Oy vey, as a mother we’re used to calling laundry The Never Ending Story, but the Toys R Us saga has taken the title as the toy news gift that keeps on giving. And breaking hearts! Why do you keep doing this to us, Toys R Us? Like, stay or go, but you’re dangling a Twinkie in front of us that we all said we were too full to eat.
But you know, I can always go for a little sweet.
All right- let’s have a conversation. Yesterday, the Internet exploded with the news that Toys R Us was purchased again and was planning for stores to reopen across the US. The IP was sold to a management company called WHP Global, an entity that owns other stores that appear in malls, etc. and makes lots of money. While the CEO Yehuda Shmidman states that he would like stores to be open by the holiday season, there is no hard and fast reopening date. This, to be honest, is good. The return of Toys R Us should be a slow and steady burn.
Here’s the thing, and this is reality as we learned from the whole TRU Brands/TRU Kids and even the (very much dead and expired) conversation about KayBee Toys story. Selling off an IP (intellectual property) is easy. Finding investors to help you re-open infinity billion square foot toy warehouses that completely screwed over toy manufacturers like Hasbro and Mattel is not. We as a society are so hungry for a place that exclusively sells toys, and it’s a hard pill to swallow that the retail profit on toys (all tangible media, in fact) isn’t that high. It’s why Target will never throw more G.I. Joes on the shelves than minimally required to say “Yes, here is the thing, we did the thing, are you happy?”
The problem is that many Toys R Us fans are likely thinking that some rich company out there will see the giraffe shaped hole in the toy selling industry, make money blow vaguely in its direction and bam– all previous Toys R Us stores will be filled with happiness, cheer, action figures, and reopen like Willy Wonka opening his gates while we eager toy lovers rush hurriedly into the stuttering, semi frozen automatic doors and life will be the 1992 Nickelodeon Toy Run all over again. And PS: Hell yes there will be a Donkey Kong Country kiosk at the end cap because hashtag, the good old days.
In an article I read on Forbes to help prepare for the opinion pieces of which is sprawled in front of you, some verbiage about this Toys R Us sale jumped out at me:
Shmidman added that with the decline of traffic in many American malls, WHP has “an opportunity” to capture customers with new retail formats, like special pop-up locations, airport shops or mini stores inside existing retailers.
“We really have an opportunity not just to capture that experience for toys that people are yearning for, but also capture where [people] want to shop,” Shmidman told CNBC, adding it will be “very interesting post-Covid.”
My personal prediction? We are going to see a Toys R Us corner inside of Target— mark my words, I guarantee it now. Honestly, this would be the most financially safe and sound. It is the exact reason why, after Toys R Us fell into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2017 that the Geoffrey’s Toy Box kiosks opened in like, two Ralph/Kroger stores. It was a vanity project that showed that the IP was just alive enough to say “See, we’re here, told you so” but not visible enough that the general public could have a taste. It’s the same reason that TRU Kids opened what, an airport shop and two mall stores, selling gentle wooden baby toys and LEGOs. It was a low-risk investment and a pat on the back for the IP owners (who remember, were also higher ups at the original Toys R Us company– don’t forget that part of the story).
Hell, maybe it will be once those Disney Store pop up corners have their lease agreements run out– I don’t have the specific logistics of these things. But in a world where brick and mortar store rent is out of control expensive, OG Toys R Us locations are too big to fill, and the companies that were burned by the TRU collapse have managed to reinvent and sell successfully on their own (looking at you, Hasbro Pulse), why would anyone be running full throttle toward a backwards geared re-opening of Toys R Us? We won’t– which is why you will see mall kiosks, Toys R Us pop ups in stores (it might be Walmart, who knows), Toys R Us corners in bookstores (Barnes and Noble has toys) and so on. This set up in, in the big picture of multibillion dollar companies, relatively cheap, low risk, it shows the company’s face and logo, and will generate tons of free word of mouth advertising.
I do believe, whether this is fan head cannon or real life, that WHP Global sees an opportunity for Toys R Us to more closely resemble its previous incarnation and sell more toys. I think they see the booming collectors market and understand that there were several flavors of toy collectors (from babies to adults) who were not represented in the boushie nonsense vanity sweep that was TRU Kids. This is not Carters Clothing Store featuring toys, this is Toys R Us. This is Hasbro, Mattel, Bandai, Funko, NECA, board game companies, and everyone in between. If the new owners have a grasp on just that small kernel of knowledge, I think toy lovers will be happier with the new model they will see, however that is executed.
The original version of this article stated that Target was still powering TRU’s website. It has been brought to our attention that the partnership ended July 2020. That does not change our editorial predictions.