美國玩具零售巨擘玩具反斗城（Toys R Us）準備清盤（liquidate）之際，再傳出令人傷感的消息，公司創辦人拉扎勒斯（Charles Lazarus）3月22日逝世，終年94歲。玩具反斗城前總裁戈爾茨坦（Michael Goldstein）形容，拉扎勒斯是玩具業之父，熱愛玩具和兒童，每當看見小孩玩玩具，便會喜形於色。玩具反斗城發聲明，承認近期有不少悲傷時刻，但都沒有拉扎勒斯辭世的消息「更讓人心碎」（heartbreaking），對他辭世致哀，並會懷緬他的樂觀和熱情。
拉扎勒斯1923年在華盛頓（Washington）出生，父母經營單車店。他年少時被徵召參與第二次世界大戰（World War II），1948年退役後開設嬰兒用品店，後來兼售玩具。美國二戰後迎來嬰兒潮（baby boom），拉扎勒斯發現玩具業前景無可限量，加上超市1950年代在美國興起，拉扎勒斯靈機一觸，想出以超市模式設立玩具零售店，1957年開設首間玩具反斗城，隨即大受歡迎，其電視廣告歌《I'm a Toys R Us kid》家傳戶曉，玩具亦由節日限定的商品逐漸轉變成人們日常消費。
拉扎勒斯行事親力親為，經常跟家人巡視店舖，每年更會出席玩具展（toy fair）尋找新產品，使玩具反斗城與生產商合作無間，得以發售最新玩具。縱橫玩具業多年的羅森堡（Marc Rosenberg）憶述，拉扎勒斯每年均是玩具展焦點，當他遇上喜歡的玩具時，即會開懷大笑，年輕從業員都視這為最高榮譽（highest honor）。
玩具反斗城1980年代起拓展海外業務（overseas business），分店遍及英國、新加坡、香港等地區。首間日本分店1992年開幕時，拉扎勒斯與時任美國總統老布什（George H.W. Bush）共同出席儀式，可見玩具反斗城影響力之大（influential）。
玩具反斗城2005年賣盤給私募基金（private equity）投資者，但業績未見改善，去年9月申請破產（bankruptcy）保護。公司宣佈，由於未能實現債務重組（debt restructuring），將在未來數月關閉美國700多家門市，清盤定於昨日開始。拉扎勒斯近年健康轉差，早前因呼吸系統衰竭（respiratory failure）入住紐約一間醫院，延至前日病逝。
Father of the toy business passed away at the age of 94
【譯文】The American retail giant Toys R Us faced another heartbreaking news after it was about to liquidate, that the founder of the company Charles Lazarus died on March 22 at the age of 94. The former chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Goldstein described Lazarus as the "father of the toy business", saying that he was passionate about toys and kids and his face lit up whenever he saw kids playing with toys. The company issued a statement acknowledging that there had been many sad moments recently and none more heartbreaking than the news about the passing of Lazarus. The company lamented over his death and would forever be grateful for his positive energy and passion.
Lazarus was born in 1923 in Washington, with parents running a bike shop. He was recruited to participate in World War II at a younger age. Following completion of the military service in 1948, he opened a store to sell baby furniture and later switched to toys. In anticipation of a postwar baby boom, Lazarus envisaged that toy industry would have a prosperous future; and as enlightened by the success of the self-service grocery supermarkets emerged in the late 1950s, he took a chance to adopt a similar model in toy retailing. Finally, the first toys-specific store was opened in 1957 and the brand was so popular that its jingle "I'm a Toys R Us kid" became an anthem for children across the country. Meanwhile, the success of the company had gradually turned toys as festival-limited commodities into daily consumer products.
Lazarus built his business with his own hands and often visited the stores with his family, or attended toy fairs each year to search for new products, such that his company had set up a collaborative partnership with various manufacturers to sell the hottest toys. According to the experienced toy marketer Marc Rosenberg, Lazarus was always the central figure in toy fairs and he often burst into laughter whenever he saw something interesting in the toy market, and his appreciation was often regarded as the highest honor for young marketers.
Toys R Us had its business expanded overseas since 1980s with branches spreading worldwide to the regions of Britain, Singapore and Hong Kong etc. When Lazarus' business first expanded to Japan in 1992, he attended the opening ceremony with accompany of the former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, reflecting how influential the company was.
The company's former CEO Gerald Storch described Lazarus as the pioneer of large department stores and his business concept was as revolutionary as that of the prevailing e-commerce nowadays. Lazarus stepped down as CEO in 1994 and chairman in 1998, added that the traditional toy industry had to face increasingly severe competition from chain supermarkets and online shopping, the company was eventually overtaken by Walmart in 1998 as the largest American toy retailer. Also, the popularity of video games and mobile games changed the way of children's entertainment, such that the demand for toys was not as huge as before.
Toys R Us was sold to private equity investors in 2005. Not seeing much improvement in its performance, the company consequently filed for bankruptcy in September 2017. It announced to begin closing down over 700 U.S. stores in the coming few months because of its failure to achieve debt restructuring, and it started to go for liquidation recently. Lazarus had been in deteriorating health condition in recent years and admitted to a hospital in New York suffering from respiratory failure. The iconic figure finally passed away on March 22.■龐嘉儀
3. 該公司的分支「Toys R Us, International」在全球（美國之外）約有多少間分店？
1. 美國新澤西州（New Jersey）