It’s a sad day for kids (if not weary parents) as Toys “R” Us prepares to shutter its 110,000-square-foot flagship retail store in the heart of Times Square, New York, by February.
Crowded and chaotic, the Broadway location has been one of New York’s biggest tourist attractions for visitors with tots in tow since opening in Nov. 2001.
To be sure, there are thrills aplenty at the 16-year-old store, from the giant animatronic T-Rex and life-size Barbie dollhouse to the Superman holding up a car, giant LEGO creations, remote-controlled planes buzzing overhead and 60-foot-high ferris wheel. In short, it feels like a theme park as store.
But now, following a soft holiday season, it’s simply got too much store, and may be broken up into numerious retail spaces as it hunts for a new home. [more]
— Times Square (@TimesSquareNYC) March 18, 2015
“They have 21,000 square feet” just on the ground floor commented Brad Mendelson of Cushman & Wakefield to the Commercial Observer of the 110,000 square-foot space. “There really is not a (single) tenant that can rent that. The market has just escalated.”
It’s not only a victim of the Manhattan property market but a sign of the times (square) that online shopping is now the norm, and the in-store retail experience really needs to step up if it’s going to compete. It’s also an indication that the iconic retail location hasn’t kept up with the times, with in-store attractions not changing much in the last decade or so.
What’s more, the location—while the site of launches such as Microsoft’s Kinect over the years—is also known for being noisy, in-your-face and not the most pleasant shopping atmosphere for parents, even if kids love it, while many locals tended to steer clear due to the crowds.
The company operates 13 stores in New York City and more than 1,500 stores globally and 13 in New York City. Toys “R” Us Inc. also owns iconic New York toy retailer FAO Schwarz along with Babies “R” Us and related online properties.
In fact, Toys “R” Us has seen a 2.7% drop in same-store sales this latest holiday season, with slumping sales during the last nine weeks of 2014. Kids are “aging out” of toys and starting on electronic devices at a younger age these days while harried parents scour for sales online—and more often end up buying from Amazon and not ToysRUs.com.
Speaking at the Marketing Customer Experience Conference 2015, Jo Hall, regional GM-merchandise and marketing for Toys “R” in Asia, said the company is transforming the brand into “more than just a bricks-and-mortar store.”
Investing in social media and digital platforms to become “a viable media channel” is a priority, with the addition of in-store Selfie Stations to create “more of a theme park than a trolley dash” shopping experience for customers and to entice them to spend more time in-store, Hall noted.
In the UK, meanwhile, Toys “R” Us is responding to the community by hosting an autism-friendly experience for families affected by the condition on March 29, with participating stores featuring reduced lighting and quiet music for shopping in a “subdued” environment.
Back in NYC, there’s speculation ithat the store may move around the block to 1535 Broadway when its lease is up at the end of January, occupying around 3,000 square feet on the ground floor and the entire lower level.
And that space houses the largest single LED screen in North America, so dinosaurs and Barbie dollhouses may now be virtual. Times, it seems, will tell.