Remembering The Jolly Giant: Glasgow’s own Toys ‘R’ Us

Toys R Us announced this week that they would be back in the form of an online store this week - so we looked back at Glasgow’s history with the American toy store.
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Glasgow used to have three Toys R Us stores before the firm went into administration back in 2018 - and before that our city was host to it’s very own version of the American childrens superstore.

The Jolly Giant was founded in Scotland on August 7, 1980 - and had their flagship store, alongside their headquarters, in Rutherglen. The toy store also had shops in Jordanhill Inverness, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, and at Peffermill in Edinburgh alongside more than a dozen outlets across Britain.

Jolly Giants were typically housed within large warehouse buildings and located in out of town areas, within easy reach of major road links - very similar to the Toys R Us stores that would soon replace them.

Kids loved dragging their parents to The Jolly Giant and it’s unending array of the latest toys and games - all you had to do was get by the petrifying animatronic Jolly Giant that guarded the door.

The Jolly Giant was Glasgow’s answer to Toys R Us in the 80s and 90s.The Jolly Giant was Glasgow’s answer to Toys R Us in the 80s and 90s.
The Jolly Giant was Glasgow’s answer to Toys R Us in the 80s and 90s.

Online blogger, GreyKodiak, recalls the Jolly Giant stores at Rutherglen and Jordanhill and questions why there is so little information about the once ubiquitous toy chain on the internet:“I vaguely remember seeing their adverts on the TV with a cartoon giant that looked a bit like Treguard from Knightmare.

“I remember the place had a big picture of their giant mascot on the front but otherwise it looked like a giant warehouse buried in an industrial estate. Inside it was fairly dingy in bits with rows and rows of shelves stacked with everything from stickle bricks to the latest radio controlled cars.

“I’m surprised that there’s not much information about the shops on the internet. Usual iconic stuff like this promotes an overwhelming wave of nostalgia.”

For a long time, the Jolly Giant’s only main competitor in Scotland was the globally-successful American toy firm Toys “R” Us, who blogger, Iain Duff, claims provided the inspiration for Jolly Giant in the first place, and that its founder appropriated the idea following a visit to the USA.

Iain Duff wrote:“I remember the place had a big picture of their giant mascot on the front but otherwise it looked like a giant warehouse buried in an industrial estate. Inside it was fairly dingy in bits with rows and rows of shelves stacked with everything from stickle bricks to the latest radio controlled cars.

“I’m surprised that there’s not much information about the shops on the internet. Usual iconic stuff like this promotes an overwhelming wave of nostalgia.”

Throughout the entire UK, Jolly Giant boasted a dozen stores and employed more than 300 people at the height of its success in the early-to-mid 1990s.

By January 1998 however, two years of poor trading figures meant that The Jolly Giant had gone into receivership, and 100 jobs were at risk across the six Scottish stores.

The company cited ‘fierce competition, a difficult and volatile market and high fixed overheads’ as the main reasons behind their financial woes.

Despite a sustained effort, the firm struggled to find a buyer, leaving Jolly Giant’s twelve toy superstores with no other alternative but to shut up shop for good.

Toys R Us took over the entirity of the toy market in Scotland, challenged only by the likes of Hamley’s, until they themselves went into administration twenty years later in 2018.

It’s entirely possible however, that Toys R Us could see a return to Glasgow in the coming years, as New York-based WHP Global secured a long-term deal with Australia’s Toys R Us ANZ to launch both digital and bricks-and-mortar stores in the UK market.

The precise location of where Toys R Us intends to open its new high street stores has not yet been confirmed but given the level of investment in the business it would not be surprising if the brand was to return to Glasgow once more.

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