Mourning a Store’s Demise


Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC

Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs

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Count me among those nostalgic parents feeling a little sad from the demise of a popular toy store chain. I am not ashamed to admit that a part of me hurts at the prospect of Toys R Us closing all its stores in the United States as well as in Europe – as announced this March 2018.

A store chain that started in 1954 and lasted more than 70 years, Toys R Us announced it would soon liquidate close to 800 stores in the US that will lead to a massive layoff of more than 30,000 employees. Saddled by huge debts and dwindling sales brought about by stiff competition from other toy outlets like Walmart and Target, as well as online shopping entities through Amazon, Toys R Us initially announced that it filed for bankruptcy in September 2017 to allow it to renew infusion of resources to the beleaguered toy company. Quite obviously, those efforts proved futile.

This is a sad denouement for an iconic box type store chain that carried a huge array of merchandise for the young and the young at heart. Every parent who has children will expectedly have some relationship with any store that sells playthings, gadgets, educational and recreational materials, among others. Unarguably one of the biggest store chain that carries aisles and aisles of merchandise that appeals to all ages, Toys R Us must have been able to establish a connection with any parent who seeks every opportunity to forge and sustain a warm and lasting relationship with his or her children.

Toys R Us was part of my travel itinerary for many years in the 1990s – whether I was in a Cardiology meeting in the United States or in Europe — or just on vacation elsewhere in a big city where this toy store maintains a franchise. For every trip then, a mandatory item on my to-do list was a visit to a toy store prior to returning home – where my then young growing children Luigi, Franco and Sofia would wait patiently for my arrival to find out if they had any toy ‘pasalubong’.

Toys were an integral part of the growing up years of my children (well, all children for that matter). I would categorically declare that this toy store helped me bond with and raise my children. I have been through it all – the Bey Blades, Bakugans, Transformers, Tamiya, Voltes 5, among others—which would render my boys, Luigi and Franco, delirious whenever I brought home boxes of gifts from the store. The store plastic bag had become so iconically recognizable that the mere sight of the bag would sometimes elicit a shriek or scream among them when I would unpack my luggage – never mind that all it contained sometimes were dirty clothes from a trip. Bringing home a toy (or any ‘pasalubong’) somehow made up for the days of absence – for missing out a school event or failing to join a school activity. The more days of absence, or the more events missed, the more was the number of toys. Thus, this quid pro quo worked to our mutual advantage.

Just a few months ago, while in Hong Kong for the Christmas holidays (some decades after I stopped frequenting Toys R Us ), Franco and Luigi, who are now pursuing Medicine, along with my daughter Sofia, decided to pass by the store in Hong Kong if only to relive their childhoods and keep track of what children are preoccupied with nowadays. Quite amusingly, they still had a great time appreciating some of the newer stuff that no longer define their daily lives (long since replaced by iPhones , iPads and other gadgets) but still delicious enough to whet their appetite for the fun things of their childhood lives.

Sadly, some good things really never last. In a few more weeks, as estimated by the store officials, the stores would have vanished from mainland America and other parts of the globe after all the inventory of stocks has been liquidated. As all those merchandise disappear from the shelves of those stores, there goes as well – for good and forever – the toy sanctuary that has profoundly housed an abundance of memories of childhoods and family bonding times. Those include mine.

June 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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