Toys R Us toy stores will be coming back to the United States in time for the 2019 holiday season. The announcement was made by Tru Kids, the company that bought the rights to the Toys R Us brand. Two new stores are set to open in the U.S. One will be located at the Galleria mall in Houston, Texas and the other will be at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey.
The new stores will be different than the Toys R Us stores of old. The new stores will be 6,500 to 10,000 square feet, whereas the old stores were about 40,000. The new stores will be more like interactive playgrounds than retail stores, with pre-planned events and activities every day. The stores will also feature interactive toy demonstrations, spaces for special events like birthday parties, and open play areas.
The stores will be operated in partnership with the software-powered experimental retailer b8ta. Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids and Interim co-CEO of Toys R Us, said, “We have an incredible opportunity to entirely reimagine the Toys R Us brand in the U.S. and are thrilled to partner with b8ta and key toy vendors to create a new, highly-engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today’s retail environment.”
The companies intend to curate the toy selections for the stores carefully. Toymakers have been encouraged to design and set up branded shops within the new stores. The Toys R Us website has also been relaunched and redesigned to be “centered around product discovery and engagement.” Vibhu Norby, CEO of b8ta, said the stores will be “the most progressive and advanced stores in its category in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come.”
The intention is to test the concept with these first two stores and see how they perform. The companies ultimately want to open 10 additional stores in “prime, high-traffic retail markets” within the U.S. throughout 2020. This may include a larger flagship store in either New York or California.
Toys R Us was forced into bankruptcy last year after facing rising challenges from online shopping and struggling with a heavy load of debt caused by a buyout in 2005. It was forced to liquidate following the bankruptcy filing. The retailer ended up closing 700 stores and more than 30,000 employees lost their jobs. Tru Kids Brands has said it wants to give hiring priority at the new stores to former employees of Toys R Us.