Column: Christmas Miracle? 2 Unlikely Comebacks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Is Santa Claus real? Bringing lots of toys to girls and boys certainly is real, even if marketers, manufacturers and retailers handle the process, instead of the guy in a red suit.

And two recent comebacks – a long-time marketing tradition and a much-loved retailer – have sparked a bit of Christmas miracle nostalgia.

The first is the comeback of the toy catalog. Amazon’s 2023 holiday toy catalog has no Santa on the cover. Regardless, you can’t help but be transported back in time to the days of the iconic Sears toy catalog. Its arrival was a joyous occasion. We’d wear it out, circling everything we wanted from Santa. Every year, I saw the BB gun I wanted but my safety-conscious parents and Santa never granted that wish.

The Amazon toy catalog arrived the first week of October. “A paper catalog in 2023 – what was Amazon thinking?” I wondered. My 5-year-old nephew asked to see it. He went through it cover-to-cover a dozen times. “Oh, that’s what they were thinking.”

While it might seem that paper catalogs would be relegated to history with the advent of e-commerce, they can still be a helpful sales tool for retailers and toy makers. Most toy companies rely on November and December for as much as half of their annual sales. So, it makes sense to do whatever it takes to get out ahead of those months, grab attention and spark interest by eager kids and their time-pressed parents.


The second comeback was an announcement that Toys “R” Us has reopened stores in the United States and plans more. While Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and others made the transition to doing business online and in stores, Toys “R” Us never fully navigated the changeover.

The New York Times reports, “Toys “R” Us opened the first store in 1957 and was once the world’s largest toy store chain. But in 2017, facing long-term debt totaling more than $5 billion, the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Toys “R” Us closed the last of its 735 U.S. stores by June 2018.”

Toys “R” Us began its comeback in 2021 when it opened a flagship store at American Dream mall in New Jersey. After that, Toys “R” Us launched 452 mini-shops inside Macy’s stores. More stand-alone stores are coming as well as shops in airports and on cruise ships.

Many parents and children born after 1957 likely have fond memories of wandering giant Toys “R” Us stores filled with everything from scooters to video games to dolls and action figures. Some may remember seeing Geoffrey the Giraffe, the Toys “R” Us mascot.


The Amazon toy catalog and the return of Toys “R” Us may not qualify as Christmas miracles. Know what would? Coming downstairs Christmas morning and seeing a BB gun under the tree with my name on it.

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email