These days, it’s likely that your local mall or high street looks quite different from how it appeared just a few years ago. And, unfortunately, that’s not just because new stores have arrived to transform the retail landscape. Some of America’s best-loved brick-and-mortar chains have closed a number of their outlets, leaving loyal customers mourning in their wake. So, which brands are shutting up shop, and why?
In 2019 poor financial projections sadly led to the closure of over 300 GameStop stores, with the same number or more expected to shutter in 2020. Yet this may just be a sound business decision. As it stands, every GameStop in the world apparently has two others on average within a five-mile radius.
46. Bed Bath and Beyond
Bed Bath and Beyond may be a mainstay of the American mall, but even the beloved homeware chain hasn’t escaped the woes plaguing the service industry. In January 2020, you see, the firm said that it would be closing 40 stores nationwide. Among the casualties of the retailer’s cull are the Honolulu and Rhode Island outposts; residents of Ohio, meanwhile, will lose not one but four stores.
Marking Christmas and birthdays may be that bit more difficult for the residents of some U.S. cities, after local media reports claimed that Hallmark will be closing 16 of its stores in 2020. Among those already shut is the company’s shop in Forest Park, Illinois, which bid goodbye to customers that January.
44. Forever 21
Troubled fashion retailer Forever 21 has announced that it expects to be closing a whopping 350 of its shops worldwide – with up to 178 stores believed to be shutting in the U.S. alone. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2019, saying that it would “exit most international locations in Asia and Europe.”
The news that audio equipment vendor Bose will shutter 119 of its international stores wouldn’t have been music to the ears of the brand’s fans. Included in this number is the entirety of the retailer’s brick-and-mortar shops in the U.S., although Bose outlets will remain in selected locations across Asia and the United Arab Emirates. The company added in a statement that it had opened its first U.S. retail branch all the way back in 1993.
42. Neiman Marcus Last Call
In March 2020 Neiman Marcus delivered a blow to bargain lovers across the U.S. when it announced that it would be closing most of its Last Call stores. The company said that the “majority” of the 22 discount outlets are to get the chop and that it will be focusing on its luxury lines instead.
41. Olympia Sports
As if the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo wasn’t enough of a blow to athletic types, they’ll also have to contend with the shutdown of 76 Olympia Sports stores. The move comes after the retailer JackRabbit acquired the firm in October 2019.
40. Modell’s Sporting Goods
Modell’s Sporting Goods – which has passed through four generations of the eponymous family – opened its first store in Manhattan in 1889. Sadly, though, the venerable retailer was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2020, and all of its 141 outlets are to be shut down as a consequence.
39. Earth Fare
It seems that the healthy-living boom simply wasn’t enough to save organic and natural grocery chain Earth Fare. In February 2020, you see, the company announced that it would shut down all 50 of its establishments across ten states, with “continued challenges in the retail industry” being the reason for that decision. But it’s not all bad news; two months later, Earth Fare said that it would be re-opening two of its stores in Charleston, South Carolina.
38. Destination Maternity
Destination Maternity may be the largest retailer of baby products anywhere in the world, but it’s certainly not too big to fail. A filing for bankruptcy protection in the fall of 2019 recorded a staggering $244 million in total debt at the company, leaving it forced to shutter a total of 183 of its outlets across Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States.
The planned closure of Walgreens stores across the U.S. is likely to prove a bitter pill to swallow for thousands of employees. Yes, in the summer of 2019 the second-biggest chain of pharmacies in the U.S. revealed that it would be axing approximately 200 stores. Among the outlets to have closed thus far are three in San Francisco.
36. CVS Pharmacy
Also taking a hit is the company that pips Walgreens to the post as the largest pharmacy chain in the United States. Throughout 2020, CVS is on course to shut around 22 of its outlets, in fact. Yet that’s only half the number that were closed in 2019 – and a mere fraction of the more than 9,900 stores still operational.
Launched in 1983, fashion and underwear retailer Chico’s rather unusually takes its name from a pet parrot. However, after more than three decades, the company – which serves women over the age of 30 with clothes and accessories – announced that it is moving away from brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, 250 outlets across the U.S. are expected to close their doors by the beginning of 2022.
