It’s been a rough few years for Toys R Us after the iconic chain closed its doors in mid-2018 and sold off its brand and other assets in an attempt to finally pay off longstanding debts. Geoffrey the Giraffe hasn’t been able to rest in peace, however, thanks to attempts to revive the toy store: the latest being a new partnership with Macy’s online and brick and mortar stores.
An organization called Tru Kids Brand bought the rights to the Toys R Us name in 2018 and a year later, in July of 2019, revealed that it had partnered with experiential retailer b8ta to create a series of smaller mall-based stores that focused on a limited selection of curated toys paired with regular events and brand experiences. If you don’t remember Toys R Us’s triumphant return, it’s not surprising, as when the announcement was made it was also revealed that only two stores would be opened for the 2019 holiday season: one in Houston, Texas, and one in Paramus, New Jersey.
As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, it was later revealed that the Paramus store, at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall, featured a series of sensors installed in the ceiling that b8ta was using to track the movement and flow of customers in the space to collect data on what items and displays shoppers were most attracted to. It was shopping with a side of focus group, and unfortunately, b8ta declined to comment when Gizmodo reached out asking the retailer to “clarify how the data is being collected, how long it’s stored for, and whether shoppers are notified the technology is in use in the stores.”
Thirteen months after the Tru Kids New Jersey and Texas toy stores opened, both locations closed within a week of each other in January of 2021, victims of the challenges introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and increased competition from online shopping alternatives. Two months after that, it was announced that TRU Kids had been acquired by WHP Global, a “leading brand acquisition and management firm,” and Geoffrey the Giraffe would be back again.
Today WHP Global announced a new partnership with Macy’s that will leverage the retailer’s online presence to sell toys under the Toys R Us branding (Macys.com/toysrus doesn’t appear to be live just yet) while physical Toys R Us shop-in-shops will be added to over 400 of Macy’s brick-and-mortar retail locations starting in 2022. It’s a small cry from the over 1,500 stores Toys R Us stores operated around the world before the company closed in 2018, but it will be a much larger rollout than what TRU Kids attempted in 2019. The goal of the partnership is to lure families into Macy’s stores in hopes they’ll also purchase other non-toy products during a visit, including millennials with young children.
This isn’t the first time Macy’s has partnered with a recognizable toy retail brand in an attempt to attract a wider demographic to its stores. In 2018, it signed an exclusive agreement with FAO Schwarz, which was the oldest toy store in the United States whose Fifth Avenue location in New York was made famous in the piano dancing scene in the 1988 film Big starring Tom Hanks. FAO Schwarz filed for bankruptcy in 2003, was actually acquired by Toys R Us in 2009, and is now owned by the ThreeSixty Group. The 2018 agreement saw Macy’s opening up to 275 FAO Schwarz shop-in-shops in its stores across the country, which were presumably not as successful as the retailer had hoped, given it’s now trying essentially the same thing with the Toys R Us brand instead.