After hearing the news that Toys R Us UK was to go into administration on Wednesday morning, removal men Mark Connor and John Banks decided to pop into the business’s tired-looking store on the outskirts of Manchester city centre for a “nostalgia trip”.
“It’s like a relic from the 80s,” said Banks. “The last time I came here, I was playing with Transformers.”
Connor said he was keeping his eye out for Lego or Star Wars toys for his five-year-old son, but found that – despite the business’s troubles – prices were still too high. “I’ve just compared one item they’ve got over there to what’s on eBay,” he said. “It’s £40 and you can get it for £15 online.”
The 30,000 sq ft Toys R Us store in the Ancoats area of the city had been earmarked for closure before the announcement, as the retail park it sits in is set to be redeveloped. On Wednesday morning only a handful of customers could be seen wandering through its aisles, with about 10 members of staff huddled chatting near the tills.
Mike Meszaros, who was in the store to find an outfit for his son for World book day, said he could remember the shop in better days. “You’d come in and it was like Hamleys,” he said. “You’d have staff demonstrating the toys. They’d have stuff set up that you could play with … It’s not like that now. It’s quite sad really.”
Electrical goods retailer Maplin also went into administration on Wednesday morning. The dribble of customers coming out of one of the chain’s small stores on Manchester’s Oxford Road in the afternoon were similarly clear that the business had been a victim of e-commerce.
“Most of the products that they sell, a lot of people, especially younger generations, will now look online for,” said student Jack Poulton. “The only reason I came in today is its proximity to the university and because I needed something immediately, otherwise I would have gone online myself.”
Poulton visited the shop, which has been on the same site for more than 30 years, to see if they stocked a specific magnifying lens. “They didn’t have it,” he said. “But the manager knew instantly where to look. I would have no complaints about the service. It’s just that it’s very easy to find what they sell in Maplin on Amazon these days.”
Inside the tidy and well-ordered store the staff, who usually outnumber customers three-to-one, said they could not speak to the press, but confirmed they had heard the news about the business that morning.
Aslam Malik, who works for Manchester city council, popped in on his way past, after hearing that the company was going into administration, to see if they had a cheap DVD player for his nephew. He did not find what he was looking for.
“What they sell is quality stuff, but they are very expensive,” he said. “You can buy a printer for £20 or £30 from Tesco and Asda these days. I would usually look on eBay and at the big supermarkets for things like that.”