Parsippany, N.J. and San Francisco — One of the recently fallen retail giants is poised to make a return less than two years after its demise. Tru Kids Brands, the Parsippany-based parent company of Toys ‘R’ Us, and b8ta, a San Francisco-based experiential retail firm, have announced plans to bring back Toys ‘R’ Us stores to the United States.
The retailer announced in March 2018 that it was declaring bankruptcy and would start an “orderly wind down” and close its 735 remaining stores. Now, 16 months later, the Tru Kids-b8ta joint venture is hoping to bring the 71-year-old brand back with more small-format, experience-based retail spaces. Plans call for the first two stores — located in The Galleria in Houston and Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey — to open before the holiday season.
“With a 70-year heritage, the Toys ‘R’ Us brand is beloved by kids and families around the world, and continues to play a leading role in the hearts and minds of today’s consumers,” says Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids Brands and interim co-CEO of the new Toys ‘R’ Us joint venture. “We have an incredible opportunity to entirely reimagine the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in the U.S. and are thrilled to partner with b8ta to create a new, highly engaging retail experience designed for kids and families and to better fit within today’s retail environment.”
According to the joint venture, the stores will be highly interactive with new events and activities every day, including play-before-you-buy test areas and open-play spaces.
“As the retail landscape changes, so do consumer shopping habits,” says Phillip Raub, co-founder and president of b8ta and interim co-CEO of the Toys ‘R’ Us joint venture. “But what hasn’t changed is that kids want to touch everything and simply play.”
Brands also will have the opportunity to design custom experiences and branded shops to help them create experiences. This experiential retail environment reflects b8ta’s Retail as a Service (RaaS) platform, which enables brands to actively manage their in-store experiences and measure how offline experiences translate into online sales.
The joint venture plans to open additional locations in prime, high-traffic retail markets within the United States over the course of 2020.
Although the Toys ‘R’ Us brand was officially ended in the United States last year, license partners still currently operate over 700 Toys ‘R’ Us- and Babies ‘R’ Us-branded stores and e-commerce sites in more than 25 countries across Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Founded in 2015, b8ta has 17 of its own branded flagship stores throughout the country. The company also works with hundreds of brands and retailers to create a more modern physical retail experience in a sales landscape radically changed by the growth and dominance of e-commerce.
— Jeff Shaw