All in Order for New Toys “R” Us Concept
Experiential Play Shops Gear up for Grand Opening
By SHAMONTIEL VAUGHN | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
[RETHINK Retail] — With the holiday season drawing near, the new Toys “R” Us concept shops are now one step closer to cutting ribbons.
Toys “R” Us parent company, Tru Kids Brands, and California-based experiential retailer b8ta named Jamie Uitdenhowen, former chief merchandising officer at Party City, president of Toy Retail Showrooms LLC — the new joint venture that will operate and manage the reimagined Toys “R” Us stores.
Two new locations will open later this fall at The Galleria in Houston and Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. Ten more are expected to slowly open in 2020.
“This is an exciting time for the company, as we get closer to bringing back Toys “R” Us stores to the U.S. this holiday season,” Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids and interim co-CEO of Toys “R” Us, said in a statement.
RETHINKING the traditional toy shop:
Toys “R” Us has grown up. Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennial adults can remember their days searching for the best action figure, doll or board game at Toys “R” Us. Up and down the rows of endless aisles they would go, stepping over toys cast aside and avoiding the toddlers in meltdown mode. So, for parents entering the two upcoming East Coast and southern regional stores this fall, the “retail as a service” displays may come as a surprise.
Cashiers can breathe a sigh of relief from constantly clearing out (broken) toys that were usually found blocking the aisles: Not only will the two upcoming retail locations be a quarter of the size of the original stores, they’ll also look more like interactive showcases, where companies can sell their products on consignment.
Instead of housing thousands of boxed up products, the new Toys “R” Us showrooms will be complete with play areas, toy demonstrations, and “digital” experiences where movies and additional promotions will air. Customers can test and purchase available inventory in the store. Meanwhile the screens and kiosks near each toy display can be used to order other suggested toys online.
How “Retail as a Service” is reinventing retail
What started as a test idea in Palo Alto, California became a nationwide network of new ways to sell inventory. Companies create mini stores full of their best products, displays and test items included, for customers to interact with.
“Retail is transforming into a media and advertising model where people can learn about and discover new products and talk to people — but at the same time, we recognize that we can’t use the same old business model,” Phillip Raub, b8ta co-founder and co-CEO of Toys “R” Us, told RETHINK Retail during a recent interview.
As with the traditional toy store, many of the items can be purchased on the spot. But companies get a better real-time idea of what’s working and what’s not, taking a bit of the pressure off of the toy store to decide what is the new hot toy. (Around Christmas, this can be quite a feat.)
“It’s about having great experiences but at the same time being able to then understand what’s happening from both a marketing and a sales perspective,” Raub revealed.
“Retail As a Service” will certainly make the marketing teams of each toy company put their best foot forward into guiding customers to stay at their mini stores. If the customer purchases the items, the company gets paid. If not, they hope the next customer does. But with an already established name like Toys “R” Us, having store displays in this former 800-plus store chain is like getting a V.I.P. seat at the toy table. However, it remains to be seen how much of a liking children will take to the new way of “playing” there.
Toys “R” Us keeps its mascot memories
Toys “R” Us has been around since 1957. For even a casual shopper who didn’t really go to the stores — due to the online shopping craze or their kids growing up — 800 of its stores closing was a pretty big deal. The final store closed in June 2018. But a year later after bankruptcy, Toys “R” Us is fighting to come back stronger than ever.
Although times do bring change, one thing remains the same. Customers and casual browsers entering the new Toys “R” Us will still be greeted by the Toys “R” Us mascot, Geoffrey. And in true tech-craze fashion, kids can take selfie photographs with their long-necked friend. Just be sure those smartphones are on portrait mode.