Get your Geoffrey the Giraffe costume out of storage, because Toys “R” Us is coming back. The toy retailer that declared bankruptcy last year, shuttering 800 stores around the country, will open two permanent stores in November just in time to cash in on holiday toy shopping at Galleria Mall in Houston and the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey.
In its mission to claw its way back from bankruptcy and reestablish itself in the hypercompetitive toy market, the brand has a new high-tech angle. Toys “R” Us, or rather Tru Kids (the company that is helping to manage the brand names left in the wake of the liquidation last year), has teamed up with b8ta, a software company that specializes in immersive retail experiences, and will each own 50% of the new endeavor. According to CNBC, the company hopes to open 10 stores around the U.S. in 2020 and may even bring back its New York City flagship.
While Toys “R” Us built its brand around the idea of being “the biggest toy store there is,” its new stores will be more in line with its new reality—smaller and taking up less real estate, reportedly spanning between 6,500 and 10,000 square feet, compared with the sprawling 40,000-square-foot footprint of their former incarnation.
As for what toys and brands will be sold in these smaller spaces, that’s still TBD. Declaring bankruptcy is typically not good for the relationship between a store and the brands it carries. Toys “R” Us is reportedly hustling hard to get companies to agree to let it sell their products.
This is where b8ta comes in. Its tech and stores work on a consignment model, which it calls “retail as a service.” It will allow brands to pay to create mini-stores of their own within the Toys “R” Us space and then get all the sales when customers buy in-store or online. Ideally, the new Toys “R” Us will give kids (and trusted adults) the chance to interact with new toys and allow brands to show off their wares to an appreciative audience, which will translate into real-world sales.
“The new Toys ‘R’ Us stores will be the most progressive and advanced stores in its category in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come,” b8ta founder and CEO Vibhu Norby said in a statement. The move comes after Macy’s acquired a minority stake in b8ta, using the company’s innovative ideas to spruce up its spaces as Macy’s faced down the retail apocalypse.
The tech angle could give Toys “R” Us the edge it needs to compete against Amazon, Walmart, and Target in the toy market.