When reports last week suggested Toys "R" Us will soon be closing all of its U.S. stores, expecting parents registered at Babies "R" Us were understandably worried.
The chain had previously committed to honoring baby registries, gift cards, warranties and its "Endless Earnings" cash back program when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall, back when the company was only planning to close some, not all, of its locations.
Toys "R" Us Inc. did not comment on the new reports of the looming shutdown, save for a statement posted to social media Friday. It read, in part: "Our stores are open for business, ready to bring joy to children wherever we can, and to help new and expecting parents navigate raising a family."
But questions about what will happen to the baby registries, gift cards and rewards programs many families are relying on remain unanswered.
What shoppers should do
Julie McCaffrey, the founder and Chief Baby Planner at BabyNav, a maternity concierge service, says parents whose registry would be impacted by the closure of Babies "R" Us should consider where they are in the gift getting process before making their next move.
If your shower invites have not gone out
If your registry link hasn't yet been shared via shower invitations or other means, McCaffrey suggests just starting fresh with another retailer to avoid any potential chaos to come. "There are some models and colors that are exclusive to Babies ‘R' Us, so this may mean that there are a few items that parents will have to reselect," she notes.
If your baby shower is fast approaching
If the invites are out and guests have RSVP'd, McCaffrey suggests parents "quietly create a second registry with the gifts that have not yet been purchased from Babies ‘R’ Us."
She says Amazon and Buy Buy Baby offer many of the same products and similar registry benefits to those at Babies "R" Us. You could consider registering at Target, too, as it offers parents 15% off of everything left on the registry after the gift giving is done.
"If Babies ‘R' Us does close quickly those parents can still receive the gifts that have already been purchased and then they can share the second registry created so that they can utilize those registry benefits for their remaining gear,” McCaffrey says.
If your baby is almost here
McCaffrey's advice to those who have already received most of the items on their registry but have not yet returned items or used their registry rewards is simple: Be quick!
"I suggest they do both of those as soon as possible," she tells Motherly. "Many parents are expecting to receive the 10% completion coupon as well as the gift cards that are offered in the cashback program which can really add up when purchasing the rest of the items from your registry."
There’s a silver lining
If Toys "R" Us does indeed close all its stores, the sales could benefit the same families who will be inconvenienced by the closures. McCaffrey recommends parents stay away from anything they'd want to have a store warranty on.
"Look for items without a lot of moving parts or electronics as you won't be able to make returns," she says. "It is a great time to load up on diapers, wipes, feeding items or clothing."
Other retailers will probably step up
"There hasn't been a retailer this large in the baby space that has closed while parents were still registered," McCaffrey explains.
The closest comparable situation was when baby retailer Giggle quickly closed up shop last year, leaving parents stuck with gift cards, open registries and products they had no chance to return. But Giggle operated on a much smaller scale than Babies "R" Us, with just a handful of locations.
The uncertain future of Babies "R" Us impacts many more parents not only because there are so many more stores spread across the country, but because the Babies "R" Us registry program has been "full of great benefits", according to McCaffrey, and had a great selection at a lot of different price points.
This is a clear opportunity for other retailers to step up. "What we saw was other small retailers trying to capture that business by offering to honor Giggle gift cards if parents would move their registry over to their store," McCaffrey explains.
No players have announced plans to accept Babies "R" Us gift cards at this stage, but competitors are assisting Babies "R" Us customers in other ways.
A spokesperson for Buy Buy Baby tells Motherly "we are accepting all Babies ‘R' Us coupons as well as keeping our price-match promise to help new parents during their transition. We understand the time and effort that goes into creating a registry and our expert consultants will gladly recreate any Babies ‘R' Us registries."