Don’t call it a comeback yet, but down-on-its-luck toy retailer Toys ‘R’ Us is relaunching its stores with a modern twist later this year.
The toy store chain, which filed for bankruptcy and shuttered all of its existing stores last summer, is easing its way back into the market with the help of startup b8ta. Toys ‘R’ Us’ parent company Tru Kids Brands is entering a joint venture with retail service provider B8ta, which counts Macy’s as an investor and a partner, and whose stores it similarly helped revamp last year.
“I think there is an interesting mash-up between experiential retail that b8ta has been perfecting in its store with those hands-on experiences,” Tru Kids Brands CEO Richard Barry told TechCrunch. “Having the ability for brands to showcase things and give them online experiences too.”
According to the Toys ‘R’ Us website, unlike their old shops, the new curated stores will feature 10,000 square feet of space and “will be highly interactive with new events and activities every day, from seeing toys displayed out of the box to test before making a purchase, to visiting different brand stations.”
The first two stores will open at malls in Paramus, New Jersey and Houston, Texas, and will be joined by more locations next year. Given its infamous withdrawal from the $11B toy industry due to struggles against today’s e-commerce competition, Toys ‘R’ Us’ use of b8ta’s experimental design could help it shift from its old brick-and-mortar strategy to a more Gen Z-friendly retail destination. For example, the concept stores will incorporate digital experiences like movies and video games for kids and their parents, and even a life-sized treehouse to climb into. They’ll also feature innovative digital check-out and the option to buy online.
“We have an incredible opportunity to entirely reimagine the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in the U.S. and are thrilled to partner with b8ta and key toy vendors to create a new, highly-engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today’s retail environment,” Barry said.
The two rebooted stores are expected to open in time for the 2019 holiday shopping season.