Cue the zombie memes and comeback anthems: Toys "R" Us is making a comeback just in time for Christmas. As CNBC reports, Target is partnering with Tru Kids Inc. (the company that now owns the Toys “R" Us brand name) to relaunch the Toys “R" Us website, but no physical stores are planned at this time.
This follows a recent announcement by Tru Kids that it is also partnering with Candytopia to launch pop-up experiences called "The Toys 'R' Us Adventure." The first two will open in Chicago and Atlanta in late October and will stay open through the holiday season. There are plans to expand the pop-ups to other cities after Christmas.
“This new adventure brings to life the joys of childhood with interactive play rooms and installations featuring the beloved Toys "R" Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and popular toy vendors like Melissa & Doug, the leading toy brand for screen-free, open-ended play, Spin Master's popular PAW Patrol brand, Schleich, an Imaginative Play Company, and much more," Tru Kids Inc. states in a press release.
This announcement follows previous reports of a planned holiday revival for the Toys "R" Us brand. Back in July, Bloomberg reported that Richard Barry, the CEO of Tru Kids Inc., was working on a plan that would reportedly include about six stores that would be only 10,000-square feet (a third of the size of the old big-box stores) plus an e-commerce site. At that time a spokesperson for Tru Kids told Motherly there was no official comment, but Bloomberg's reports came after Barry had reportedly pitched this plan at an industry conference.
The toy industry, and those of us consuming its goods, have been anticipating something like this since early 2019, when Tru Kids Inc. first announced that it was the "proud parent" of the Toys “R" Us brand name. That's when Barry began promising that his company was brainstorming new ideas for its comeback.
All 735 Toys "R" Us stores in the U.S. closed last summer, following the bankruptcy filing of the company in 2017. This left nearly 20,000 employees out of work, and sent many toy manufacturers in disarray. Interestingly, the closures didn't just mean parents bought their kids' toys online or at other stores. According to the New York Times, only a third of Toys "R" Us' would-be holiday sales went to other retailers. This is presumably because without a giant toys-only wonderland before them, people were somehow more restrained in their buying habits.
Other factors, such as a declining birth rate and the rise of video games, have been blamed for the slowing of toy sales. The people bringing Toys "R" Us back from the dead know some things have to change for the rebirth to be successful. According to Bloomberg, the new, smaller stores, will include adjustments to modern buying habits. There will be an emphasis on experiences, including play areas in the stores. Products might also be sold on consignment, so Toys "R" Us won't pay the makers until they sell the toys to consumers. How manufacturers burned by the company's bankruptcy will react to that idea remains to be seen.
Will nostalgic Toys "R" Us kids—and their kids—flock to the new adventure pop-up? That remains to be seen, as does what cities will be getting the experience. If you're a Toys “R" Us kid at heart you can find out which cities will receive the experience by registering for early ticket access at toysrusadventure.com.
[A version of this post was originally published July 3, 2019. It has been updated.]