Shoppers of all ages will soon get another chance to be a Toys R Us kid.
Under new ownership, Toys R Us is opening a U.S. flagship store at the American Dream mall in New Jersey complete with a two-story slide, an ice cream parlor and more than 10,000 toys.
The two-level store is scheduled to make its debut in mid-December in time for last-minute holiday shoppers.
"Toys R Us is back and it's back in a mega way," Yehuda Shmidman, WHP Global and Toys R Us chairman and CEO, told USA TODAY. "This is going to be our largest format store in America."
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In March, New York-based WHP Global, a brand management company, became the new owner when it acquired a controlling interest in Tru Kids, the former parent company of Toys R Us, Babies R Us and Geoffrey the Giraffe brands. There are more than 900 Toys R Us stores globally with locations in 25 countries.
Shmidman said his career has been about “trying to rescue brands from tough situations” and “bringing them back to consumers.”
While he acknowledges the brand’s previous business model led to restructuring, Shmidman said his company wasn't trying to change what Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus created.
“I don't believe that Toys R Us needs a turnaround as a brand because the brand is awesome,” Shmidman said during an interview with USA TODAY. “We're just trying to bring it back to America and we're trying to do it with a modern-day distribution.”
Toys R Us ‘perfect addition’ to American Dream megamall
Toys R Us’ announcement about opening at American Dream, the country’s second-biggest mall, doesn’t come as a complete surprise.
In September, during a press tour of the 3.3 million square foot supermall in East Rutherford, American Dream and Ken Downing, chief creative officer of mall developer Triple Five, hinted that the toy store would be opening a location, NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.
Downing said an unnamed toy store that "disappeared" was under construction to come back.
"Let's just say a giraffe is working really hard back there," Downing said. Toys R Us has had Geoffrey as a mascot since the 1950s.
American Dream CEO Don Ghermezian said in a statement that Toys R Us is the “perfect addition” to the mall’s lineup of entertainment and attractions.
“Toys“R”Us sparks the same feeling of joy across multiple age groups,” Ghermezian said in the statement.
The toy store is near Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park and DreamWorks Water Park. Other attractions at the mall include Legoland Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium and Big Snow Ski Hill.
The mall also has flagship locations for Aritzia, H&M, Primark, Uniqlo, Sephora and Zara.
American Dream took nearly two decades to become a reality; the first phase opened in October 2019. The giant complex was forced to close five months later amid the start of the pandemic. It reopened in October 2020, but some expansion plans were delayed.
The mall's 300,000-square-foot luxury retail wing, The Avenue, opened in September after a year's delay.
An exact date of the Toys R Us grand opening hasn’t been revealed, but Shmidman said he expects the store to open before Christmas.
Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData Retail, said Toys R Us remains a popular brand that he believes can have success with physical stores.
“Opening in American Dream is sensible as the mall will attract a lot of family shoppers who are potential customers,” Saunders told USA TODAY. “The evolution of the format to include things like experiences and an ice cream shop is on point as it gives people reasons to visit over and above simply buying products.”
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Macy's Toys R Us shops coming in 2022
The announcement about the pre-Christmas flagship opening comes days after Geoffrey appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time.
It also follows news that Toys R Us is opening toy shops in 400 Macy's stores in the U.S. starting next year. Toys R Us launched an online store on Macy’s website in August and brought back its classic holiday toy book with the department store this year.
A list of the Macy’s locations getting the Toys R Us shops is not yet available, Shmidman said, adding that the company is monitoring location requests posted on social media.
Ahead of the holidays and before the toy shops open, Macy’s has added more toys to stores that include Geoffrey displays.
Macy's Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said during the retailer’s quarterly earnings call on Nov. 18 that the Toys R Us partnership is meeting expectations and that digital business has skyrocketed.
“But the real growth is going to be in 2022 when we create substantially larger shops in 400 of our stores,” Gennette said. “We do believe we can be the premier brick-and-mortar destination for toys in America based on the innovation that we want to create, the experience we want to create, backed up with just a really robust website.”
“There’s been a void in the market that we're filling once again, of actually providing a beloved one-stop destination to enjoy the experience of shopping for kids,” he said.
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Contributing: Kristie Cattafi, NorthJersey.com; Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Toys R Us to open in New Jersey American Dream with slide, ice cream