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Relaunch of Toys & # 39; R & # 39; The US gives families something they can't buy on Amazon



It comes two years after the company filed for bankruptcy and shuttered all its locations – apparently for good – and just after toymaker Hasbro ( HAS ) reported disappointing third quarter sales heading into the industry's most crucial sales season. Hasbro's chief rival, Mattel ( MAT ) enjoyed a 3% increase in sales over the same period. Both toy companies' success was largely linked to Toys "R" Us before the retailer's financial demise and rebirth.
The revamped Toys "R" Us will open two streamlined locations in front of Black Friday at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey and The Galleria in Houston.

"We know that customers love shopping as a means of entertainment. There is something built into human DNA," Richard Barry, president and CEO of Toys "R" Us parent company, Tru Kids, told CNN Business. "We also know that children and families are looking for things to do on the weekends or when school is out. We know that parents and families really appreciate the play and value of toys together. When we thought about the strategy, we wanted to add all of these things together. "

These aren't just stores, according to the company. The store chain will partner with store startup B8ta to create hands-on, engaging experiences for children and their parents, who may have fond memories of Toys "R" Us from their own childhood.

The Old Toys "R" Oss stores were 40,000 square feet of chemo with goods stacked on endless rows of metal shelves. The new stores are approximately 6,500 square feet, with interactive spaces where children and parents can play with toys.

The revitalized website Toys "R" Us also shows fewer toys, but gives more details about them. Those who wish to purchase goods are redirected to Target & # 39; s ( TGT ) website, which provides inventory and fulfillment services.

B8ta, which designs interactive store displays where shoppers can try the latest products, will bring theaters, video games and other exciting things to the new Toys "R" Us stores.

"We have a big wooden house in the middle of the store that the kids will be able to climb into, an event venue for movies in the store. We want good brands in the store," Barry said.

John Goodman, CEO of Candytopia, helped implement this "shop-o-tainment" idea two years ago before joining Toys "R" Us earlier this year to launch "Toys R Us Adventure , "a touring indoor play area displayed in select malls across the country for a limited time. The ticket attraction costs $ 20 for children ages 4-1

2 and $ 28 for adults. It has toy-themed play areas for young children who, the company hopes, will slip their parents into buying them items associated with the fun zones they have just finished exploring.

  A child stands in a play area below Toys

These pop-up play lands are not permanent stores. After about six months, they will set up shop elsewhere.

Goodman, who previously served as CEO of The Gap ( GPS ) Kmart, and Sears, used a similar blueprint to help Candytopia founder Jackie Sorkin to make the birthday party and event business a multi-million dollar attraction, with a confectionery theme celebrated by celebrity influencers such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore.

Toys "R" Adventure & # 39; s first race in Chicago and Atlanta generated national headlines last week as families celebrated the return of the well-known retail brand. Pictures and videos of smiling, laughing children wandering through mimic snow caves and interacting with toy "R" Us mascot, Geoffrey giraffe, are now circulating on Instagram and Facebook.

The Toys "R" Us Adventure in Atlanta's Lenox Marketplace shopping complex was nearly filled, Goodman said.

"We feel we are adding a service to the mall when it comes to increasing additional traffic, anywhere from 1,700 to 2,200 people every single day," Goodman told CNN Business. "It's like the circus. The circus is coming to town and the circus is going. It may or may not be back in a couple of years. That's how our model is built."

  A child plays in a ball pit at Toys

This idea is not exactly new, but it catches elsewhere. The minds behind New Jersey's new American Dream mall, which opened on Friday, came up with a similar concept. The Rutherford, New Jersey shopping complex is less a place to buy consumer goods and more of an indoor theme park with cartoon attractions in its Nickelodeon Universe. It also has an indoor ski slope, a water park and an NHL-sized ice rink.

Scott Webb, CEO of digital consulting firm Avionos, says this could be the future of toy-related, brick-and-mortar retail. Encouraging kids to play with toys that are not related to TV, movie or video game characters is critical to the industry, which has struggled at a time when children can watch shows on streaming services often avoid commercials that advertise toys that they do not want Watch their favorite shows.

"Kids as much as anything are digital consumers now," Webb told CNN Business. "The Hasbro figures support this. The parts of toys that have really thrived are those associated with some intellectual work, whether it be Fortnite or Marvel or Star Wars."

Webb said that Toys "R" Us to make the company a toy discovery brand as opposed to a retailer may be a good strategy. "I think they certainly have a lot of branding to stand out for a new niche in that role," he continued. "But I think it would be hard to predict that they ever discovered the same dominance in retail."


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