Food Lifestyle

Step Up to the Toys R Us Wine Bar…and save the company!

Written by Greg Schwem

Moms agree, only a fine cabernet can save the struggling retailer now

Toys R Us is hiring for the holidays!

Toys R Us is going bankrupt!

President Trump said any Toys R Us employee who takes a knee in the stuffed animal aisle should be fired!

OK, the third item is (presently) false; but the first two, conflicting as they may appear, were announced recently by the New Jersey-based retailer. Toys R Us, the Emerald City to children and a House of Horrors to parents, particularly in the frenetic days before Christmas, has fallen on hard times. In this age of online everything, the company has filed for Chapter 11 protection, as it struggles with a $5 billion debt.

And yet, Toys R Us is not going down meekly, recently announcing plans to hire thousands of seasonal workers to deal with what it hopes will be a crush of Christmas shoppers who aren’t lured by Amazon’s click/wait/wrap/place under tree approach to holiday gift buying.

Some might consider the hiring idea to be dead on arrival, considering Amazon’s proven success at running roughshod over traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, no matter their storied histories. But an unscientific poll of my social media contacts has netted a one-word solution that may save Toys R Us from the retail scrap heap that has already claimed stalwarts such as Sports Authority and RadioShack:

Wine.

You read that correctly, Toys R Us executives. Put your faith in the grape. My Facebook community says so, even suggesting a name change for your 875 stores.

“‘Toys 4 Them, Wine 4 U.’ Serve it, and the moms will come,” predicted my friend Terri.

Maureen was more direct. “Serve alcohol!” she advocated.

Let’s, for a moment, consider the scenario: It’s Dec. 23. Mom, amid wrapping gifts, defrosting the holiday turkey, and entertaining kids who have pushed the 1-10 hyperactivity meter into the mid-20s, suddenly realizes she is a few presents short.  Begrudgingly, she fires up the minivan and heads to the nearest Toys R Us. A half-hour search for parking finally results in a spot at the other end of the strip mall, behind a shuttered Blockbuster Video store still without a replacement tenant.

Slipping and sliding through an ice-encrusted parking lot, she enters Toys R Us, nearly colliding with equally haggard parents headed back to their cars, having just purchased large gifts not designed to fit into shopping carts. The corner of a box containing an air hockey table grazes Mom’s cheek; its new owners neglect to apologize for that would require, briefly, stopping. And there is no time to stop on Dec. 23.

But Mom’s mood quickly lightens, for nestled between the Pretend Play and Dolls sections, stands a table manned by a retired sommelier. She is unabashedly cheerful for two reasons: It’s Christmas, and she no longer must shop at Toys R Us, her own millennial-aged kids on their own but, being millennials, in no hurry to produce grandchildren.

Assorted plastic cups of red (who cares what variety?) and white wine (ditto) are neatly arranged. Shoppers are limited to one sample, not enough to merit a DUI but a sufficient amount to take the edge off before doing battle, literally and figuratively, in the Star Wars and Action Figurines sections. Mom grabs a glass, sniffs and sips, feeling her tension melting away. Wine has that effect. Just ask my wife.

Should the “moms consuming wine” idea take off, per Terri’s suggestion, Dads could join in. What Dad wouldn’t want to volunteer for last-minute toy shopping, knowing that free samples of the latest IPA brew await him in the Lego area? Who knows? Introducing a little liquid libation into such a frenzied scene might make parents who are usually hell-bent on exiting the store quickly linger a while longer, make a few impulse purchases and take a bite out of that pesky $5 billion.

If you need any more proof that some in-store, holiday cheer will merit happy, relaxed customers, look no further than Santa himself.

Kris Kringle was always SO happy when my kids put a cold beer next to the milk and cookies.

About the author

Greg Schwem

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