34. Office Depot
And it’s not just the fashion industry suffering at the moment, as Office Depot has also said that it plans to ax 90 of its U.S. branches by 2021. Apparently, the retailer plans to focus its attention on business-to-business services instead.
33. Lucky’s Market
Yet another casualty in the cutthroat world of supermarket stores is Lucky’s Market – a natural and organic grocery chain established in Colorado in 2003. The retailer is to shut down 32 of its branches, according to a January 2020 article by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Sadly, this means that around 2,500 employees will lose their jobs.
32. Pier 1 Imports
In January 2020 home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports revealed that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Apparently, the chain also aims to close up to 450 of its 936 U.S. branches along with all of its stores in Canada. Then, in April of that year, Bloomberg reported that potential buyer CSC Generation had proposed closing 90 percent of the company’s stores in return for acquiring its assets. According to The New York Times, stock shares in the firm had plummeted by more than 99 percent between May 2013 and February 2020.
31. A.C. Moore
Sadly, arts and crafts chain A.C. Moore has also called time on all of its approximately 145 stores across the country. It’s an unfortunate development for a brand that’s grown from humble origins, having been established by one man – Jack Parker – in New Jersey in 1985. Yet there’s a small silver lining: around 40 of the stores will reportedly be taken over by fellow craft retailer Michaels.
Once upon a time, Sears was the largest department store chain in the United States. Those halcyon days seem far away, though, as the retailer is now in big trouble, with 51 branches readying to have their tills closed forever. It’s all part of “pruning operations” by the chain’s parent company Transform Holdco, which also owns Kmart. The 2020 pandemic also meant that all Sears stores remained temporarily closed through April.
Unfortunately for Transform Holdco, Kmart is similarly closing a number of stores in 2020. That includes the famous outlet on West 34th Street in Manhattan, which was described by erstwhile Kmart chairman Joe Antonini as “a true ‘Miracle on 34th Street’” upon its opening in 1995.
Another American institution taking a hit from the collapse of the retail sector is Bloomingdale’s. The iconic firm shut down its Miami outpost – one of only 35 full-line stores across the United States – in January 2020. And that location had weathered plenty over the years, too, including a category five hurricane in 1992.
Yet another department store to be affected by the decline of mall shopping is Macy’s. In February 2020 the retailer stated that it plans to shut down 125 of its stores – or around a fifth of its current fleet – over the next three years.
It’s a challenge staying relevant in the cutthroat world of fashion, where social media success can translate into millions of dollars worth of sales. And unfortunately for Express – which has just one million Instagram followers to Zara’s 40 million – keeping the brand afloat may be an uphill struggle. In any case, the chain revealed in January 2020 that it plans to cut 100 of its stores within two years.
Before the turn of the decade, JCPenney operated around 850 stores in Puerto Rico and the United States. This may have been a few outlets too many, however, as the clothes and home goods giant is to say goodbye to a dozen of its locations in 2020. In April 2020 The Wall Street Journal also reported that the company is considering a Chapter 11 bankruptcy loan of up to $1 billion to keep the business afloat.
24. Art Van Furniture
The seemingly unstoppable rise of online shopping was one reason why the death knell sounded for Midwestern chain Art Van Furniture. That’s according to the company’s bankruptcy filing, which cited competition from online stores Wayfair and Amazon as among its most enduring problems. And, sadly, this means that all of Art Van Furniture’s approximately 200 stores are to go in 2020.
With consumers now predominately sending messages online, Papyrus has found itself in trouble. And as the stationery chain’s parent company, Tennessee-based Schurman Fine Papers, filed for bankruptcy in January 2020, it announced the closure of its 254 Papyrus, American Greetings and Carlton Card stores. Branded cards will still be available to buy from other vendors, however.
In January 2020 Gap announced that 230 locations across the U.S. would be closing by the following February. Apparently, poor showings over the 2018 holiday period provoked the decision to ax around half of the clothing giant’s stores within three years. The retailer added that it would instead focus on growing the store count of some of its other brands, including Athleta and Old Navy.
Even off-price and discounted products can’t guarantee retail success in today’s precarious marketplace, as Midwestern department chain Gordmans has learned. Parent company Stage Stores has opted to shut down 200 outlets that are either already trading as Gordmans or were due to be converted. Bad sales and tight finances are said to be among the reasons for the closures.
