business world. Producer and consumer were connected by nothing more than a mouse click. I still get nostalgic when I hear that old modem sound.
The online trend was a boon for retailers also. Toys are often large and take up crucial shelf space. At the same time, smaller products are often higher risk (i.e., more likely to be stolen). So the ability to keep all back stock in a cheap undisclosed location was a no-brainer for retailers. Online toy shopping had become so prolific that by the end of last decade, most of them had shuttered. I will always remember the child inside of me weeping at the “Out of Business” sign on the front of Kay Bee Toys.
According to Forbes, “Online shopping is about to explode.” I don’t doubt that they’re right. The industry leader, Toys R’ Us, built a 300,000 sq. ft. distribution center a couple years ago. They are one of the only companies that have stayed afloat by shifting their focus to online toy shopping. And that is why Geoffrey still smiles at us when I drag my kids to the mall.