Here in the United Kingdom.

There is an ever-expanding mini-league of utterly, utterly pig-thick retailers.

Criteria for inclusion include (but are not restricted to):

  1. Short term, blinkered thinking with a refusal to learn from the mistakes of others like them.
  2. A couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude amongst front line staff.
  3. Zero focus on ‘experience’.
  4. Being filthy and/or untidy and thinking that an ‘it’ll do’ approach is a good thing and not a totally shit thing.
  5. Having zero pride in who they are, having no idea of the change the brand is trying to make and bemoaning things that they can’t control instead of addressing things that they can.

Expansion and Contraction.

The mini-league of utterly, utterly pig-thick retailers will continue to expand.

Then contract.

Because when these lazy, boring, utterly detestable entities go out of business.

They leave the league.

And it shrinks.

The Leader.

Smyths Toys is the current leader of the mini-league of utterly, utterly pig-thick retailers.

A uniquely stupid retailer.

Because they are an almost exact replica of a recent global collapse.

Toys R Us.

And they are too stupid to notice (or care).

Smyths Toys. 

Smyths Toys have fattened as they are sucked into the temporary vacuum that Toys R Us left behind.

They are just as fucking filthy as Toys R Us stores were, of course.

And just as untidy.

And with – as far as I can see – no discernible strategy other than, “let’s fill a shitty warehouse with as much plastic as we can, knock two quid off everything, and get a cluster of uninspired hungover teenagers to unlock the doors 5 minutes after we advertise that we are suppose to open. Then get them to just stand there.”

And it is because of these things and more.

That they deserve to fail.


Another part of the Smyths Toys strategy is to actively ignore the most absolutely obvious opportunities to get the edge over Amazon – today.

Before Amazon do exactly what they are doing now, but much, much better – tomorrow.

And destroy them.

Example 1.

So here’s a good idea if you are Smyths Toys.

Stock scaled-down electric cars that children are meant to sit inside of, gently push a pedal and experience ‘driving’ at up to 4km per hour.

They cost around £150 each.

The kind that, if purchased via the Internet, there is no chance of understanding much about them beyond what they look like in a photograph or video and how they work from a typed, pseudo-technical specification.

Then place them chest high on shelves so the target user (a 3 year old) can’t see them.

Then get the lazy, static children that work at Smyths to stand behind the counter and scowl at you when you lift a car down for your 3 year old to sit in.

Make sure that if a different child spat, shat or scuffed the car the day before, none of the limpet children behind the counter make any effort, at any time, to make the little car any cleaner or more hygienic for today’s customers.

Then ensure that the electric car does not work.

At all.

Make sure there is zero charge so that the child has absolutely no idea about the experience of using and/or potentially owning the product.

When, by doing the exact opposite of all of these things, you’d have beaten ‘The Internet’ in a nanosecond.

Example 2.

Unbox remote control cars.

And various other experiential or multi-sensory things like mini traffic lights.

And make sure that they too don’t work.

So that adults like me.

Find themselves stood in a filthy warehouse on a Saturday morning.

Explaining in words and mimes what ‘Remote Control’ means.

To a 3 year old.

Instead of clicking a handset.

And showing her.


I really can’t stand lazy people.

I can’t stand unrealised potential that remains unrealised because those that could be realising it don’t raise their heads to look.

And think.

And it does not matter to me that Smyths have 110 shops and turn over half a billion quid.

Because whilst this is no doubt a well oiled machine logistically.

It’s just horribly, horribly lazy and ordinary and uninspired at the pointy end.

And I can’t stand how we, the consumers, put up with it.

The Answer. 

There are many ways that clever retailers can beat ‘The Internet’.

But first.

They have to give a shit.

They have to want to be good.

They have to care.

Toy retailers, for example, have to want to employ warm, engaging, children-loving adults that put the child before the adult.

That crouch down and look the child in the eye.



Helping them to understand what one toy is or does.

Knowing almost telepathically that the way they are being and what they are saying to the child is OK with the child’s parent.

Speaking to the child softly.



And kindly.

This is all do-able.

But no one in the ever-expanding mini-league of utterly, utterly pig-thick retailers is doing it.

And I can’t stand it.


As I left Smyths Toys near Silverlink in Newcastle on Saturday.

I watched as a short, rotund, orange employee in his mid twenties danced a little jig and told stories of last night’s drunkenness and stupidity to three of his teenage colleagues in blue shirts.

The three teens focussed on his giggling orange face.

And probably gagged a little on his warm, beery breath.

He was their superior in Smyths Toys.

And their horribly, horribly inferior in life.


I left the store sad that this dancing tit cared little about Smyths.

Sad that he cared little for the young co-employees he was poisoning.

Sad that he cared nothing for me.

And saddest – and angriest of all.

That he cared nothing at all for a child – and a customer – called Izobel.


  1. Sadly, from my experiences, the musical instrument retail sector is exactly the same. Bored, lazy, unkempt retail assistants who seem to regard themselves as guardians of their stock, begrudging potential customers the opportunity of trying stuff before buying. No surprise that they also can’t compete with “The Internet”. Because these are much smaller enterprises than Smyths, they close down much sooner. And yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

    • Hello Geoff

      I agree that it doesn’t have to be this way.

      But I also think that retail CAN compete with the Internet.

      If they are clever.

      And if they think deeply.

      And innovate well.

      And really, really, really want to.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Geoff.


  2. Retail is my passion and it pains me that the idea that the shopping ‘experience’ being the differentiator for actual vs virtual is so difficult for many large retailers to grasp. When it seem so obvious to the rest of us.

    Touch, try, smell, taste… these are the sensory drivers as yet undelivered online, so these should be the reasons to choose to ‘go shop’ rather than stay and ‘home shop’ – and yet they’re still so often ignored.

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