PARAMUS, NJ — After a year and a half off the market, beloved toy chain Toys 'R' Us has made a comeback in Paramus.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at New Jersey’s largest mall -- the first location in the U.S. The opening comes just 48 hours before the biggest shopping event of the season, Black Friday.
“What an exciting day for all Toys ‘R’ Us Kids, which I include myself as one,” said Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera. “I could not think of a better time, the eve of holiday shopping season, or place – Paramus – the center of the retail universe, for the return of Geoffrey and the reopening of the toy giant, Toys ‘R’ Us. Paramus being chosen as the first location for its revival is a testimony to the strength and vitality of Paramus’s market in today’s uber competitive retail marketplace.”
The Toys ‘R’ Us location at Westfield Garden State Plaza is one of 10 locations that will open by the end of 2020; a second opening is slated for the first week of December at The Galleria, a shopping mall in Houston, Texas. Unlike the iconic toy store’s traditional “big-box” concept, the new one has been reimagined to yield a more intimate feel for children.
The opening of the new Toys ‘R’ Us concept comes after it went into liquidation a year ago after the chain – which produced in excess of a whopping $7 billion in annual profits throughout its 700-plus stores throughout the country – filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Tru Kids, Inc., which does business as Tru Kids Brands, owns both the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us brands and became established in January 2019 following its takeover of the Toys ‘R’ Us intellectual property in October 2018 and its lenders’ cancellation of a bankruptcy auction.
“Toys ‘R’ Us is a more than 70-year-old brand,” said Richard Barry, president and chief executive officer of Tru Kids Brands. “It’s loved by consumers in the United States. We’ve been out of the market for a year or so here, but we had the amazing opportunity to paint a new piece of canvas and completely reimagine the Toys ‘R’ Us brand and the Toys ‘R’ Us experience. We don’t get that option too many times in life to be able to completely reimagine an incredible historic brand, but we got to do that and I think we created something which is truly magical.”
The Paramus location is roughly 6,000 square feet and boasts experiential retail with interactive play areas such as the Nintendo Switch, Nerf, which houses its line of Zombie Strike toy guns based on the Zombie Apocalypse craze, and a kinetic sandbox in the Paw Patrol area of the store, among its many other toy lines from LOL to Monster Jam and Rainbow Surprise.
“I’m super excited about the assortment we have in the store,” said Barry. “If you look at things that are really inspiring kids’ minds today, last weekend we saw Frozen 2 launch in theaters. We’ve got the AMC theater right down the street from us here – $250 million box office. So movie properties like Frozen 2 and Star Wars are going to be driving toy sales this year. But we also have throughout the store other amazing brands. We have Paw Patrol, one of the hottest kids TV shows overall. A lot of great products in there, the fire truck and the adventure play set. Lego has a whole bunch of really great stuff. There are things like Baby Shark, which is super hot. Blinger, which is a toy that you can bling your hair or your handbag or accessorize different elements. Throughout the store depending on whether how old your kid is and what they’re into, we’re going to have everything for them.”
On Wednesday morning, children climbed up the steps of Geoffrey the Giraffe’s Tree House, excitedly sounding the bell as they reached the top. Others posed gleefully for pictures with the toy chain’s cuddly, affable mascot as more kids were dispersed throughout the new store testing out the new Nerf guns or playing inside Geoffrey’s Magical Mirror, a kid-sized dome in which they mimicked the moves of their favorite giraffe on a digital screen clad in scuba-diving gear on a sunny beach.
Shoppers that morning got an early-start to their Christmas shopping. Joanna Poon, of Paramus, checked out the new store with her 2-year-old grandson, Lucas.
“We are here every morning actually,” she said as she followed her grandson around whom she said didn’t want to leave the store. “We go the Lego and Disney stores. This is just one more place for him to come.”
Janessa DeJesus, of North Haledon, had her hands full with Barbie and Frozen dolls and a copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” one of the many classic children’s books that were stocked on the shelves, which also included a slew of Dr. Seuss books, “Madeline,” “Corduroy,” and “Guess How Much I Love You,” which Barry gifted his daughter with in the 1990s.
“To actually be back in a store that we grew up with as children, it was awesome,” said DeJesus. “I saw it was opening today and I was like, ‘I’m going to get in there and check it all out.’ It’s beautiful.”
“Everything reminds me of the Toys ‘R’ Us from back in the day, so I’m glad it’s being brought back, it’s really fun,” said Niyoki Beasley, a mother who was browsing the store with her husband and two kids. “We’re trying to do a little Christmas shopping today, start the season off early. It’s more interactive when they get to touch the toys and feel the toys versus buying them over the Internet.”
In the event the store, which has 1,500 items on-site, doesn’t carry a particular toy, shoppers can walk over to one of the store’s digital touchscreens, choose a brand, scan the QR code and the toy is delivered to ToysRUs.com from Target Corp, an online retailer.
But that didn’t seem to be the case on Wednesday. Stephanie Riley, the vice president of Retail at Toys ‘R’ Us at the Paramus store, said Juno, My Baby Elephant — the peanut-throwing learning toy with over 100 lifelike sounds and movements — was swept right off the display.
“We’re so excited to be back,” she said. “We’re getting such a warm welcome.”