Back in name only: Toys R Us brand to reappear in more than 400 Macy’s stores
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Macy’s just announced that it will open Toys R Us shops inside more than 400 of its stores next year.
It’s a weird one to explain. Just a few years ago, Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy with $5 billion of debt on its books before shutting down its U.S. business entirely. It laid off more than 30,000 people and sold all of its inventory.
But even when a business seems to be dead, somebody can put the electrodes to its chest and jolt it back to life.
In 2018, there was a bankruptcy auction for the leftover intellectual property from the iconic toy store. “That would be the names Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Geoffrey the Giraffe,” said James Zahn, senior editor of the Toy Insider.
“And the parties involved at the time” — some of the lenders that Toys R Us owed money to — “decided to cancel the auction and keep the IP for themselves,” Zahn said.
They tried to monetize it. The lenders opened pop-up shops at Kroger under the name Geoffrey’s Toy Box. They partnered with Target to have the Toys R Us website send customers to Target.com. They even opened a couple of experiential stores, then shut them down in the pandemic.
Now here we are, with the Macy’s partnership.
The lenders aren’t calling the shots anymore. Toys R Us is now controlled by a brand-management company called WHP Global, and it’s not actually a retailer anymore.
“They do not operate any retail stores. They do not operate their e-commerce. You could essentially say that they’re an IP company,” Zahn said.
“That’s why this partnership with Macy’s is so important,” explained Steph Wissink, a managing director and senior research analyst at Jefferies.
“Macy’s is a retailer that has real estate — stores. Macy’s is a retailer that has an inventory-purchasing infrastructure,” she said.
What Macy’s wants is more customers, and it’s betting that the Toys R Us name will bring them into its stores.
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