Since writing this earlier in the week Top Toy announced on Thursday 10 January that all shops are now closed. They are not to reopen. Read the official press release here.
It has been in the Danish news over the Christmas break that the only high street toy shop chain (covering mainly BR but also Toys R Us) in Denmark has filed for bankruptcy after attempting to restructure before Christmas. I have been a significant customer of BR for much of my son’s life. It was also somewhere he loved to go to look at toys before he discovered the horror of unboxing videos on YouTube. And there is the crux of the matter. BR’s parent company Top Toy cited “increased digitisation, a higher number of competitors and changing play habits among children” as the main reasons for the company’s demise. BR has been an institution in Denmark since the early 1960s (you can read a time line here in Danish)
One could argue that this shouldn’t be a surprise and that the company should have changed their business model to compete but the question is how when they are competing against the lower priced behemoth that is Amazon?
But when you hear that children are asking for things like iPhone X for Christmas (honestly many adults can’t afford this kind of device!) and spend so much time online now it comes as little surprise to me as a consumer. It makes me a little sad that children are not playing with toys as much as they used to. My son does enjoy playing computer games, coding and watching YouTube but he also loves imaginary games and still plays with a lot of his toys he has had for years, just the games change and mature with him. A balance is important.
However there is something important in supporting bricks and mortar companies, not just independents but also chains. Human interaction and employment offered by these kinds of stores is something we are increasingly losing as shoppers want to be able to get want they want, when they want it and from the convenience of their sofa. I heard over the holiday that there are people who actually make a point of ordering a book cheaper on their phones in front of independent booksellers to make a point (clearly they think the point is that shops are overpriced but what they actually prove is that we are losing sight of treating each other with civility and empathy).
I suppose that I am as much of an offender as the next person of using Amazon to save money on some purchases and also for the convenience it offers me as an expat, especially when the postal costs from PostNord are so high, to send to friends and family outside Denmark. But in 2019 I am going to stop using this as an excuse and where I can buy from real shops with less dubious work and tax practices.
I really believe (or should I say hope) that the move towards dehumanised shopping online will at some point be reversed as people start to miss actual human interaction but it will be a long time coming. But you don’t know what you miss until it’s gone as the cliché goes.