OPINION: Thoughts On Modern Toy Shopping
Is The Thrill Of "The Hunt" Gone?...
I loved the toy store as a child. Who am I kidding, I still love it. Rows and rows of merchandise, promising hours of fun thereafter - the toy store is a child’s dream-come-true.
For the collector, the joy is a bit different. The aisles of treasure allow you to hold a tangible representation of a brand or character you cherish. Each peg carries the potential of finding a chase variant or the last figure in any given line. The toy shop brings you one step closer to that PERFECT display or ULTIMATE COLLECTION. The very practice of “the hunt” is a fun one - far more than The Purge.
But we’ll all admit it’s different when you are young. When I entered Toys"R"Us or KB Toys, I felt validation as a kid, as though my interests and desires were the most valued opinion by all the adults who ran the place, and children rarely experience this affirmation (despite the irony that, for the most part, their needs and desires ARE the most important thing to their parents).
But my children will never experience KB Toys toy stores. We won’t have a specific toy store on which we can rely when we go the mall. Sure, the Disney Store will have their branded merchandise, and FYE might have a wall of collectibles; even the LEGO store will offer a nice open room of goodies; but the hallowed aisles of KB Toys - of countless competitors vying your allowance buck - are nearly gone. I worry Toys"R"Us may soon leave us, and this is a loss for all American children. They will not experience the joy of toy shopping in the same way collectors like I were able.
However, they will have something else. Our children can go online and build their wishlists to a tee. They have no need to write a Christmas list on a yellow note pad; they just provide a hyperlink, giving their parents not only a picture of the actual item but a means to purchase it immediately. And the selection is no longer limited to what’s “in stock”. Now children can click an entire backlog and say, “They don’t make this one anymore but I want it.”
Of course, this applies to not only window shopping but giving a child purchasing power. Children who don’t find their coveted objects at Target can ask mom or dad to buy it on Amazon or eBay (or one of our many fine sponsors). Sure, they need to wait a few days to enjoy it, but the old answer, “sorry, son, they do not have that,” is a thing of the past. Someone always has it. Somewhere. And the tenacious child can find it.
Does this new dynamic breed patience in the young consumer while simultaneously removing the thrill of the tangible buying experience? Given the continued growth of online shopping as well mega stores constantly undercutting smaller toy sellers, will any brick and mortar toy retailers survive the next decade? Was anyone surprised KB Toys’s doors closed 6 years ago? These are fair questions to consider.
Then again, I feel I am looking at this whole matter through the rose colored glasses of age. Sure, we lost KB Toys, but I think we can all agree that it died in the invited wake of Amazon, eBay, and specialty stores for tabletop gaming or comics. Yes, we lost a host of toy departments - from Jamesway, to Ames, to Value City, but we have gained Marshalls, Ross, and TJ Maxx, instead. Sears may have exited the toy game, but Kohl’s offers one more stop if little Jimmy NEEDS an Iron Man and Target and Wal*mart were all sold out (though that never happens these days). So maybe we’ve actually broken even.
And let’s be fair, the fact that eBay has created a 24/7 online flea market is not something at which we toy fans can scoff. Indeed, one could go to a hundred toy shows or hobby shops without finding SOTA’s glow-in-the-dark Blanka, but watching "Saved Searches" on Ebay will bring one across your screen in weeks.
The landscape has changed, it’s true. But now the options are endless, which is simply better for the collector (though only arguably for the child). Sure, things are different, but that may mean better. We lost some places of beloved memory and joyous shopping, but what we’ve gained may be worth the price.
Still have local shop you visit? Think collecting is better now than ever? Hit us with a comment and let know. The above commentary is one man’s opinion, but the toy culture belongs to all of us.
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