By: Anne D’Innocenzio
Toys R Us is retrenching once again.
The only two Toys R Us stores that opened in November 2019 as part of a small U.S. comeback attempt by the iconic toy chain have now closed.
The Toys R Us store at the Galleria mall in Houston shuttered on Jan. 15, while one at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, closed on Tuesday, according Tru Kids, a new entity formed when it acquired Toys R Us’ intellectual property during its liquidation in 2018.
The moves come as physical stores, particularly mall-based locations, have been hurt by weak customer traffic amid the pandemic.
The Toys R Us website is still in operation.
“As a result of COVID, we made the strategic decision to pivot our store strategy to new locations and platforms that have better traffic,” Tru Kids said in an emailed statement Friday. “Consumer demand in the toy category and for Toys R Us remains strong and we will continue to invest in the channels where the customer wants to experience our brand.”
The two shuttered locations were about 6,500 square feet — about one-seventh of the size of the old Toys R U stores and emphasized hands-on experiences. Employees unwrapped toys, for instance, so that kids could try them out.
During a visit to the New Jersey store in late 2019, kids shot Nerf blasters and sat in a circle for story time while Geoffrey, the chain’s mascot, roamed around. Such experiences are now shunned at a time when shoppers have to abide by social-distancing rules.
Tru Kids says that outside of the U.S., it operates Toys R Us, and Babies R Us branded stores and e-commerce sites through licensing partners in more than 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Bloomberg News first reported the news of the store closures.
In 2018, it was announced that the toy chain was going out of business because they were saddled with heavy debt acquired when Bain Capital and other firms took the company private in 2005. By the time the company was approaching bankruptcy in 2017, it still had about $5 billion in liabilities. Those debt payments turned out to be a metaphorical anchor around mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe’s long neck and bad timing.
Other factors were increased competition, nervous vendors, over declines in toy sales and online retailing.
(AP & Jewish Voice)