Is Toys ‘R’ Us just playing around or will Americans buy its new concept store?
There are some that will tell you that the greed of private equity investors killed Toys “R” Us long before the chain chose to liquidate its business last year. Now, like a Phoenix (a mini one, at least) rising from the ashes, Toys “R” Us is back with a new concept that appears to be all about play — a customer experience that the previous version of the retailer also said it was attempting to achieve, but never really did.
Yesterday, TRU Kids Brands, the parent company of Toys “R” Us, announced plans to open two new stores in time for the 2019 Christmas shopping season. The stores located in busy malls — one in Houston, TX and the other in Paramus, NJ — will be much smaller (6,500-square-feet) than those operated under the banner in its previous iteration. Future stores, as previously reported, are expected to be closer to 10,000-square-feet.
Stores will be highly interactive, inviting kids and parents to test products before making purchases and offering new events and activities every day. Brand stations throughout will enable kids to learn through play using STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). An open play space in the store will include Geoffrey the Giraffe, the Toys “R” Us mascot.
The new store format has been developed in a joint venture with b8ta, a retail-as-a-service startup founded in 2015 with the goal of giving consumers access to try new products before making a purchase. Macy’s, which took a minor stake in the company last year, has used b8ta’s software platform to scale The Market @ Macy’s in-store pop-up concept.
“As a kid, my memory of Toys ‘R’ Us was running up and down the aisles kicking balls and playing with the coolest toys,” said Phillip Raub, co-founder and president of b8ta and interim co-CEO of the Toys “R” Us joint venture, in a statement. “As the retail landscape changes, so do consumer shopping habits. But what hasn’t changed is that kids want to touch everything and simply play.”
Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids and interim co-CEO of the joint venture, believes that the Toys “R” Us name is still held with affection by large numbers of American consumers.
“We have an incredible opportunity to entirely reimagine the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in the U.S. and are thrilled to partner with b8ta and key toy vendors to create a new, highly-engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today’s retail environment,” Mr. Barry said.
A TRU Kids spokesperson told RetailWire that the company is in active talks with brand partners and that details would be forthcoming. Brands working with the joint venture will pay for space and services in the new stores and “in exchange they keep 100 percent of the in-store sales of the product.”
- Tru Kids Brands Bringing Toys“R”Us Stores Back to the United States – Tru Kids Brands
- Toys ‘R’ Us prepares its American comeback – RetailWire
- Macy’s takes stake in retail-as-a-service tech firm – RetailWire
- Toys ‘R’ Us to rise from the ashes of bankruptcy, but should it? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect the joint venture of TRU Kids and b8ta to “create a new, highly-engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today’s retail environment?” What do you think of the business model whereby manufacturers pay for space and services and keep 100 percent of sales made in stores?