20. Christopher & Banks
It seems that the so-called “gray dollar” hasn’t been enough to keep Christopher & Banks in rude financial health. Shares in the brand plummeted so greatly, in fact, that it was removed from the New York Stock Exchange. The fashion retailer therefore plans to close up to 40 stores before the end of 2020.
19. New York & Company
With a little help from celebrity endorsements by Brooke Shields and Eva Mendes, New York & Company has made it through over 100 years of trading. But against a backdrop of increasing online shopping, the purveyor of women’s fashion had closed 27 of its branches by February 2020 in an attempt to weather the so-called “retail apocalypse.”
18. Lord & Taylor
Founded in 1826, Lord & Taylor is the oldest department store in the United States. Sadly for two of the retailer’s establishments, though, their impeccable heritage couldn’t ensure their continued operation. Both the Lord & Taylor at the Palisades Center in New York’s suburbs and the branch at Tyson’s Corner Center in Virginia were shuttered in early 2020.
As of January 2020, Walmart was operating 11,503 stores and clubs in 27 countries worldwide. But even the gargantuan corporation has felt the pinch, and this has led those at the top to earmark three U.S. outlets for closure. The affected locations are in North Carolina and the university town of Ypsilanti in Michigan.
16. J. Crew
Michelle Obama may be a famous fan of J. Crew, but the former first lady’s stamp of approval hasn’t stopped the clothing retailer from amassing $1.4 billion worth of debt. This dismal financial situation is unlikely to be helped, either, by the temporary closure of the company’s stores in the midst of the 2020 pandemic.
If you’re reading this on an Apple device, you ought to know that the tech giant has closed all of its international retail stores apart from those located in Greater China. The Apple shops began to temporarily shut in March 2020 and are not expected to resume business until at least the beginning of May.
In March 2020 Nike temporarily shut down all of its stores across Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Even so, employees will be compensated for lost shifts, as a company spokesperson stated to CNBC that month.
The French beauty brand Sephora – which famously pioneered the “try before you buy” approach to cosmetics retail – announced that it would temporarily close all of its North American stores from March 2020. At the time of writing, a reopening date of early April had also been pushed back.
12. Victoria’s Secret
Victoria’s Secret ended its controversial fashion show in 2019, and now it’s put a temporary halt to trading in its brick-and-mortar stores. In a statement released via its website in March 2020, the brand announced that it would be shutting for an indeterminate period in the U.S. and Canada. A month previously, there had also been confirmation that Victoria’s Secret had permanently closed eight outlets north of the border.
11. Lush Cosmetics
In March 2020, the pandemic led soap and body wash firm Lush Cosmetics to announce the temporary closure of its 258 shops in Canada and the U.S. However, late the following month, the company said that it had begun reopening its shops in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
10. Abercrombie & Fitch
Not long ago, a visit to an Abercrombie & Fitch was an experience in itself – think topless employees, an overwhelming stench of its signature fragrances and loud music. In spring 2020, though, such an adventure became out of reach when the brand temporarily closed all of its branches – aside from those in the Asia-Pacific region. This remains the case at the time of writing.
9. Disney Store
If you want to get your fix of all things Disney, you’ll have to content yourself with the company’s streaming platform. That’s because the House of Mouse’s retail stores shut their doors in March 2020, and at present it’s unclear when they will reopen. Disney’s theme parks across Europe and America have also closed temporarily.
Yoga and athletic apparel brand Lululemon is also among the plethora of companies to shut their bricks-and-mortar stores for the time being. Outlets across Europe and North America are all currently unavailable, although online “sweat sessions” are being offered to customers in lieu of their usual workouts.
Outdoor pursuits and apparel brand L.L.Bean has similarly closed the doors of its stores across Canada and the United States in reaction to international events. Like some of the other companies mentioned here, though, the firm is still processing orders online.
6. The Body Shop
All-natural and cruelty-free beauty brand The Body Shop is another business to have been affected by the 2020 pandemic. The company – which has operations in over 65 countries – ceased trading in its brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. and Europe in March 2020.
5. Ralph Lauren
Consistently one of the big players in the fashion world, Ralph Lauren is among the many brands that have suspended sales in their retail stores. CEO Patrice Louvet has said that the company will closely monitor the situation and act on expert advice to decide when it will reopen its outlets.
