A year after its full shutdown, America’s favorite toy store is making a comeback. Toys R Us is reopening in 2019 with two smaller-format, permanent stores in New Jersey and Texas. Also in the mix — interactive technology to match its online customer base. This is Toys R Us reimagined: all of the nostalgia, and hopefully, none of the bankruptcy.
The first store debuted on Saturday at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey. And soon, in early December, a second will open at The Galleria in Houston, Texas. The 6,000-square-foot Paramus store will be staffed with “toy professionals,” trained to help families test out toys and order items online that aren’t in physical stock.
In July, Toys R Us’ parent company Tru Kids announced a partnership with software retailer “b8ta” for their new stores. They plan to team up to launch 10 stores nationwide in 2020, including a larger NYC flagship store.
B8ta already has dozens of its own stores, but it’s now using its in-house technology platform to help top toy brands like Lego and Nerf create their own “mini boutiques” inside the new Toys R Us shops. It’s also installed sensors in the store ceilings to monitor traffic patterns and shopper cadence to provide feedback on the store’s success with customers.
“We wanted to make sure that everywhere you turned in the store there was interactivity,” Tru Kids president Richard Barry said in an interview at the Paramus store. “We have an amazing number of digital experiences throughout the store, but we also have good old analog ones… Take the products out of the boxes and kids will be able to get their hands on them.”
Toys R Us also teamed up with Target this fall to relaunch Toys R Us online, while these interactive stores were still in the works.
“We believe that Toys R Us was renowned, and customers really saw us as the experts in the space,” Barry said. “And we want to make sure we deliver on that, but in a very different way than we were before, because this is a … high-touch, experiential store.”