When my children were small, a trip to Toys R Us was always a treat. My family depended on the store for many Christmas gifts, and they carried everything my kids loved – video games, action figures, bikes, even clothing!
However, in 2018, the owners of Toys R Us announced that the company was filing bankruptcy and would be shutting down all its stores. Kids and kids at heart alike were disappointed. Just a few years before, KB Toys had done the same. Toys R Us and its off-shoot stores Geoffrey would shut down, never to return. Many parents believed an entire generation would never enjoy the fun of shopping for toys together. However, thanks to Macy’s, the toy giant will return.
Just six days before Christmas, at 11 a.m., anxious shoppers – 120 in total – were present at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the opening of a brand new Toys R Us.
A security guard at the store’s entrance, outfitted in a bulletproof vest, monitored the excited shoppers. Two workers slid the gates open, and shoppers rushed in. Parents and kids alike surged into the not-quite-yet-finished store, just in time to find the perfect toys for the holidays.
A notice just inside the store read: “Staircase is not accessible yet.”
The Toys R Us in the American Dream Mall at East Rutherford is going to be a kid’s paradise. This store is expected to house a cafe as well as a slide that begins on the second floor of the store. The grand opening of the store featured a magician, and a ten year old girl eyed him cautiously.
She would later ask the magician, who was carrying out a trick involving a worm and a string, “Is that static, or is it all an illusion?”
The magic of Christmas filled the young girl’s eyes as she revealed that she simply couldn’t tell.
In 2017, Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2018, the company closed all 735 stores. The Toys R Us brand had originated in 1957 by Charles Lazarus. The company appears to be magically raising from the dead – and it is taking place just in time for last-minute toy shoppers.
Buying online has been the trend for many parents, particularly in the last two years of the pandemic. However, the heads of the company are hoping that the nostalgia of the store will beckon to those last-minute shoppers who remember the store from their own childhood or simply due to unfilled online orders. The shipping delays the United States has experienced in the last four months may be the perfect boon for shoppers who ordered, but their orders couldn’t make it in time for Christmas.
Plus, the Toys R Us name is still familiar among kids and parents alike. It is the hope of the company that that familiarity will bring customers in. This time, Toys R Us is pairing with another department store giant – Macy’s.
Toys R Us plans to open a slew of “mini-stores” in the coming months; they will be located inside of Macy’s stores.
The developer whose company owns the American Dream mall, Paul Ghermezian, discussed the possibility of bringing back the childhood favorite: “We sat down and were like: ‘We need a toy store! We believe in a toy store!'” They discussed brands, and Toys R Us was the choice; the developers believed that Toys R Us is a brand strong enough to bring customers in.
The developers of the Triple Five company, who owns the American Dream mall, are banking on the brand to draw parents just as much as children. Toys R Us does have a bit of nostalgia behind the name. Plus, there are lots of adults who are kids at heart as well. Where else besides Toys R Us can collectors find one-of-a-kind items they can’t find elsewhere? Over time, many action figures or other toys have been manufactured strictly for the Toys R us brand. Parents may purchase these collector items for their children, but there are many adults who purchase collector items for themselves.
The mantra of the Toys R Us commercials of yesterday – “I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!” is painted on the steps just outside the new Toys R Us store in East Rutherford. The new owners of the store in the American Dream mall have the theme song playing on the store’s speakers, but it has been remixed for a new generation.
A perusal of the shelves in the Toys R Us found thousands of toys for kids of all ages. Puzzles, silly putty, and action figures filled the new store. Board games in stock seemed to evoke the feeling of those who work at the American Dream. A Mall Madness board game particularly seems to point to the American Dream mall itself. Just three months ago, the American Dream mall caught fire. An indoor ski slope, Big Snow, was destroyed in the inferno.
One kid-at-heart, a 44 year old who remembered the Toys R Us stores of yesteryear, came to the grand opening of the mall in her hair rollers. She had driven three hours from Baltimore. She told reporters, “This has got to be heaven! We already finished our Christmas shopping. We’re just here for the excitement!”
That kid at heart isn’t the only one simply here for the fun. Many parents and kids lined up to be at the store’s opening.
The store is decorated with depictions of its mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe. The store is painted in primary colors. Developers at the American Dream mall placed the store strategically – the store is close in proximity to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park as well as an ice rink and mini golf course.
When Toys R Us shuttered its stores in 2018, over 30,000 employees lost their jobs overnight. Most of these workers didn’t even get a severance package while lawyers who advised the company prior to and during its bankruptcy raked in millions in fees.
Ironically, just a mile away from the American Dream mall, a faded Toys R Us sign hangs on a display board on Route 3. Some of the people attending the grand opening earlier this week had been at the closing of that Toys R Us store, and they called it “one of the darkest days in our family.” A smaller store was opened in November 2019, but it was only open for two months before it closed as well.
It remains to be seen whether the nostalgia of the store will be enough to keep this version of Toys R Us going. However, those who have invested in the new line of toy stores are hoping that Americans who have missed the toy store icon will come back and shop – and bring their children and grandchildren.
Macy’s will be the setting of 400 stores coming in the next year. Macy’s hopes the new store will allow the department store to “significantly expand” the company’s footprint with children.
At the East Rutherford store, the cafe and slide are expected to be complete by the end of January.
Let’s hope the new mini-stores will be successful and “stay alive” this time.