IR: There’s so much magic wrapped around toy stores. What do you think it takes to keep that magic alive in a modern-day toy store?
LY: The magic comes from the nature of the toys themselves, there’s always so much to explore and surprises to experience. At Toys”R”Us, we are able to deliver some of that magic into the ever evolving digital world creating an emotional connection with children and their families. Shoppers can now experience toys in very creative ways, whether physically or online, that only enhances their excitement and emotions.
We are also planning to launch physical stores that will have a completely different experience for shoppers than previous Toys”R”Us stores. Our ambition is very much to create ‘destination’ retail. They will be designed to complement our digital first approach with the 30,000 to 40,000 choices of toys and baby products available to our customers to interact and get ‘hands-on’ with before they purchase. There will be nothing else like this anywhere in the world.
IR: What are some of the most popular, on-trend toys right now that parents should keep top of mind?
LY: Many toy vendors have showcased innovative 2022 ranges with so many exciting products that are expected to hit shelves over the next few months. Toys that offer eco-sustainability combined with creative play, engaging children with fun, learning, social development, cognitive and physical development are what’s poised to resonate with families this year.
IR: Toys R Us is undergoing a major transformation at the moment and expanding overseas. What’s it been like to be at the helm of that great change?
LY: It’s definitely been a mix of pleasure and pressure. I’m so excited about the opportunity to be a key part of the journey to rebuild this heritage brand domestically and overseas. At the same time, it comes with an immense responsibility not only to key stakeholders, but also to our extended business partners, the entire Toys“R”Us team and most importantly our loyal customers who are connected deeply to our brand.
IR: What are some interesting observations you’ve made about customers in the past two years when it comes to toys?
LY: Many toy customers have shifted their traditional shopping habits from bricks-and-mortar to the choice and convenience that ecommerce offers. The transformation to online shopping happened early on for industries like gaming, computers, and fashion, whereas there has just recently been a swift acceleration to online shopping for toy shoppers over the last two years. This period has presented incredible challenges and changes to the lifestyles of people around the world and our customers have been no exception. As a result, we have seen our customers demonstrate an increased awareness of role play and educational toys to support emotional health and wellbeing.
IR: What are some of the biggest challenges in the retail toy industry at the moment?
LY: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about the world over the past two years. Both supply and logistics have experienced great challenges and this has continued into 2022. Supply constraints, material shortages, and logistics service increases have made it tougher to forecast planning schedules for the holiday season in particular. Less product innovation due to R&D resource constraints at the manufacturing level is an area that we look forward to seeing improving in the near future.
IR: What are some of your favourite retailers around the world and why?
LY: Over the last few years my own personal shopping habits have changed and I am doing a lot more online. During that time my list of favourite retailers has grown to include the likes of FARFETCH and NET-A-PORTER. It isn’t just about product offering anymore, people now expect the shopping process to be straightforward and that impacts their decision on who they buy with. I find myself increasingly drawn to online retailers who use more lifestyle photos and videos as well as those offering augmented virtual reality try-on for specific styles and colours in the fashion and beauty space.
On my list for toy stores at the moment are Toys“R”Us Hong Kong and the newly opened Toys“R”Us American Dream experiential store. Both go beyond being the traditional model, becoming a family destination. They double as a store and fun day out, where parents and children alike can play and enjoy in the toy store environment.
IR: What retail trends have you got your eye on at the moment?
LY: There are three key trends I think we will continue to see coming out this year and into the future.
1. Digital first and omnichannel experiences as a combined business strategy will continue to be a trend for retail, particularly in Australia. Consumers are not only looking for products from specialists but convenience is key in our modern, busy lives across all age groups.
2. Businesses who have a digital first mindset and a personalised focus will stand out from their competitors.
3. Sustainability practices will also have an increasingly important role when it comes to purchasing decisions and is something consumers will continue to expect from retailers and brands.