As a child, I grew up spending my weekends at the local shopping centre or high street with my parents as they did the weekly groceries, however, this wasn’t where I found my enjoyment. No, mine was looking forward to being able to run into the massive Toys “R” Us and spend an hour or so playing with their seemingly endless collection of cool toys and games. Whether or not I left the store with anything in my hands, the time alone spent in their huge warehouse-like store was enough satisfaction. As a parent now, however, that magic has all but disappeared and been replaced with Amazon toy purchases that consist of reading a few reviews and clicking “buy” for next day delivery.
One can argue that a huge chunk of the enjoyment of toys, from a child’s perspective, is the process of playing with them even before you buy them. Unfortunately (but fortunately for many), the current way with which we purchase toys has become more transactional rather than experiential. The vast array of options of toys online at the click of a button, and the shorter lifespan of such items means that many of them are eventually treated as something disposable, rather than holding any sentimental value like before.
Sure, online shopping has made toys and pretty much any product more attainable than before, but at risk of sounding too nostalgic, I believe it lacks soul. I am guilty of spending a mere 10 minutes if that, looking for toys online for my kids, then watching them play with it for a few days before they get bored and move back to their trusty iPads (another double-edged sword when it comes to entertainment). I do miss the days of spending a good few hours wandering the aisles (of any stores to be honest) in search of a good product/hidden gem. There is nothing like being able to physically hold a product in your hand before deciding to purchase.
I know it is purely a business decision when it comes to closing down toy stores – why keep these large buildings with even larger overheads open when most of the customers order online anyway? But even if they were to do it on a smaller scale, keep some stores open so that kids, and even their parents, can experience the magic of these stores that have inevitably disappeared during the rise of e-commerce. Having enthusiastic store assistants around who care about their job and enjoy working with such products will always beat, in my opinion, the near robot-like distribution centre workers who handle dozens of products every minute without ever having the time to consider what is passing through their hands.
It is my own opinion that being able to buy toys from stores – really having a look at it and considering carefully if you want to make the purchase and if it sparks joy in the child’s heart – is an experience that can never be replicated through online shopping.