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Toys R Us tries a comeback, again

A Toys R Us store, in Wayne, N.J., in January 2018, the year the company closed its stores. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Toys R Us and its mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe are trying to make another brick-and-mortar comeback ahead of the holiday season, after the brand filed for bankruptcy and shuttered all of its 800 U.S. stores four years ago.

From this month through mid-October, the brand is opening shops inside every Macy’s store in the United States, Macy’s said in a news release Monday. The Toys R Us shops will start at 1,000 square feet and can be 10,000 square feet at flagship locations in Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and San Jose.

But the industry trends that contributed to Toys R Us’s initial downfall are still in place. Although consumers have been buying more and more toys every year in terms of dollars since 2019, according to a June report by NPD, a research firm, purchases increasingly happen online.

Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017, worn down by nearly $8 billion in debt and growing competition from online rivals. Two years later, it tried to come back, reviving its website and opening two physical stores in Houston and Paramus, N.J. But the pandemic had other ideas. By January 2021, the two reopened stores were closed, though online stores were kept open. Last December it opened a new flagship store at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, N.J., but the mall has run into financial distress.

In August, under the new ownership of WHP Global — a brand management company that bought a controlling stake in Toys R Us in March — the toy seller embarked on a new e-commerce partnership with Macy’s. At the time, Macy’s pledged to open brick-and-mortar Toys R Us shops at 400 of its locations in 2022.

The marriage between Macy’s and Toys R Us resulted in increased toy sales for Macy’s and new life for Toys R Us.

Welcome to the first holiday season without Toys R Us

“Macy’s cannot wait to bring the Toys ‘R’ Us experience to life in our stores,” Nata Dvir, Macy’s chief merchandising officer, said in a statement, adding that the customer response has been “incredible.”

In 1987, the best-paid CEO in the United States was Charles Lazarus, the founder and leader of Toys R Us, receiving $60 million. After serving in the Army during World War II, the District native started a baby-furniture store, reasoning that an ensuing baby boom would make child-related retail a success. He soon found out selling toys made for better business.

Lazarus lived long enough to see Toys R Us file for Chapter 11 protection, dying in 2018 at the age of 94.

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