Toys R Us retrenches again, shutters its last two US stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Toys R Us is retrenching once again.

The only two Toys R Us stores that opened in November 2019 as part of a small United States (US) comeback attempt by the iconic toy chain have now closed.

The Toys R Us store at the Galleria mall in Houston shuttered on January 15, while one at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, closed on Tuesday, according Tru Kids, a new entity formed when it acquired Toys R Us’ intellectual property during its liquidation in 2018.

The moves come as physical stores, particularly mall-based locations, have been hurt by weak customer traffic amid the pandemic.

The Toys R Us website is still in operation.

File photo shows a girl hugging the Toys R Us mascot, Geoffrey, at a store at a mall in Paramus, New Jersey. PHOTO: AP

“As a result of COVID, we made the strategic decision to pivot our store strategy to new locations and platforms that have better traffic,” Tru Kids said in an e-mailed statement on Friday. “Consumer demand in the toy category and for Toys R Us remains strong and we will continue to invest in the channels where the customer wants to experience our brand.”

The two shuttered locations were about 6,500 square feet — about one-seventh of the size of the old Toys R U stores and emphasised hands-on experiences. Employees unwrapped toys, for instance, so that kids could try them out.

During a visit to the New Jersey store in late 2019, kids shot Nerf blasters and sat in a circle for story time while Geoffrey, the chain’s mascot, roamed around. Such experiences are now shunned at a time when shoppers have to abide by social-distancing rules.

Tru Kids said that outside of the US, it operates Toys R Us, and Babies R Us branded stores and e-commerce sites through licencing partners in more than 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Bloomberg News first reported the news of the store closures.