This Thursday Toys R Us announced that they were making a comeback in time for the 2019 holiday season.
New stores are set to open at the Galleria in Houston and Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The difference between these stores and their predecessors is that the new ones will be smaller and sell fewer toys. Instead, they will offer interactive, playground-like experiences and toy demonstrations.
The stores will include space for hosting special events such as birthdays, organize various daily activities, and contain open play areas. Massive sales floors are a thing of the past—the new stores will be about 6,500 square feet each, which a third of their previous size.
Tru Kids Brand, the owner of Toys R Us, is making these changes together with the startup b8ta, a company that designs interactive and technology-focused retail spaces. The stores will be “the most progressive and advanced [in this category] in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come,” Vibhu Norby, CEO of b8ta, claims.
The updated Toys R Us website promises an experience “centered around product discovery and engagement.” The focus is on creating fun family memories. What never changes is that “kids want to touch everything and simply ‘play,’” says Phillip Raub, president of b8ta and interim co-CEO of the Toys R Us joint venture.
One key difference is that consumers will be able to play with toys before purchasing them. This immersive experience is the key to a better understanding of customers’ needs. It will allow for assessing how in-store retail experiences affect online sales. Tru Kids is aiming to provide a “highly engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today’s retail environment.” They will let brands “design custom experiences and branded shops.”
The Toys R Us reinvention comes after last year’s bankruptcy and the closure of all 700+ stores in the U.S. The company was $5 million in debt, even though the company’s sales accounted for one fifth of all toy sales in the U.S. This debt was accumulated after a controversial buyout of the company in 2005. The chain employed more than 30,000 U.S. workers before the collapse and is intent on prioritizing hiring former employees after the reopening.
There are currently over 900 Toys R Us stores open across Europe, Asia, and India. Another 70 stores are to be open overseas by the end of 2019. In 2020, the plan is to open ten more stores, each one across 10,000 square feet, in “prime, high-traffic retail markets.”
It remains to be seen if this upgraded version of Toys R Us will succeed and thrive once again in the U.S.