Toys R Us’ comeback continued Wednesday with its first new U.S. bricks-and-mortar store.
A month after opening two “immersive toy wonderlands” called Toys R Us Adventure and 17 months after shuttering all stores, the iconic toy brand opened a retail store at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey.
The 54-year-old brand has re-imagined the toy shopping experience for customers, said Richard Barry, chief executive of Tru Kids, which operates Toys R Us, during the space’s soft launch on Thanksgiving Eve. A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday with in-store events, giveaways and character visits.
“Historically, Toys R Us stores were 40,000-square-feet, large big box locations,” Barry said. “What we’ve looked to do here is completely re-imagine the shopping experience and the buying experience by really embracing experiential retailing.”
Barry said the company hopes to open 10 of its new concept stores over the next year. A second location is expected to open next week in Simon Property Group’s The Galleria in Houston.
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In February, former Toys R Us executives announced the start of Tru Kids Brands. In June, news spread that the company was looking to open a half dozen stores and a new e-commerce site ahead of holiday shopping.
The brand launched a new website in October, which features product reviews and videos. It directs shoppers to a buy button at Target.com to complete the purchase.
At 6,000 square feet, the new store is significantly smaller than the stores that closed in June 2018. The space also offers interactive play areas, propelling the toy giant into the world of experiential retail.
Instead of aisles of toys like traditional Toys R Us stores had, the spaces inside the shop are more deliberate: there are four branded areas on the right side of the shop where kids can test out certain toys.
“As you walk through this store, you’ll see that at every touch point there’s something for kids to get their hands on,” Barry said. “While we have lots of technology, one of the things that is very important to us is the fact that things are tactile.”
For instance, there’s a Nerf Gun area where kids can shoot at targets. In the Paw Patrol space, children can test out products at an activity table. At the Nintendo space, customers can test games, and at the Lego space kids can build a city.
Beyond toys, there are larger interactive experiences throughout the shop: Geoffrey’s Tree House, which children can climb to the top of to ring a bell; a Play-A-Round Theater with the popular lyrics “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid” plastered on its walls; and a “Magical Mirror” play pod where kids can interact with a 3D version of Geoffrey the Giraffe.
There’s also a life-size version of the mascot at the store’s entrance – a selfie photo opp several parents and children took advantage of.
The toy brand’s early return to New Jersey was a deliberate decision by Tru Kids, which is now based in Parsippany. The company wanted to have one of its first stores launch in the Garden State, said Barry, which he called the brand’s “heartland.”
“It was really important for us to be in New Jersey for one of our first stores,” Barry said.
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