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First New Toys ‘R’ Us Store Opens, But Isn’t Exactly a ‘Store’
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Kids, adults with kids, and kid-adults living in Paramus, New Jersey, are being treated to something special this holiday season: the first Toys “R” Us store to open since the 70-year-old corporation went bankrupt back in 2017. But this new Toys “R” Store, which provides the blueprint for all of the other stores the company plans on opening over the next year or so, isn’t the kind of toy store we all remember. On the contrary, it’s more of a place where shoppers can experience toys, and then buy them directly from other retailers’ displays in the store, bypassing Toys “R” Us as a go-between.

In late November, news organizations started reporting on the newly opened Toys “R” Us store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, highlighting the store’s new business model, which focuses more on the “experiential” aspect of the store, rather than its inventory. In a recent report by NBC, which comes via i09, this new business model is unpacked further, helping to clarify exactly how Toys “R” Us plans to differentiate itself from other retailers that reside in the same niche.

Essentially, the new Toys “R” Store—as well as the other ten stores the corporation plans on opening through the end of 2020—is more like a miniature toy mall rather than a toy store per se. As the Toys “R” Us wiki notes, Tru Kids, Inc. the parent company that now owns the Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us brands, has remade Toys “R” Us into “a wholesale store-within-a-store.” This means that Toys “R” Us doesn’t buy toys wholesale and then sell them at retail prices any more. Instead, Toys “R” Us rents parts of its stores to other retailers so that they can sell directly to shoppers. E.g. LEGO, which has rented out a part of the Toys “R” Us store in Paramus, sells its toys directly to consumers in the store, which means Toys “R” Us doesn’t get a cut of the sales, but does get rent money from LEGO.

But Toys “R” Us isn’t only rebirthing itself as a store-within-a-store. The NBC report also notes that b8ta, the retail-as-a-service company that’s partnered with Tru Kids, Inc. to shape Toys “R” Us’s newly launched stores, is also helping its new partner to collect data on shoppers. Toys “R” Us “has also installed dozens of sensors in the ceilings of the Paramus [store]… that will monitor traffic patterns and shopper cadence among other metrics,” NBC says, in order “to give brands and Tru Kids feedback on how the spaces are performing.” Cadence, for clarity, seems to be a measure of how frequently shoppers go to different retail spaces inside of the Toys “R” Us Store, as well as how long they stay there, although that isn’t exactly clear.

Looking forward, Tru Kids, Inc. is planning on opening another Toys “R” Us store on December 7 in Houston, Texas, which will have the same layout, and data collection hardware, as the one in Paramus. Both of these stores are also significantly smaller than old-school Toys “R” Us stores, which were often times more than six times larger—many of the old stores spanned up to 40,000 square feet while the new ones are only 6,000. “We believe that Toys R Us was renowned, and customers really saw us as the experts in the space,” Tru Kids, Inc. president and CEO Richard Barry told NBC, adding that his company wants “to make sure we deliver on that, but in a very different way than we were before….” Sounds like Toys “R” Us is finally growing up.

What do you think of this Toys “R” Us retail transformation? Do you think this business model will make the iconic toy store/retail experience center more or less likely to succeed? Deliver some opinion-experiences in the comments!

Feature image: Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine