Will Toys ‘R’ Us take Manhattan the second time around?

Discussion
Photo: Toys "R" Us
Aug 11, 2017
George Anderson

Toys “R” Us is coming back to New York’s Times Square less than two years after deciding to leave its former 110,000-square-foot flagship store in that locale. This time around, the chain is going smaller with a 35,000-square-foot pop-up in the historic Knickerbocker Building at the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. The store is slated to open this month and will operate throughout the Christmas holiday season.

“The Times Square holiday shop reunites our brand with an iconic New York destination which we are thrilled about,” said Dave Brandon, chairman & CEO of Toys”R”Us, in a statement. “More importantly, the store offers customers a host of products tailored to the needs of city dwellers and visitors — all in interest of bringing play to kids and families around the world!”

The pop-up will serve as a pickup location for online orders. Toys “R” Us will also offer layaway with the holidays approaching. The new location will have three levels with an emphasis on the chain’s shops-in-shop concepts, including Marvel, Star Wars, Nerf, Lego and others. A Hot and New shop will feature the most popular toys for the holidays. The store will also highlight electronics, such as Nintendo Switch and Fujifilm Instax cameras.

Interaction is high on the shopping experience list at the pop-up, which will include a dedicated area on the second level to allow kids to play with products out of their boxes. The area will also be used for the store to demonstrate toys. The store will feature interactive toy displays across all three levels.

When Toys “R” Us opened its former flagship store in Time Square, the chain’s management envisioned the location as a shopping magnet for consumers from around the world. That store featured a 4,000-square-foot Barbie dollhouse, a 60-foot-tall indoor Ferris wheel and a 20-foot-tall animatronic T.rex that roared at passing shoppers. The new pop-up will have a “scaled-down” version of the T.rex on its second level.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect Toys “R” Us to be successful with its Times Square holiday shop pop-up? Are more pop-up locations in the cards for retailers such as Toys “R” Us that rely heavily on seasonal business?

Braintrust
"Christmas is a time for toys, so opening up a pop-up ahead of the holiday season in a prominent location seems like a great move on Toys 'R' Us' part."
"Being a store brand that gets most of their foot traffic during the holiday shopping season, the key will be the quality of experience in the pop-up."
"Allowing users to engage with the products is never a bad thing. But using it as a pickup location for online orders? That is a tough one."

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11 Comments on "Will Toys ‘R’ Us take Manhattan the second time around?"

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Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

From a branding and awareness perspective, it will benefit Toys “R” Us. Certainly the tourist traffic in that area is strong at the holidays, so it could reignite awareness of the brand when purchase intent is strong.

Allowing users to engage with the products is never a bad thing. But using it as a pickup location for online orders? That is a tough one. Most New Yorkers tend to avoid that area during the high tourist seasons.

Pop-up locations can work well for many retailers if they are well thought-out with the right strategy. Introducing new concepts, new ideas and new products work well. Popping up a store for the sake of trying to get incremental sales is only a good idea if the economics work.

Scott Norris
Guest

For visitors from overseas during the holidays, the BOPIS service will be appreciated & a pick-up can fit in with sightseeing around town. But Toys “R” Us will need to be creative in getting the word out to tourists!

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

Pop-ups have proven to be very successful for many businesses and no doubt Toys “R” Us can be one of them. What will make the Toys “R” Us 35,000 square foot pop-up successful is if they can truly create the right experience. One of the reasons their stores have not done well is that they are outdated and do not provide an exciting shopping experience necessary for today. Their stores should be playgrounds for kids with opportunities to try a product, play with it and with other children. Toys “R” Us needs to give customers a reason to come into their stores by allowing a child to see and play with their products in an atmosphere that is captivating. Toys “R” Us stores severely lack this. So if their pop-up provides these features not only will it be a success, it could pave the way for more Toys “R” Us pop-ups and eventually better Toy “R” Us stores utilizing the same ideas.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Yes, a Times Square holiday pop-up is the best of both worlds for Toys “R” Us. They get the visibility and traffic that comes with having a high-profile store in NYC during the holidays but without having to pay astronomical rent year-round when traffic and sales are lower. I think the temporariness of the Toys “R” Us pop-up will help make the pop-up even more of a destination than their flagship store was during peak season. Being able to test out different toys and interact with all of the products will also help boost engagement.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

Christmas is a time for toys, so opening up a pop-up ahead of the holiday season in a prominent location seems like a great move on Toys “R” Us’ part. I think it’s going to benefit from all of the traffic in that area, not only from a footfall point of view but as a branding/marketing exercise. It will be interesting to see how different/effective the in-store experience is though. The interactive elements sound like a good start, but it’ll be the customer experience at peak times that determines how much of a success it is.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
This is a great idea for Toys “R” Us — being a store brand that gets most of their foot traffic during the holiday shopping season, the key will be the quality of experience in the pop-up. If ever there was a merchandise segment better suited for experiential retail, toys are it! No matter the age of the shopper, toys by their very nature demand to be tried, tested and experienced before being purchased. This is what’s lacking in their main-line stores and was lacking in their former flagship. Hopefully Toys “R” Us is going to use this as a learning experience and test run for improving their stores in 2018 to try and keep the shopping momentum from the holiday season going all year long. As for the Times Square pop-up, I’d expect it will attract more tourists than native New Yorkers but that shouldn’t be an issue for Toys “R” Us to deem this successful when it’s all said and done. Target tried a similar experiment elsewhere in the city with their Wonderland experience a couple of years ago and I see this as a continuation of the pop-up trend in retail, especially around the holiday season. I… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Pop-ups work well when they are executed well. Toys, the Christmas season and a Times Square location should combine to provide a win for Toys “R” Us.

As others have noted, execution in this case means something that goes beyond having the right merchandise at the right place for the right price, etc. These basics can be hard enough to deliver, but what will make a real win for TRU and its customers is if they can create a magical, memorable experience.

Matthew Stern
Staff
I strongly agree with those who’ve mentioned Toys “R” Us hopefully learning a lot from this pop-up that the chain can work into its stores. The fact that the pop-up is broken out into stores-within-a-store bodes well. Last time I was in a Toys “R” Us a few years ago it struck me as feeling like a warehouse-sized tchotchke shop. There appeared to be little rhyme or reason to anything, somehow giving the impression that every product was an afterthought despite there being no main product on which to focus. This was even true of the branded merchandise sections. But when I later read about the American Girl store-within-a-store deal a while back, I thought Toys “R” Us was finally on the verge of realizing all the potential they have. There are a million little niche toy worlds out there that don’t have enough pull for their own standalone concepts (like, say, skateboards or video games have) but nonetheless have dedicated enthusiasts/collectors/obsessives with their own vernaculars, levels of connoisseurship, expertise, fan YouTube channels and so on. Action figure collecting seems like an obvious one. Yo-yos, some might be surprised to find, have an incredibly dedicated “scene.” And what about this… Read more »
Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

The pop-up makes sense from a publicity perspective. They get the brand awareness and traffic for transactions, plus reduce their Christmas shipping costs for online orders. Toys around the holidays are always about experience and wonder, and that is best experienced in an in-person environment. In this case Toys “R” Us can take some chances and freshen up their image with the holiday shoppers.

Joanna Rutter
Guest
10 days 24 minutes ago

Anything taking place in Times Square already makes this native New Yorker break out in hives. I have been in that old Toys “R” Us twice. Both times I got lost and ended up in LegoLand. I think it’ll be very popular with the tourist set, especially if they bring back that rad Ferris wheel. But the BOPIS angle makes me lift an eyebrow. You could not pay most New Yorkers to walk through Times Square for any reason. Why would it be convenient for NYC parents shopping at farmers’ markets and buying from indie neighborhood boutiques and F.A.O. Schwartz to suffer through an errand in Times Square? That’s cruel AND tone-deaf.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

No. I don’t. Pop-ups make sense for seasonal merchandise, or for new retailers as an advertising ploy … neither of these is true of TRU. That they couldn’t make a go of the former store, in a location that should just scream “success,” tells us the brand is just fundamentally weak.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Christmas is a time for toys, so opening up a pop-up ahead of the holiday season in a prominent location seems like a great move on Toys 'R' Us' part."
"Being a store brand that gets most of their foot traffic during the holiday shopping season, the key will be the quality of experience in the pop-up."
"Allowing users to engage with the products is never a bad thing. But using it as a pickup location for online orders? That is a tough one."

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