ZIGZAG was a chain of toy stores that existed in Australia from sometime in the 1980s through until, well, probably sometime in the 1990s. Google them now and it’s like they never existed. Yet back in the day, they seemed to be great little toy shops.
I actually don’t have many specific memories of visiting ZIGZAG. I think I only visited one of their stores during visits to the city of Melbourne back in the late 1980s. But I decided to write about them as their stores were mostly a long way from where I lived, and they ended up seeming like a kind of far-off paradise that I longed to visit.
My Grandmother lived in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Greensborough (Melbourne is the capital city of the Australian state of Victoria), and I lived about 1000Kms away near the city of Sydney. But every year or so my family would travel from Sydney down to Melbourne to spend a few days with her. Typically we would take her out a few times during each visit, and while wandering a local shopping mall I would spend some time at a ZIGZAG toy store.
So what was ZIGZAG like? Well in an old tourist magazine from 1989, I once spotted this great colour ad for a store in Queensland, which I think really sums up why I’m mentioning the ZIGZAG chain here…
Like many toy stores in the 1980s, ZIGZAG was firmly on the R/C toy bandwagon. And not just toys either – they also stocked many hobby-grade kits. As you can see in the picture above, the Jet Hopper took pride of place, as did a Tamiya Hotshot kit! And check out the Matchbox Collector series stand at the back, too…
This picture is how I remember my visit to ZIGZAG in the 1980s – a small store, densely packed with great toys, and with narrow aisles and shelves that seemed to stretch up to the ceiling. Toys were generally popular in the 1980s – there was no such thing as a bare or spartan toy store. And certainly no such thing as a “toy store” that only really stocked hipster toys for inner-city types… No, when it came to selling toys in the 1980s, it was a simple concept: lots and lots of good quality, popular, iconic, mostly non-chinese toys – all the time.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember being allowed by my parents to get anything from the ZIGZAG when I was there. But that disappointment was somewhat rectified many years later…
During the 1990s I started to buy some R/C hobby magazines. In them I would often see ads for another ZIGZAG store, again down in state of Victoria, but this time in the country town of Shepparton.
Here’s one of the ads from 1990…
This Shepparton store seemed like a pretty serious stockist of R/C cars and parts. But during the 1990s I figured it was too far away for me to really get access to any of the great stock they had.
Nearly 20 years later and with my R/C collecting in full swing, I went on a bit of a hunt for any leftover R/C spare parts for Tamiya and other cars that might still be lying around in the storage room and bins of some older toy stores in Australia. To my surprise, it turned out that the ZIGZAG store in Shepparton still existed – only it was now rebranded as part of the Toyworld chain of stores. And in a stroke of luck, not only did they still sell some R/C products, they even had a few old items leftover from the 1980s. Among the things I found (such as parts for the Tamiya Sand Rover, Super Champ, Sand Scorcher, Wild Willy, and Frog), some even still had “ZIGZAG” price stickers on them…
To collectors of old Tamiya R/C cars and parts, such old spare parts are lucky finds (especially given they only cost me a few dollars each). And it was particularly nice to see the connection they had to the once-popular ZIGZAG chain.
I guess the seismic shift in the toy industry during the 1990s, when huge toy supermarkets like Toys R Us and World 4 Kids opened up in Australia, ended the halcyon days of the widespread smaller toy/hobby chains like ZIGZAG. But these soulless megastores only serve to remind me of smaller (but better) toy stores that had existed in the 1980s.
Man, Zig Zag was a great place.I only have very slight memories but they are all good and enough to warrant me trying to Google them!
Our grandparents used to do a bucketload of Christmas shopping there and Christmas Day would involve sitting around a big Zig Zag-branded bag full of wrapped presents. I remember it being black with just the colourful Zig Zag logo on it.
So nice to get a comment from someone else who actually remembers Zig Zag, thanks for getting in touch anon! You even had a cool story associated with those stores, and it must have been awesome getting all that stuff at Christmas each year.
Yep I’m late to the party…but it was around ‘92 (I was 12) and I lived close to a zigzag store which was in cairns,Queensland. I remember it well as I was there often! I mostly collected transformers and Star Wars but always wandered around the entire store. It was such a an awesome place…I miss these kind of toy stores
Thanks for the comment Corey. Yeah I just don’t get why these great little toy shops used to be everywhere, yet they cannot seem to survive today. Zig Zag was a perfect example of the type of shop we 80s and 90s kids used to enjoy 🙂