Excerpt from Houston Chronicle
Toys R Us, the beloved toy retailer that went out of business last year, has returned to Houston with a revamped store that aims to offer a more interactive shopping experience than its failed predecessors.
Customers at the new Toys R Us, which opens Saturday at the Galleria mall, are greeted by corporate mascot Geoffrey, and encouraged to take a selfie with the iconic giraffe. Children can climb a nearby treehouse overlooking a reading nook with artificial grass, small benches and bookshelves. Toward the back of the store is a theater that can host birthday parties and toy events, as well as an interactive “Magic Mirror” screen displaying a digital Geoffrey that mimics children’s movements.
While many big-box retailers expanded their toy sections around the holidays, toymakers such as Mattel of El Segundo, Calif. and Hasbro of Pawtucket, R.I., need a dedicated retailer pushing product throughout the year, said Charlie O’Shea, lead retail analyst with Moody’s Investor Service, a credit rating firm.
“Toys R Us was the place to go in August for a birthday present,” O’Shea said.
TRU Kids, which acquired Toys R Us’ intellectual property out of bankruptcy last year, plans to open 10 stores nationally by the end of 2020. The company last week opened its first store inside the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in northern New Jersey. Hundreds of Toys R Us aficionados, some of whom drove from across the tri-state area, waited in lines for hours to get into the store during its grand opening last Saturday. Executives expect a similar reaction for the grand opening of its second store in Houston .
“There’s still a lot of affection for the brand,” Barry said. “Toys have this emotional element. People remember buying bikes and Christmas toys here. The heart-strings get pulled.”
TRU Kids chose to relaunch its brick-and-mortar operations in Houston because of the strength of The Galleria mall, which attracts more than 30 million visitors a year. In fact, Toys R Us, which for years eschewed malls in favor of freestanding stores, plans to open new locations primarily in high-performing malls.