When Toys “R” Us announced it was shutting down for good this spring, it was a nostalgic whack in the shins for millions of adults who remember the store as one of the most exciting places to shop, once upon a time. Speaking for myself, getting to actually go to Toys “R” Us was something of a treat — my family didn’t have a lot of money when I was little, and most of my toys came second-hand back then. Because Toys “R” Us is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing or being acquired, all of the property the store owned is up for sale. That includes some domain names that might raise eyebrows.
As Geek.com reports, domains now on the chopping block include Sex Toys R Us, Kinky Toys R Us, Adult Toys R Us, Porn R Us, and Naughty Toys R Us. As they note, the practical explanation for this is simple: Like most companies, Toys R Us snapped up the domains that squatters might target to make a buck off its product lines, that customers might think were affiliated with its own brand (even if they weren’t) and, inevitably, the domains that trolls might use to target its products (IHateToysRUs). Some companies also go out of their way to acquire common misspellings of their own names to prevent you from winding up buried six feet deep in spyware for the mistake of visiting “Amazoo” as opposed to Amazon. (Note: I don’t actually know if Amazon owns that domain, so don’t get cocky when you visit it).
But it’s amusing to think about what might have been, given that Toys R Us ultimately had to file for bankruptcy — even if that bankruptcy had much more to do with private equity than any fundamental problem with the stores sales. That’s not to say Toys R Us was in fabulous shape — it’s not a good time to be in retail, period — but a leveraged buyout in 2005 left the company loaded with billions of dollars in debt while the private equity firm that pulled the deal off sucked value out of the company. It’s the same story with other retail companies, including Sports Authority, Gymboree, Payless Shoesource, Claire’s, and J. Crew.
In many cases, these firms face challenging operating operating conditions related to the growth of e-commerce sites and the decline of the most American of American institutions, the shopping mall. Some of them would have (or will) collapse on their own. But in many cases, the same firms facing down challenging online and retail conditions are doing it while loaded with debt. Toys’R’Us, for example, had to make $400M in payments per year on its debts.
Now, imagine. Instead of a toxic descent into bankruptcy, Toys R Us could’ve whipped out some of those adult domain names, partnered with some streaming video sites, gotten in touch with some of the high-tech porn companies that often want to talk to us about their various projects, and rebranded itself as the new leader in giraffe-themed adult entertainment.
On second thought… maybe don’t imagine that. I’m not sure eight-year-old me can take it.