3 Lessons Retail Grocery Chains Can Learn from Toys “R” Us

Smiling customers opening a refrigerator at a grocery store

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Many of today’s parents grew up as Toys “R” Us kids. While they may have been taken aback by the company’s recent bankruptcy filings and closure of all its stores, most of the business world was not surprised. The store had been drowning in debt for several years, and the reasons are all too familiar to many retailers across all industries, including grocery and supermarket chains.

From reinventing the store experience to meeting modern consumer expectations, there are many lessons that grocery stores can take away from the closing of Toys “R” Us. Here are three things that went wrong at Toys “R” Us – and how to avoid those same problems at your retail grocery and supermarket chains.

1. Make customer experience a priority. While shopping for toys in a warehouse-type environment may have once been a magical experience for kids, it is no longer enough to entice today’s children and parents. People expect an experience – something unique enough to bring your child there, instead of just browsing the toy section at Target or Walmart. Buying a product should not be the only reason you give your customers to walk through your doors. For grocery stores, this may mean adding a café or pub, scheduling free in-store events, such as tastings and cooking demonstrations, or injecting new, fun aspects into what might be an otherwise mundane shopping trip.

In our recent survey of over 1,000 Americans, we found that four in five adults (82%) still like shopping in a typical grocery store. But numbers show that support is softening: Two in five (39%) like shopping in grocery stores very much, while more than two in five (44%) say they only “somewhat” like the experience.

2. Product organization and clean, accessible displays are imperative. Just about everyone has heard a mother-to-be recount her Babies “R” Us registry experience as overwhelming and stressful. It’s difficult enough to decide which baby products will be best for your child, so when you combine that pressure with a store full of messy displays of multiple products, any mom-to-be would be close to her tipping point. Imagine that same mother (after another child or two) shopping at the supermarket with her kids, rushing through the aisles to get as many items on her list as possible before the inevitable meltdown. She will clearly choose the grocery store that displays its products in organized, clean and simple ways. And she’s not alone – 85% of Americans feel that grocery stores should make it easier for them to find things.

RELATED: Learn about an innovative choice for modern refrigerated food and beverage displays.

3. If your business model is broken, don’t just fix it – reinvent it. While some might say that the Toys “R” Us failure is due to the retail apocalypse, the truth is that physical retail is not dead. It’s just that many legacy chains have been unable to adapt to a new model – a model that caters to the consumer’s fondness of e-commerce and desire to shop where the experience is simple, fast and enjoyable. For grocery chains, this could mean beefing up delivery services, in-store pickup and mobile apps, or even testing relatively new concepts like mobile grocery stores or fresh food trucks. In our survey, 50% of respondents felt that if grocery stores don’t enter the modern age, more people will look for other ways to get their food.

In summary, what retail grocery and supermarket chains can learn from the Toys “R” Us failure is that they need to take a hard look at their overall strategy and store experience. If your business model is centered on things that people care very little about these days, it’s time to shift your efforts to meet your modern customers’ expectations.

>> Learn more about why today’s grocery stores need to innovate or risk becoming obsolete in the Store of the Future eBook.


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