Older heritage brands aren’t the only ones to shut up shop in 2020, however. Glossier – launched in 2014 and loved by millennials – has also called a halt to trading in its U.S. stores. The beauty brand was one of the first to close the doors during the pandemic, in fact.
3. Calvin Klein
You’ll have to go online if you want to nab some of Calvin Klein’s signature branded smalls just now. Yes, in March 2020 the fashion and underwear retailer temporarily closed its stores across Europe and North America. That said, the company’s woes extend further back; in 2019 customers bid adieu to the flagship Calvin Klein store on Madison Avenue.
2. Urban Outfitters
In March 2020 fashion retailer Urban Outfitters joined numerous other companies and shuttered all of its stores across the United States “until further notice.” The retail outlets of sister brands Anthropologie and Free People – both of which also belong to parent company URBN – similarly remain closed at the time of writing.
1. New Balance
New Balance, like its competitors, temporarily closed its stores in North America and Western Europe in March 2020. The sneaker seller went even further, though, by also shutting down its factories and company offices, and at the time of writing it is unclear when they’ll be opening again.
One company that’s unlikely to ever shut its doors for good, however, is McDonald’s. The Golden Arches have stood firm for nearly 70 years now, directing hungry customers towards a place where they know their bellies will be satisfied. Still, the fast-food chain has changed over the decades – as these nostalgia-inducing snaps all prove.
Remember when you were a kid, and McDonald’s was the most exciting place to visit? It wasn’t all about the Big Macs either. No, there was something special about the fast-food restaurant that went way beyond the burgers. But what was it? Well, these 60 images will bring the early years of McDonald’s right back to life – and you’ll be desperate to take a trip to the Golden Arches after reading this.
60. Toys transformed
Back when Transformers were must-have toys for youngsters, McDonald’s introduced its own version of the robots that could ingeniously morph into other objects. Except, of course, Changeables didn’t become cars: they turned into burgers and fries. From 1987 onwards, the company put “McRobots” in Happy Meals, and mini munchers could collect six in the first offering.
59. Relaxing with Ronald
Ronald McDonald is instantly recognizable as the face of the burger giant. And, of course, he’s positioned as friendly and approachable. Still, we do wonder just how many kids wanted to sit next to the slightly alarming lifesize clown figures that you’d sometimes find sitting on benches in McDonald’s restaurants.
58. Looking good
The Golden Arches are the distinctive symbol of the McDonald’s franchise. But they haven’t always been around. Before 1968 a less familiar version of the arches was in use. And even though the logo changed in that year, the décor didn’t. It wouldn’t be until 1974 that the restaurants altered their signs and their look.
57. Playgrounds abounded
The playgrounds that the McDonaldland concept spawned were lavish, sprawling arenas of fun, featuring slides and ballpits and all sorts of climbing frames – as well as the hamburger jail. The PlayLands helped business boom, too, as they provided safe play areas for kids. Eventually, though, much of the play equipment was moved indoors – particularly in places where the weather isn’t so good. And these days, the playgrounds are vanishing altogether.
56. Seeing the sizzle
The early McDonald’s restaurants offered more than a burger: they also provided entertainment. This was in the form of the kitchen staff, whom you could watch as they put your food together. That was thanks to massive windows in stores, which allowed McDonald’s to show off its gleaming kitchens to hungry diners.
55. Collectible glasses
Glassware that you can collect was a real trend at fast-food restaurants from at least the 1970s. These specialty dispensers would sometimes be issued in connection with films. Occasionally, though, they would simply feature characters connected with the eatery. However, the concept reached its peak when McDonald’s released intricately carved mugs made from frosted glass to promote the movie Batman Forever in 1995. And these glasses were – at the very least – a novel way to enjoy your large Coke.
54. Puppets to play with
Curiously, the McDonald’s finger puppet range would be limited. Not in the amounts given away: after all, most of us probably have one somewhere in the attic. Rather, the limitation came in the form of the number of characters featured. There were only two: Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar. We do question whether anyone actually played with these slightly sinister toys, though.
53. The Fry Kids were sizzling hot
What says fries more clearly than brightly colored pom-poms with theft in their hearts? Well, the strange characters spent several surreal advertisements attempting to hijack Ronald McDonald’s potato snacks, leaving the clown urging viewers to “keep your eyes on your fries.” So, maybe the madness made a certain sort of sense after all.
