It was one year ago today that Toys “R” Us announced that it would liquidate and shutter its entire U.S. operation.
As shockwaves moved through the toy industry, three days later Toys “R” Us was countered by another surprise announcement — KB Toys was plotting a comeback. Specifically, Ellia Kassoff, CEO of Leaf Brands and head of Strategic Marks LLC, picked up the KB Toys trademark in 2016 and was ready to bring the fallen toy retailer back into action.
The plan, which Kassoff described to Global Toy Experts’ Richard Gottlieb on stage at the Toy Association’s PlayCon last May, was for up to 1,000 pop-up stores by the holidays. The stores never opened, and this week the Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association (LIMA) confirmed it’s because efforts to secure funding fell short.
“The toy companies had lots of conflicts of interest that prevented them from investing in KB given that they sell to other retailers, and mall operators don’t typically invest in prospective tenants,” Kassoff told LIMA. “It is taking a while to get this done and build out a strategy. Once we get the money together we will be off and running.”
Kassoff’s comments are in reference to some of what was said at PlayCon last year, including the eyebrow-raising claim that mall owners would be be providing some of the investment. The full presentation begins at around the 48 minute mark in the video below:
He previously stated that discussions took place regarding partnerships with Go! Retail Group, Spencer Spirit Holdings, and Party City. Instead, both Go! and Party City increased toy offerings on their own and launched Toys Express and Toy City, respectively.
According to LIMA, Strategic Marks is now seeking an investment bank to back the opening of 200 to 250 KB Toys locations on a temporary basis to test the waters for the future establishment of permanent stores.
As the prospect of a Toys “R” Us revival through Richard Barry‘s Tru Kids Brands looms (and there are more rumblings), the reactivated FAO Schwarz is already expanding, and other retailers such as Target and Walmart continue to up their toy game with positive results. While few would deny that a truly national toy chain is something that many would love to see return, does it need to be KB? Does it need to be Toys “R” Us? Probably not. And that means that Peter Panda doesn’t need to be dusting off his roller skates any time soon, so don’t get any ideas, Child World.