Tru Kids Brand, the organization that bought the rights to the Toys“R”Us name as part of the chain’s massive fire sale last year, announced today that it was bringing the toy stores back to the United States in time for the holiday season. But not as the giant warehouse stores you remember with toys stacked to the ceiling. Instead, they’ll be popping up inside another dying retail experience: shopping malls.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Tru Kids has partnered with experiential retailer b8ta to create stores that focus on the “...hottest toy products and brands, carefully curated and showcased in highly immersive smaller-format spaces.” Instead of just being rows and rows of shelves stocked with what kids actually want, the new Toys R Us stores will be more like interactive playgrounds with pre-planned events and activities every day, and the opportunity to play with a handful of toy samples. Toymakers will also be encouraged to design and set up branded shops within the new stores, creating another potential revenue stream for Tru Kids. The idea sounds like a mashup of the old Toys R Us experience and what Apple offers in its modern stores, with a focus on inundating kids and parents with ads and marketing for their tightly curated stock.
If it sounds like a less-than-triumphant return for Geoffrey the Giraffe that doesn’t get you overly excited to hit your local TRU again, don’t worry. Because the odds are very good there won’t actually be one of these stores anywhere near you. Just two locations will be opened in time for the holidays this year: one at The Galleria in Houston, Texas, and one in the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. A slow rollout, but if you’re tempted to drive across the country to visit one, instead just head north to Canada, we’ve still got lots of big box Toys R Us stores all over the country.