52. When medals meant Macs
For the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, McDonald’s ran a campaign under the slogan, “If the U.S. wins, you win.” When you bought something from McDonald’s, you’d get a scratchcard that would reveal a category. And if an American won a medal in that category, you’d get a prize, too – with Big Macs for golds. But the burger giant didn’t count on the Soviet boycott, so this promotion ended up costing them big bucks.
51. Spot the puppies
When McDonald’s chose to celebrate 1996 smash-hit movie 101 Dalmatians, it was natural that it should create more than a hundred toys. That way, you could enjoy a plethora of pretend pets. Now that’s a smart move to help encourage return visits – and those who got the whole set can now sell it for as much as $200.
50. The fries were phenomenal
In the 1980s many thought McDonald’s fries were amazing – kept in the fryer until they were golden and delicious. But in the 1990s something changed: the delicious snacks were never quite the same again. It turns out that in 1992 the fast-food purveyor switched its frying medium from tallow to vegetable oil. So, you’re not imagining a change in taste!
49. Apple pies grew on trees
When you strolled through the weird wonderland that was the in-store McDonaldland, your eye might have been attracted to the greenery that adorned it. But when you looked more closely, you’d have seen that these trees were festooned with a fruit that you don’t see every day. Yes, it turned out that apple pies really did grow on trees – in McDonald’s, at least.
48. This toy’s fur real
No toy is more likely to put a chill into those of a certain age than the Furby. Many can remember the ghostly voice of the furry toy speaking out in the dark of night. Terrifying stuff, but the upside was that they were cute enough to be massively popular. And to this day, they are worth a pretty penny: a set of eight went for more than $900 online not too long ago.
47. More meal for your money
Nowadays, you can’t get much for a dollar. But in 1985 you could buy two hamburgers at the Golden Arches for a single buck. The incredibly low prices were one of the main attractions for cash-strapped parents in the 1980s, who could feed the family cheaply at the burger joint.
46. No job for a lady
Early fast-food joints delighted in employing the carhop: a young lady who charmed drivers who came to grab a burger. But the McDonald brothers Richard and Maurice disapproved, thinking that they attracted the wrong element. So in its early days, McDonald’s didn’t employ women, period. It didn’t change policy until the mid-1960s, but even then it’s alleged that initially only women with flat chests were considered by the apparently sexist burger bars.
45. Mayor McCheese for president!
With a head made of cheeseburger, Mayor McCheese was, as the name suggests, the lead authority figure in McDonaldland. Costumed with the sash of a diplomat and a top hat, he often appeared in commercials. However, a lawsuit in the 1970s that accused him of being far too similar to H.R. Pufnstuf meant the character became less visible. Curiously, that move boosted his popularity big-time, with people even signing petitions demanding his return.
44. Hot Wheels put us in a spin
With nearly half a billion Hot Wheels sold each year, the brightly-colored cars are the world’s most popular toy. So, it’s not a huge surprise that they are included in Happy Meals today. But what might be more shocking is that they have been McDonald’s giveaways since 1983 – and haven’t missed a year since.
43. Making a meal of it
Before the 1970s McDonald’s didn’t have a “meal” of any kind. But in 1971 it introduced “The Big Meal.” Now you could get a burger, fries and a soda for a low price. It would still be some time before such things as Happy Meals and Value Meals would come into being, though.
42. Munchkins went mad for McNuggets
Despite the (long-debunked) rumors that Chicken McNuggets are made of pink slime, the tasty treats remain a huge favorite with kids. But their delight in the chicken chunks today is nothing compared to the excitement that the golden blobs inspired back in 1983 – the year they were first introduced. Kids loved them so much that restaurants actually struggled to keep up with demand.
41. Kids dined in their own world
Who needs their mom and dad telling them off for showing bad manners at the dinner table? Not kids at a 1980s McDonald’s, that’s for sure. Indeed, these lucky tots had their own separate dining area, decorated with the McDonaldland motifs that they loved. Of course, adults may also have enjoyed the opportunity to eat in peace…
40. Muppets on the move
In 1981 the Muppets franchise released the fun frolics of The Great Muppet Caper. This film was special not only because it was the only Muppet movie of which Jim Henson took charge. It was also thought worthy of being enshrined in collectible glassware, so Happy Meal munchers could enjoy Kermit on a bike even more.
