Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before — Toys “R” Us is plotting a comeback in the U.S. It’s a headline that’s been seen repeatedly in recent months (“TRU Returns!,” “Geoffrey’s Back from the Dead!”), and yet the news still isn’t entirely official.
After emerging from bankruptcy as Tru Kids Brands back in February, the often-discussed revival of the famed retailer has been taking shape. Back in April, Richard Barry, president and CEO of Tru Kids Brands, confirmed to the New York Post that there were plans to open “a handful” of new stores in the U.S. for the upcoming holiday season. The new stores are expected to be around 10,000 sq. ft., downsized from the big box stores that Toys “R” Us was known for in the past.
“We’re a little start-up company now,” Barry tells the Post. When approached by the Toy Book, a spokesperson for Tru Kids Brands, declined to elaborate further, as did Barry, aside from trying to discount the Post story. “Richard did not confirm that a handful of stores were coming back for the holidays,” they say.
Except, that’s exactly what’s been in the works for months.
At the new Toys “R” Us headquarters within Tru Kids Brands in Parsippany, New Jersey, the walls are decorated with artifacts that celebrate the 70-year legacy of the company built by Charles Lazarus. A backlit wall in the lobby showcases the company timeline and milestones, conspicuously ending with “2016 and beyond…” The “beyond,” is what a store-planning team has been working on — the reinvention.
As Bloomberg reports, plans are still in motion for the small stores that were widely discussed back in April and February. Right now, there’s only three bits of information that are really new — that there may only be a half-dozen stores (and the long-expected website); that MGA Entertainment’s Isaac Larian has decided he will sell to the new entity (he was previously sour on the idea); and that there may be a consignment model at play. What they didn’t report is that this week’s news is spinning out of The Toy Association’s Annual Business Conference, which took place in Minneapolis this week.
Tru Kids Brands recently relaunched in Australia and launched, for the first time, in New Zealand thanks to a partnership with Australian retailer Hobby Warehouse.
Barry, who took part in our annual State of the Industry Q&A during Toy Fair, previously served as chief merchandising officer at Toys “R” Us. The management team at Tru Kids Brands also includes Vice Chairman Yehuda Shmidman, Matthew Finigan as CFO, James Young as EVP of global license management & general counsel, and Jean-Daniel Gatignol as SVP of global sourcing & brands.
“We have an incredible team focused on bringing Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us back in a completely new and reimagined way, so the U.S. doesn’t have to go through another holiday without these beloved brands,” said Barry in a statement earlier this year.
In addition to pursuing its own retail ambitions in the U.S., Tru Kids Brands controls a slate of owned brands, including Animal Alley, Animal Zone, Avigo, Bruin, Dream Dazzlers, EduScience, FastLane, Imaginarium, Just Like Home, Just Like Home Workshop, Journey Girls, Koala Baby, Pavillion, Sizzlin’ Cool, Stats Sports, Totally Me!, True Heroes, and You & Me. The company services products under those names to international Toys “R” Us locations and to third-party retailers via the Geoffrey’s Toy Box program in the U.S.
As we head toward the back half of the year, this holiday season should prove to be an interesting one. As Toy World reported earlier this week, it looks as if Party City is nixing its Toy City pop-up initiative this year, and it seems that Go! Retail Group’s Toys Express stores may have quietly faded as well. While nothing is yet to be confirmed as official, this toy story is far from over.