Toys “R” Us
This business was inspired by an old supermarket and unbreakable baby beds. Learn what led a World War II veteran to create the Toys ‘R’ Us empire.
Charles Lazarus was a soldier returning from World War II, eager to start a business.
Everyone he talked to seemed to have the same plan: go home, get married, have children, and live the american dream.
So, following his instincts, he opened a baby furniture store inside of his dad’s old bicycle repair business.
It was 1948, and his instincts were spot on. And, as the great baby boom commenced, Lazarus was there selling cribs and furniture to all the proud new parents.
One day, while buying a crib, a woman asked for some toys to go along with it. Lazarus immediately stocked up on some playthings and began selling them. Soon, one of his customers returned. Her baby had smashed the doll she’d bought from Lazarus and she wanted to replace it.
A lightbulb went off. Not only did every kid love toys, but every kid broke toys. Unlike cribs, which would last for the entirety of a child’s life, toys would be replaced again and again. Pretty soon, Lazarus was selling mostly toys.
He expanded the shop into an empty super market next door.
Following the relatively new supermarket format, he began offering customers carts to peruse the new wider selection of toys, and to serve themselves.
It was a recipe for success. In 1957, Lazarus opened his first store dedicated exclusively to toys. He called it Toys “R” Us.
Until then, toys had been a seasonal business dominated by department stores. But Lazarus knew that, by offering a great selection at great prices, he could sustain the business year round.
It didn’t hurt that television ads had started pushing the new concept of “hot toys,” new toys that every kid wanted, whether it was December or September.
By 1966, Lazarus was selling about $12 million of toys every year.
He sold the company and stayed on as CEO until 1994.
Today, Toys “R” Us has more than 1000 locations worldwide, doing nearly $14 billion in revenue.
Charles Lazarus exemplifies two of our Axioms For Entrepreneurs: