It’s been three years and one abandoned reopening attempt since Toys R ‘Us — the epicentre of Furby and Pokemon mania in the days when big box stores ruled the retail roost — was last in the brick-and-mortar retail business.
On Wednesday, the store’s new owners announced it’s ready for a comeback. Whether shoppers give a new two-storey, 20,000-square-foot Toys R’ Us at a New Jersey megamall a second chance — the same way Barbie always gives Ken a second chance — remains to be seen.
Brand Gimmick or the Real Deal?
Toys R’ Us’ business was built on selling the stuff of childhood dreams, but the retailer has spent the last five years mired in a Wall Street spinoff of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. Once an $11.5 billion annual sales juggernaut, the company became the third-largest retail bankruptcy in history and liquidated its entire footprint in the US in 2018.
An ill-fated comeback attempt with two stores in late 2019 (it once had 800) fizzled out by January 2021, felled by the pandemic. Two months later, brand management company WHP Global bought a controlling stake and pledged to open 400 stores. This first one may be more about gimmick than green:
- By the time the new store opens in mid-December at New Jersey’s American Dream megamall, Toys R’ Us will have missed the bulk of the holiday shopping season — but the location will feature slides, a cafe, and other in-person attractions more focused on making it a brand destination alongside the neighbouring Nickelodeon Universe theme park.
- On the other hand, shopping at American Dream is booming, and rose 245% on Black Friday and 218% on Saturday versus an average baseline since November 2020.
Birds of a Feather?: The American Dream mall is not exactly a model of fiscal responsibility itself. Triple Five Worldwide, the Canadian developer that owns the complex, fell behind on debt payments for a $1 billion loan this year. While it ultimately agreed to put up 49% of the mall’s profit as collateral, it’s also staring down tens of millions in construction liens.