Charles Lazarus recognized a previously ignored market segment with purchasing power – children. His pioneering store chain, Toys R Us, focused on giving children (and their parents) a wide variety of choices.
Lazarus took off from the grocery store formula. At his stores, kids could walk along the aisles and choose and examine toys for themselves. His focusing on a specific category also revolutionized the retail industry.
Today’s big-box formula (e.g., sporting goods stores, pet supplies, etc.) has its origins in the Toys R Us format.
Charles Lazarus – Building a Retail Legacy
The young Charles Lazarus had the vision of creating a child-oriented enterprise. So in 1948, he put up his first store, Children’s Bargain Town, which focused on baby furniture. He was age 25 and he ran it by himself.
The Washington, D.C. store catered to post-war baby boomers. Lazarus would keep the books, man the store, and even deliver purchases to the homes of his customers!
After months of hearing constant inquiries from his customers about toys for babies and older kids, he gave in and started carrying toys. But Lazarus was cautious. At first, he added only a cradle gym to his inventory. After it sold very well, he began selling other toys, such as tricycles, and even books.
He had hit a goldmine. Lazarus realized that toys were more profitable than furniture. Children would break or tire of them and they or their parents would keep coming back for more.
It was only after a decade in the toys business that Lazarus implemented the grocery store formula, allowing kids to enjoy picking out toys after which they could pay for their choices at a checkout counter.
When Lazarus opened his second store, he decided on the now legendary name Toys R Us that had the R backwards. He revolutionized toy retail with cookie-cutter store uniformity, single price discounts, and a vast inventory of 18,000 individual toys.
Today, despite setbacks through the years, the toy company Lazarus founded has bases in the US, Canada, and the UK. It has close to 700 stores in the US and 600 other stores in 29 countries.
The Toys R Us flagship store in Times Square is the biggest toy store on the planet. Lazarus’ company has gone down in American retailing history as one of the most successful in terms of profit and growth.
The Charles Lazarus Quick Bio
Full name: Charles Lazarus
Birthplace: District of Columbia
Company: Toys R Us
Key success traits: Knew how to listen to his customers; knew how to capture his target market; was cautious in making changes to a working format.
The grammatically-incorrect store name, Toys R Us with the R even spelled backwards, drew criticism from teachers and parents. But Lazarus knew that his target market consisted of children and that the name would catch their attention.
Aside from having a Ferris wheel, the Times Square Toys R Us flagship also has a replica of the New York City landmark, the Chrysler Building, made entirely out of Lego blocks!