Toys 'R' Us

Don’t put away the toys just yet — Toys ‘R’ Us (Tru Kids Brands Inc.) hits back with physical retail in the U.S. through a joint venture with retail-as-a-service platform, B8ta, to open two permanent stores later this year.

The aim is to present a “reimagined” Toys ‘R’ Us store that will engage shoppers in meaningful ways.

“We’ve been searching for the next category for our model to enter,” said Vibhu Norby, cofounder and chief executive officer of B8ta, to WWD. Indeed, kids’ toys and games were the next step. The company already operates 17 stores, where customers can get “hands-on” with the latest electronics and direct-to-consumer brands that benefit from in-person play.

In January 2019, Tru Kids Brands Inc. became the new company owning and licensing core assets such as Toys ‘R’ Us, Babies ‘R’ Us and Geoffrey the Giraffe. The new leadership team aims to bring the experience and industry know-how that will carry the toy company forward — in an ever-changing retail landscape and fast-paced, trend-driven toy industry.

“Toys are quite similar to apparel — trends come very quickly,” said Richard Barry, ceo of Tru Kids Brands Inc., to WWD. And the U.S.-based joint venture partnership with B8ta is one that will allow Tru Kids to “respond and maximize these trends,” anchoring its heritage in the U.S. market.

One of the stores will be at the Galleria in Houston, a Simon Mall, and the other at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. Each mall location attracts millions of visitors each year.

“We know the customer loves our brand,” said Barry, who believes the productive and high-traffic areas of the two sites will offer their devoted customers a “massively enhanced experience,” while driving new customer acquisition.

Attracting cross-generational play, Norby said a theater, treehouse and Instagrammable moments will all be built out in the two stores. The first two stores will open this holiday season, with each store being approximately 6,500 square feet.

Brands will be announced at a later date, but Barry informs that the assortment will be a mix of both established and newly discovered brands. Discussions are in the works with “top entertainment companies.”

Late last year, B8ta began a conversation with Tru Kids — with the companies entering into a 50-50 joint venture in the U.S. whereby permanent small format, experiential retail stores will map out the new vision for the heralded toy brand.