|Born||October 4, 1923|
Washington D.C., U.S.
|Died||March 22, 2018 (aged 94)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Known for||Founder of Toys "R" Us, Inc. & Babies "R" Us|
Charles Philip Lazarus (October 4, 1923 – March 22, 2018) was an American entrepreneur, executive, and pioneer within the retail toy industry. Lazarus founded the Toys "R" Us retail chain, which evolved from a children's furniture store he originally opened in Washington D.C. in 1948. He opened his first store dedicated exclusively to toys, which he named Toys "R" Us, in 1957.
Lazarus was born on October 4, 1923, in Washington D.C., where he was raised as a child. His parents, Frank and Phoebe Lazarus, owned and operated a bike shop. Lazarus served as a cryptographer in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Following WWII, Lazarus returned to Washington D.C., to enter the children's furniture business during the late 1940s. He was inspired by his generation of servicemen who, like himself, returned from WWII, married and began having children. Lazarus began selling cradles and cribs inside his father's existing bicycle store. With help from an uncle who was already in the furniture store, Lazarus soon took over the family's entire storefront. In 1948, Lazarus opened his first store, Children’s Bargain Town, a children's furniture store located at 2461 18th St. NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. He primarily focused on strollers and baby cribs during his store's first few years in business.
Though Lazarus originally focused on children's furniture and strollers, he soon became interested in the toy business based on his customer's habits and preferences. Lazarus noticed that parents frequently visited his store to purchase the latest toys and stuffed animals, as their children lost interest in their older toys in favor of new ones. During the 1950s, he became exploring the idea of opening a new store dedicated to toys, which were more profitable, rather than children's furniture.
In an interview with DSN Retailing Today, Lazarus recalled that his venture into toy retailing was not planned when he opened his first store in 1948, telling the publication, "The toy business was kind of an accident...I started out selling a few baby toys and realized that customers didn’t buy another crib or another high chair or playpen as their family grew, but they did buy toys for each child."
In 1957, Lazarus opened his first toys-only store in nearby Rockville, Maryland. He named the store Toys "R" Us. Lazarus tweaked the name and logo by turning the "R" around to face the left, to appear as if a small child had written it.
Over the next several decades, Toys "R" Us, headed by Lazarus, expanded to suburban shopping areas across the US. Under Lazarus, the company created the Geoffrey the Giraffe store mascot and introduced the "I'm a Toys "R" Us kid." jingle. The company was considered a retail titan by the 1980s as it began to expand overseas with locations in Canada, Spain, and Singapore. In 1992, U.S. President George H.W. Bush appeared with Lazarus at the opening of the first Toys "R" Us in Japan.
Lazarus retired as chief executive officer (CEO) of Toys "R" Us in 1994. He remained chairman of the company until 1998. That same year, Walmart surpassed Toys "R" Us as the largest toy retailer in the US for the first time.
Personal life and death
Lazarus was married three times. He had two daughters with his first wife Udyss Lazarus: Ruth and Diane; they divorced in 1979. His second wife Helen Singer Kaplan was a sex therapist. Charles and Helen were married until her death on August 17, 1995. His third wife was an interior decorator Joan Regenbogen.
Lazarus died of respiratory failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on March 22, 2018, at the age of 94. Lazarus' death occurred just one day before Toys "R" Us began liquidation sales in the United States.
- Corkery, Michael (March 22, 2018). "Charles P. Lazarus, Toys 'R' Us Founder, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 31, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Arnold, Laurence (March 23, 2018). "Toys 'R' Us Founder Charles Lazarus Dies at 94". Bloomberg News. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Smith, Harrison (March 22, 2018). "Charles Lazarus, who turned a Washington bike business into Toys R Us, dies at 94". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Thorne, James (March 22, 2018). "Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus dies at 94, as toy empire liquidates". CNBC. Retrieved April 30, 2018.