Toys “R” Us, the once ubiquitous chain that drew generations of children with its signature primary colors and its Geoffrey the Giraffe mascot, will attempt a comeback six years after filing for bankruptcy. It plans to open up to 24 flagship stores across the United States starting next year, WHP Global, its parent company, announced on Friday.
WHP Global, which acquired a controlling stake of Toys “R” Us in 2021, said in a statement that in addition to the new brick-and-mortar stores, Toys “R” Us would also open shops in airports and on cruise ships through a partnership with Go! Retail Group.
The first airport shop will open in early November in Terminal A of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, ahead of the holiday shopping season, the company said.
Yehuda Shmidman, the chairman and chief executive of WHP Global, said in a statement that Toys “R” Us “is growing fast and our expansion into air, land and sea is a testament to the brand’s strength.”
WHP Global, which also owns brands such as Anne Klein, Joseph Abboud and Bonobos, did not say in its statement where the flagship stores would open. A spokeswoman for the company said that “prime locations” were being identified.
Toys “R” Us signaled the start of an attempt at a comeback in 2021, when it opened a 20,000 square feet flagship store at American Dream mall in New Jersey. After that, Toys “R” Us launched 452 mini-shops inside Macy’s stores across the United States.
The comeback attempt for Toys “R” Us comes during what has been a difficult time for brick-and-mortar stores, with many closing in the past several years as they have had to contend with the continued growth of e-commerce followed by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Toys “R” Us, which was founded by Charles Lazarus who opened the first Toys “R” Us in 1957, was once one of the world’s largest toy store chain with stores in Australia, Asia and North America. But in 2017, facing long-term debt totaling more than $5 billion, the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Toys “R” Us closed the last of its 735 U.S. stores by June 2018. Toys “R” Us has maintained a global presence, with stores in Canada and South Korea.
Lars Perner, an assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, said he would not have predicted a return of flagship Toys “R” Us stores.
“It’s very much of a contrarian kind of strategy when you see so many others pulling back from your brick-and-mortar retailers,” he said.
It’s possible, Mr. Perner said, that nostalgia could play a role in driving business for the new flagship stores.
Many parents and children born after 1957 likely have fond memories of wandering giant Toys “R” Us stores filled with everything from scooters to video games to dolls and action figures. Some may remember seeing Geoffrey the Giraffe, the Toys “R” Us mascot, or own their own stuffed Geoffrey.
“If you have people who got gifts from Toys ‘R’ Us when they were growing up and now have their own children, there could be some appeal,” Mr. Perner said.
Mr. Perner said tapping into the travel industry could be successful, especially because research shows consumers tend to spend more on vacation.
Still, the new flagship Toys “R” Us stores must contend with the likes of Amazon, which gives consumers the ease of making purchases from their phones. The stores must also compete with big box stores, like Walmart and Target, which Mr. Perner said “offer rock-bottom prices.”
“I think it could work as a kind of a novelty in the short-run,” Mr. Perner said. “I’d be hard-pressed to see this being successful in the long run.”