39. The Hamburglar had a makeover
When The Hamburglar first came into being in the 1970s, he resembled a troll and could only speak in garbled fragments. He even had a different name: “The Lone Jogger.” But during the 1980s he became a much more friendly face, although his larceny of burgers didn’t stop.
38. Value for money was real
Before the Dollar Menu became a thing, the Value Pack was your route to a burger bargain. For $2.59 you could walk off with a Big Mac, supersize fries and a Coke – all handily packaged a box. And the long-gone pricing structure has many fans yearning for the lost concept of a genuine bargain. After all, as a commenter on a Value Meal commercial on YouTube recently put it, “These days, you have to take out a federal loan to buy a value meal.”
37. A-maze-ing fun was had by all
Perhaps McDonald’s does not offer the healthiest of foods, but kids in the 1980s and 1990s were able to work off the calories in the extensive PlayPlaces. For instance, youngsters could weave their way through a multicolored maze that seemed never-ending – before, perhaps to their surprise, it came to a fun-filled halt, as they fell in a big pit full of balls.
36. Uniforms might start showing your age
Here’s a party trick that you might like to try out. Ask the person you’re talking to if they can close their eyes and imagine buying a Big Mac as a teen. What does the server look like? If the answer comes back that they’re wearing a striped button-up patterned in red and white with a big collar, then they’re early ’80s. If they say, however, their server is attired in a red polo shirt that’s emblazoned with a few chest stripes and a white collar, then they’re late ’80s.
35. Muppet magic continues
What could be cuter than the Muppets? Mini Muppets! The eternally popular puppets could be found in the 1990s in the form of babies. Yes, McDonald’s gave away miniature Muppets in Happy Meals and hoped that some of the show’s enormous drawing power would help it to sell burgers to hungry youngsters. And they came with wheels, too.
34. McPizza we didn’t believa
McDonald’s is, of course, a byword for burgers. But do you remember when it decided to branch out into pizzas? In the 1980s the chain took on the more established restaurants and brought out its own version of the pie. It wasn’t a huge success, but devoted fans did keep it on some menus until 2017.
33. Bear necessities with your meal
Yogi Bear had his ups and downs as a character, with not everything he appeared in proving a hit. Although the bear himself was much loved, Yo Yogi was not. However, toys that were once issued to support the show are much more to people’s liking, fetching $100 each on the collectors’ market.
32. Bumping butts on burgers
McDonald’s marketing game was at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, and it aimed its effort squarely at kids. Not only could you play with characters such as Grimace, but when you sat down to eat, the chairs themselves had a playful motif. In some restaurants, burger seats were the kids’ resting place of choice.
31. Grabbing a Gadget
Inspector Gadget was the hero of an incredibly popular series of cartoons that showed throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The character was half man, half, erm, gadget, which had enormous appeal to kids. And as time goes by, also to collectors, who will pay up to $350 to get their hands on a figurine of the detective.
30. Birthdays were the best
Anyone who was a kid in the late ’80s probably spent many a birthday party in a PlayPlace. Not only could you vanish into the maze of pipework, only to be seen when you slid down from it, but you could also play in the ball pit. And best of all, it was Happy Meals all round, so everyone went home with a birthday gift.
29. Mac Tonight the soulful delight
In 1986 a strange character crept into view in ads for the burger chain’s late-night menu. With a moon head, sunglasses and an uncanny ability to summon jazz notes from a piano, Mac Tonight certainly had a ton of soul. However, because he was apparently based on the song “Mack the Knife,” McDonald’s found itself on the end of a lawsuit that spelled the demise of Mac in 1989.
28. Game for anything?
McDonald’s and Nintendo have been partners for a long time. In the 2010s, for instance, the fast-food corporation used the Ninendo DS to train their workers, but back in the 1980s some restaurants featured the then-state-of-the-art Nintendo 64. So kids who had tired of the indoor gym and slides could enjoy a few games of Super Mario Bros. instead.
