There’s been bad news for British retail in recent weeks, with toy retailer Toys R Us and electronics chain Maplin both collapsing. The problems for Maplin and Toys R Us go beyond the issues facing every bricks-and-mortar retailer. Here are some lessons we can learn from their closures.

Online shopping will almost always win on price

Toys R Us and Maplin both faced stiff competition from online marketplaces and retailers, such as eBay and Amazon. When consumers find an identical product online for a much lower price, they aren’t going to pay extra to buy from the high street. With the many different delivery and collection options online retailers now offer, it’s often more convenient than visiting a shop, too. And with many supermarkets also selling toys and electronics, consumers are likely to look there first.

Toys R Us and Maplin didn’t really have anything extra to offer over their online competitors. You visited their shops to buy something, not for the customer service or brand. Retailers are tired of hearing they need their shop to be an ‘experience’ for customers, but you do need to take steps to provide a service that online retailers can’t offer.

Offering your own online service alongside your physical stores is all but essential, but the link between these two elements is almost as crucial, so that you can gain a complete picture of how different customer subsets interact with your brand.

Your brand is more important than ever

Maplin and Toys R Us are weak brands - no-one feels a strong connection with them. To instill any customer loyalty at all, you need to know your brand, and make sure it’s consistent in all that you do. Shout about your company values, whether it’s supporting local suppliers, providing only the best quality products, or offering a bespoke service to customers.

Customers need a reason other than price to keep coming back to your business and recommend your services to others.

What worked 10-20 years ago won’t necessarily work now

Toys R Us expanded quickly by locating stores in out-of-town shopping centres where rates and rent were cheap. But they never really changed their strategy when online competitors and supermarkets suddenly became more convenient, and cheaper. The market had changed, and Toys R Us didn’t.

In Maplin’s case, their employees’ expertise set them apart - but now, customers are more comfortable with searching for answers to their technical questions online, than trusting the word of a salesperson who has targets to meet.


This article may sound a bit gloomy - but we hope we’ve shown that these retailers’ downfall wasn’t only down to the market. Independent retailers are in a better position to respond to market changes more quickly than large chains, and these days, the technology used by big businesses is also accessible to smaller companies.

From accounting to stock management, you can use the data collected by software to improve business processes and protect your margins in the face of rising costs.

To find out how Trader could play in part in your company’s ongoing success, contact us today.