Remembering Jolly Giant: The Scottish Toys 'R' Us

NOT to be confused with his veg-loving, green-coloured American cousin, the '˜Jolly Giant' was the colossal poster boy for a now defunct UK toy chain that enjoyed massive popularity during the eighties and nineties.

Monday, 18th September 2017, 5:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:36 am
Signage at Jolly Giant in Peffermill, Edinburgh, which opened in 1991. Picture: TSPL

Founded in Scotland on 7 August 1980, toy superstore Jolly Giant expanded over two decades until there were more than a dozen outlets up and down the British Isles.

Jolly Giants were typically housed within large warehouse buildings and located in out of town areas, within easy reach of major road links.

In Scotland, there were Jolly Giant stores at Rutherglen (where the company was headquartered), Jordanhill, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dunfermline and at Peffermill, Edinburgh.

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A still from a Jolly Giant Christmas advert from the early 1990s. Picture: Contributed.

Kids loved dragging their parents here to take a gander at the seemingly endless array of toys and games. Many younger children, however, were petrified by the large animatronic Jolly Giant that guarded the door.

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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.

A still from a Jolly Giant Christmas advert from the early 1990s. Picture: Contributed.

“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 north of the border 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.

If true, then the Jolly Giant was quite literally a Scottish version of Toys “R” Us.

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.

In January 1998, however, it was reported that, due to two years of poor trading figures, Jolly Giant had gone into receivership and that more than 100 jobs were now at risk across its 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.