27. Women on the wing
One thing that was very noticeable about early McDonaldland was how masculine it felt. But when McDonald’s wanted a character to advertise its breakfast menu, who better than Birdie the Early Bird? And the cute cartoon who enticed viewers to fill up on Egg McMuffins happily led the way for more female characters in the franchise.
26. McNuggets on a budget
Today’s commercials don’t come cheap, as exciting animations need to be built on computers. But back in the 1980s the fast-food giant didn’t throw money away on ads, so they tended to look very much less polished. The McNugget spots, for instance, featured loveable characters that looked like a child had been let loose with a pot of glue, but they had a charm that means that they’re still remembered today.
25. The Flintstones sent kids to wonderland
These days, refillable cups are all the rage; many of us get our coffee in reusable beakers. In the 1980s, however, we were often much less environmentally conscious – that is, except for kids who drank at McDonald’s. They liked to cart the cup home when they’d finished with their soda, because the drinking vessel was decorated with cartoons – with the Flintstones motif being a particular favorite.
24. Take a break
Superstar Barry Manilow featured in commercials for the burger giant in the early 1970s, singing “You Deserve A Break Today.” Despite what was commonly believed, Manilow didn’t write the song. It struck a chord, however, becoming a popular slogan for many years. It would finally be replaced by the perhaps-less-catchy “Nobody can do it like McDonald’s can” in 1983.
23. Spud you like
Enduring favorites for kids, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are heaps of fun to dress and remodel. But did you know that they had offspring? Yes, in 1987 Happy Meals featured small versions of the Potato Head family. And Mom and Dad Tater had been busy: there were 12 of the Potato Kids.
22. Grimace got a makeover
The secret of a good fictional beast designed to entertain kids is that it shouldn’t give them nightmares. After all, no one’s really terrified of the Cookie Monster. But the 1970s’ Grimace was extremely scary, equipped as he was with four arms and scales. So it’s perhaps just as well that he got made over twice in the 1980s until he was something a bit more cuddly.
21. Hot food that was cool
The problem with the hamburger version of the B.L.T. is that the heat of the burger and the cold of the salad and mayo just don’t mix well. So the boffins at McDonald’s came up with the McDLT, which packaged them separately. The idea was abandoned in the 1990s, though, thanks to better awareness of how damaging polystyrene can be to the environment.
20. Wash while you wait
In the 1960s McDonald’s offered an added extra when you drove through for food. When you approached, a worker would spring out and start washing your windscreen. This, the fast-food franchise suggested, would make driving safer. However, drivers didn’t feel that their windshields were too dirty to see through, and the service didn’t catch on.
19. Racing into Mickey’s magical Birthdayland
In 1988 when Mickey Mouse hit his 60th birthday, McDonald’s marked the event by releasing a line of toys that were based on Mickey’s Playhouse characters. The toys were pullback racers that could do a range of stunts. But slightly bizarrely, unlike the other characters, Donald Duck didn’t have a car: he drove a train instead.
18. The Professor promoted Buddies
Until 1983 The Professor was a very marginal character in the McDonaldland universe – not even getting to speak in ads very often. But in that year, he sprang into action with the McNuggets launch. The scientist brought the McNuggets to life and joined them in a string of McNugget Buddies commercials.
17. These glasses have character
On top of the glasses released to promote movies, there were also drinking vessels that featured characters closer to home. Yes, McDonaldland did not just provide inspiration for playgrounds. Its inhabitants also found their way onto special glassware. There were six tumblers that showed off the likes of Mayor McCheese and Grimace.
16. Singing for your supper
When 13-year-old Scotty Landreth found a flexidisc among some old newspapers that he was using for kindling, he couldn’t have imagined that it would score him a million dollars. But it did: it was one of 80 million discs released as part of a promotion, and it was the winning one.
15. Slurping from Snoopy sippers
McDonald’s dipped its toes into the glassware business in the 1970s, but it really took off in 1983. It was then that you could get a Camp Snoopy glass cheap with a meal. And each week McDonald’s offered a new glass, meaning collectors had to eat at the burger chain for five weeks straight to swipe the whole set.
14. Munching on McDonald’s crunch
You may not associate McDonald’s with cookies, but there did use to be a bunch of them based on McDonaldland. For anyone out there who does remember them and perhaps misses the munch, we have some good news. A poster on Reddit informs us that the Homekist brand of Lemon Creme sandwich cookies tastes identical to the McDonald’s treats.
