Toys R Us, the giant toy seller, has gone into administration.
Its a very sad day for them. And it will be reported as such. For about five minutes.
3,200 direct jobs at risk. Many hundreds of other indirect jobs at risk too.
If this were a steel mill or a car plant employing far fewer workers, the government would be pressured to intervene and the press would demand action. But as its just retail, no one will do anything.
Maplins have gone into administration too. That's after going down in 2014.
That's another 2500+ jobs gone.
Retail renews itself used to be true. Not anymore. Where there used to be a Woolworths, ten years ago, today will be a Poundland. H&M, Or a Primark, about the only brick retailers who could fill that size space today. But there are thousands upon thousands of empty retail units. Many unlet for over a decade.
Years ago when the retail crisis first hit we asked on here what will replace the shops. I suggested we couldn't all be working serving coffee and delivering parcels to each other. Turns out, we can.
I went into Toys R Us in the summer. Transformer toy hunting. I prefer Smyths Toy Store, who will be gaining from Toys misfortune. But my boy likes Toys R US best.
Having been an administrator and retail liquidator in the past, I saw instantly this firm was at collapse. And all the signs saying "Refitting". "reserved for new stock coming" and "this till is closed please use the main entrance one," couldn't hide that.
Toys R US were the pioneers of the big, in and out of town shed units. The cathedrals of retail. That like their medieval inspirations, are now just the same empty, costly monuments to a religion that has moved online.
Shelf spacing. Where stock is displayed with space between items. And the top shelves are empty. Something that is heresy in a superstore.
"We aren't a newspaper. We Don't Sell Space"
Unit removal. Whole sections where a fixture has been taken away. You can see the pressure marks and edge dirt marks on the floors. Concession stock unfilled. This is sale or return lines . And looking poorly where the bill hasn't been paid and no new stock is being delivered until it has.
In these big shed units, its a mini cherry picker required to change a light-bulb up in the girders. Some have their own. But its a health and safety nightmare. As well as being very costly. So sometimes a firm comes in and changes all the strip lights every 6-12 months. Replaces the spots. Dusts the permanent signage, etc.
When they haven't been paid, the lights really do start to go out.
That yellow Warning Tape covering ripped and peeling up flooring or holes in walls. Cables wrapped in brown tape. Tills unmanned where the recruitment freeze was operating. These signs led me to tell my young son whatever he was thinking of buying, get it today. Because we probably won't be coming back.
That was the summer. In the winter it was worse.
I remember remarking to Mrs Q that if you can't sell toys at Christmas, you can't sell toys at all.
The Entertainer, another Toy chain, are saying how well they are doing. But I believe it is only them. A very sound, private, company. That doesn't take risks. They are very unusual in retail for how they operate.
The retail consultants are on the media and lamenting that neither Maplins nor Toys understood the change they were in. That to remain relevant they both needed to invest in many more staff and selling themselves as knowledge centres of their products.
I have never agreed with this as a general strategy. It works for some. But staff are the greatest expense in a retail business. Their wages continually rise whether profits are up or down.
Rents can be renegotiated. As can stock prices. But wages are fixed by law.
And just having knowledgeable people won't make consumers spend with you if your prices are higher than amazon.
Its knowledge and sales skills. If retailers were like car showrooms, softly applying the pressure, they might do better. But that's even more costly and just as fraught with risk.
I believe I could have come up with some ideas for Toys R us. Some method of recapturing market share. Boosting footfall. Finding a better, alternative use for the giant space they occupy and the giant space that is their car park area.
Kids cafes and ice rinks. Soft play and scooter tracks. Nerf gun shooting range and firefight.
Digital video games centres and craft areas. Music and rock band and singing / garage band/song star/ Hollywood film making zone.
A much more involved, interactive and cheap, half day out destination focus. With the selling Toy focus more like the giftshop at the end of the ride at a theme park.
Thank God I no longer do this.
And don't have to cost it. And charge a large fee to present a cash strapped board with staggeringly expensive, risk-ridden, only possible, partial solutions to the ongoing retail evolution.
And even better haven't got to explain to Maplins that glitter balls and disco lights aren't going to be enough to survive in the twenty first century.
Expect more of this this year. The rent rise and the pound bite, plus the consumer slowdown that the car dealers and supermarkets have been reporting for the last six months, will tip a few more into insolvency.