If you’re like me, you’re definitely a “Toys R Us Kid”, so, seeing a once giant retailer like Toys R Us close its doors for good is a little heartbreaking. I spent a lot of time there in my childhood, and, while it was magical as a little kid, I haven’t been there in over a decade. It’s still sad nonetheless.

However, if we really look at it, it’s not all that surprising. Toys R Us has been heading down this path for a long, long time. There are probably numerous reasons as to why this is happening, including a massive amount of debt it was unable to over come, but, to me, none are more damning than Toys R Us’s obvious lack of innovation and executive’s reluctance to change and keep up with the times.

The once giant retail company filed bankruptcy in September of last year in order to restructure debt and introduce changes to be more “competitive”. The advances, which included in-store augmented reality games and children’s playrooms, proved to be ineffective — not to mention a at least a few years too late — in attracting more shoppers from the comforts of their couches this past holiday season.

The simple truth is, Toys R Us put itself in this situation. The blame falls squarely on management’s shoulders. Over the last two decades while the internet was starting to boom, e-commerce started becoming commonplace, smartphones in every consumers pockets became the new norm, and social media took off, Toys R Us failed to innovate its business model, incorporate technology, or adapt to changing consumer behavior… and it did them in!

Toys R Us Aisle

Retail stores in general have been suffering for years, trying to stay relevant and bring something new to the table as folks begin shopping more and more with online retailers like eBay and Amazon right at the tip of their fingers. No one NEEDS to leave their house to go shopping for much anymore, especially toys, so retailers have had to up their games to compete. They’ve had to add immersive shopping experiences to their stores that consumers just won’t find online.

A prime example of a toy store embracing change and keeping up with this philosophy is American Girl. Little girls love American Girl dolls and are excited about going shopping in American Girl stores. The company created an upscale, immersive shopping experience featuring doll hair and beauty salons,  photo studios, and even cafes that you can only get in their stores. They provide entertainment – and that’s what really keeps people coming back into the store.

Toys R Us lagged far behind in terms of innovating and bringing new shopping experiences to the table. Why would people shop there when they could easily buy the same toys on a trip to Walmart or Target to get milk? Why would someone chose to go out of their way to go to a Toys R Us store when they could find the same toys online for much cheaper? The answer: most wouldn’t and this is the result.

While it is sad, the ending of a company like Toys R Us, which has been an icon in American culture for quite sometime can teach retail brands and organizations a few simple but important points. While price points are important, they are not the end-all-be-all in consumers minds. Creating innovative, memorable, and immersive shopping experiences for consumers is becoming more and more important if traditional retailers want to keep up with the Amazon’s of the world. Putting items on a shelf in a big room full of aisles is not enough anymore. People want experiences – like the kind you can get at the Apple Store, Build-a-Bear Workshop, or the American Girl store.

If other traditional brick-and-mortor retailers are to stick around and be successful in our mobile and internet obsessed wold, they need to be able to adapt quickly, innovate, and plan for the future in ways they hadn’t thought about before – or, they could be heading for a slow, painful death. Just like Toys R Us. #RIP