13. Garfield glasses rocked
Snoopy wasn’t the only character from the world of comics to feature on McDonald’s glassware, though. For just 69 cents, you see, from 1987 you could snap up a Garfield piece – and many did. It was so impressive that the cat himself described his face as “the most wanted mug in America” in a commercial.
12. Standing room only
Early 1960s customers did not go down to the local McDonald’s and take a seat, because the restaurants mostly did not have them. In fact, most locations were takeaway only. You could only find somewhere to sit after 1962, when a Denver, Colorado site became the first to put in stools.
11. Beverages by the barrel
McDonald’s meals come with a drink, of course, and the standard is a cool Coke. But back in the 1980s you could get an “orange drink” that some found delicious. You’d even see it in large yellow barrels at school fairs or track meets. These days, though, the beverage is no longer available.
10. Indestructible packaging
Thirty years ago, the environment wasn’t as widespread a concern as it is today. So it didn’t seem like a bad idea to package burgers in polystyrene. However, the material is close to indestructible, so the firm agreed to phase out its old-style boxes for the more environmentally-conscious paper packaging that is so familiar today.
9. Roaring good times with dinosaurs
There is possibly no greater joy for a small child than scaring your mom with a dinosaur puppet on your hand. And McDonald’s facilitated the fun by popping frighteningly real dino heads into Happy Meals. This was a tie-in for a 2000 film, but we’re stretching the 1990s by a year – because who doesn’t love dinosaurs?
8. A powerful treat
Children of the 1990s will need no introduction to the Power Rangers. And indeed they are still going strong to day, so appealing are the superhero teens to youngsters. The burger franchise popped figurines into Happy Meals, and to this day they’re popular with collectors. An individual Power Ranger could scoop you $35.
7. Muppet Babies built for speed
Those who were kids in the 1980s (and, let’s be honest, many who were a bit older back then) loved The Muppet Show. And the TV program’s knockabout puppets provided some of the most popular Happy Meal toys. The Muppet Babies all came aboard their own interchangeable mode of transport – a rocking horse, a car, a skateboard and a trike – perfect for racing against each other.
6. Berenstain Bears burst with fun
Kids love to collect, but when McDonald’s put Berenstain Bears in Happy Meals, the fun seemed like it would end quickly. There were only four toy figures: Papa, Mama, Sister and Brother. But the collectors weren’t daunted by the lack of variety. Instead, they simply racked up huge gangs of the same figurines.
5. Anyone for breakfast?
What’s breakfast without the Egg McMuffin? Well, before 1972 no one knew what it was like with the tasty treat. It was then that the burger giants branched out into breakfast in the form of the McMuffin. A few years later it would change the shape of the hash brown forever when the distinctive patty came into being.
4. Go to (hamburger) jail
Where else would Officer Big Mac put the Hamburglar but in the hamburger jail? These delectable-looking jails were a staple of playgrounds that were based on the McDonaldland concept, which the firm introduced in the 1970s. These jails were debuted in 1970s commercials, but their successors continued all the way through to 2003. And McDonaldland was – as you might expect – a magical land, filled with a whole host of burger-based characters. Accordingly, restaurants had playgrounds that featured elements of McDonaldland. Today, this fanciful landscape is gone, but you still see one of the leading characters from time to time: one Ronald McDonald.
3. No bad boys welcomed
Owner Ray Kroc did not like a bad boy. In fact, he considered them terrible for a family business. Consequently, he forbade jukeboxes, phone booths and cigarette machines from restaurants. Jukeboxes were particularly unwelcome – along with carhops and tipping, they were part of the three big nos for Kroc.
2. Buckets of fun for Halloween
There have been many giveaways in Happy Meals that kids have loved, but one stands out as the greatest: the Halloween pails. There were actually three of them, although we’re not sure that anyone carried all three at once. They looked close enough to be triplets, but each had its own name: McBoo, McPunk’n and McGoblin.
1. The bountiful joy of Happy Meals
McDonald’s didn’t invent the idea of putting toys into children’s food: cereals had been doing that for years. But in 1979 it did begin packaging a burger, fries and drink in a special box with a toy. Thus the Happy Meal was born, and of course 1980s and 1990s kids knew and loved them – just like youngsters still do today.