Tuesday, November 18, 2008
In 1948, 25-year-old Charles Lazarus turned his dream of creating a child-oriented business into a reality. A visionary for his time, Lazarus started a baby furniture store, Children's Bargain Town, in Washington, D.C. to cater to the post-war baby boom era. Lazarus filled his store with cribs and baby furniture and ran it single-handedly, overseeing everything from keeping the books to delivering merchandise in customers' homes.
Although quite successful with his baby furniture venture, his customers were constantly inquiring about toys for both infants and older children. After months of listening to customer requests, Lazarus finally acquiesced and began selling toys. The first toy he added to the inventory was a cradle gym. When it proved a strong seller, he added tricycles, books and other toys. Charles learned early on in the toy business that, unlike furniture, toys broke or fell out of fashion with children, prompting parents to return to the store again and again.
Almost ten years later, Charles adopted the supermarket model for his store, which allowed customers to examine and pick out products on their own and pay for them at a checkout stand. With the opening of his second store, he settled on the name Toys"R"Us with a backward "R." Although the name drew ire from parents and teachers alike for its grammatical incorrectness, Lazarus knew it was an attention-getter.
Charles believed that success meant focusing on the everyday shopper, such as a parent searching for the perfect birthday gift or a child hoping to spend his or her weekly allowance. In the pre-mall, pre-discount days, specialty retailing and off-price positioning were revolutionary concepts that Charles leveraged to his advantage. Through his ingenuity, Lazarus expanded his fledgling business into a toy conglomerate and saw his brainchild become a public company in 1978 with established community roots and a loyal customer base from coast to coast. With its iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe introduced in February 1960 and the catchy jingle "I Don't Want to Grow Up, I'm a Toys"R"Us Kid," Toys"R"Us has become one of the most recognized and beloved brands in the world. Today, Toys"R"Us operates nearly 600 store locations across the United States.