Have you given up on Toys R Us? When the stores began closing in 2017, most of us assumed we would never walk in one of their warehouse-sized stores ever again. With the global pandemic slowing foot traffic for brick-and-mortar shopping, that only sounds like more of a done deal. However, a branding company sees things differently. From the perspective of WHP Global, you still have the tried and true jingle buried in your brain. “I don’t want to grow up / I’m a Toys R Us kid…” Is that enough to revive the famous chain of toy stores in the United States? The new company is betting on it.
WHP Global is a brand management platform. They opened in the summer of 2019 with a $200 million equity fund behind them. They used this to purchase their first fashion brands, Anne Klein and Joseph Abboud. However, their goals are further reaching. They plan to invest $1 billion in brands by 2024. As their next step, they’ve acquired Tru Kids Inc, the parent company that owns Toys R Us, Babies R Us, and approximately 20 other toys and baby-focused businesses. Many may find this to be an odd time to reopen brick-and-mortar stores. After all, foot traffic is down. Stores are still closed under pandemic restrictions. Many long-standing chains have closed their doors. Toys R Us suffered from poor online sales. Now, if you’re going to shop for toys, you have even more reason to do so online. However, the owners of WHP Global feel this is an opportune moment.
Yehuda Shmidman is the CEO of WHP Global, which now owns a controlling interest in Tru Kids. In a recent interview, they said, “Toys R Us is the single most credible, trusted and beloved toy brand in the world.” They acknowledged that the recent restructuring has hurt the company, as has the pandemic. “But now we’re getting past those two things. And the sky’s the limit.”
The goal is for shoppers to be able to shop the Toys R Us brand in-person before the 2021 holiday season hits. They are going to be watching how customers are shopping post-pandemic, which they will feel will have shifted. Then, they’ll pivot their strategy to match what consumers are doing. At the moment, WHP Global is considering various types of stores. These include mini stores, pop-up locations, airport shops, and the big flagship stores we normally associate with Toys R Us locations. They didn’t discuss how online shopping plays into their plans moving forward.
Currently, if you attempt to make a purchase from the Toys R Us website you will be redirected to finalize your shopping through Amazon. In recent years, their website worked similarly but redirected to Target. It’s been a while since the brand has sold toys directly themselves. It sounds like, as far as online shopping goes, that may still be the plan.
Can major chains survive when they’re still focused on in-person shopping? The new company behind Toys R Us seems to think so. This has been a major question in recent years. In the tech industry, we saw how Best Buy has restructured their online experience and added more value to their in-person shopping. Namely, the Geek Squad adds a lot of appeal to their customer experience. If you need someone to set up your new television or help you fix your sound system, the Geek Squad has your back. That’s a reason to shop there instead of Amazon. Meanwhile, Fry’s Electronics didn’t find a way to pivot to the way online retail has changed the landscape and recently closed down.
With vaccines rolling out, will shoppers be ready to re-embrace their nostalgia for in-person shopping at a Toys R Us store? It sounds like we’re going to find out.