Take a trip back to your younger days with one of the nation’s best-known retail chains.
Toys R Back?
Not quite, but the first signs of how the financial firms who carved up Toys R Us plan to resurrect the iconic brand from the ashes of its bankruptcy have started to emerge.
The lenders who own a key piece of the old Toys R Us have revealed that they are keeping the corporate brand names and intellectual properties, including Geoffrey, the brand’s giraffe mascot, and are dipping their toes back in the toy business with a wholesale venture called Geoffrey’s Toy Box.
They are also saying they hope to have pop-ups in place inside the stores of a regional mass merchant in time for the holidays, and to re-launch Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores down the road.
Geoffrey’s Toy Box introduced itself to toy manufacturers and sellers Tuesday at the opening of the Dallas toy show, with an exhibit booth and a costumed Geoffrey mascot, who was spotted wearing a cape with the words “Back from Vacation.” Toy manufacturers at the show were tweeting and posting on LinkedIn that they had spotted Geoffrey and Richard Barry, the former chief merchandising officer at Toys R Us who appears to be heading the new venture for the investors.
The new venture, for now, is being operated out of the Toys R Us headquarters building in Wayne, New Jersey, where a small number of former Toys R Us executives and employees continue to report to work.
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The Toys R Us store on Route 4 in Paramus. (Photo: Joan Verdon/northjersey.com)
The Toy Book, a trade publication, reported that Barry said that the new company is exploring “stores within stores” partnerships with a large Midwestern retailer.
“There’s a very limited scope of who that could be, and the immediate name that comes to mind is Meijer, which is regional, based in Michigan, and (former Toys R Us chief executive) Dave Brandon was on their board of directors,” said James Zahn, a toy reviewer and publisher of The Rock Father magazine.
Zahn said he believes that putting Geoffrey’s Toy Box displays in another retailer “cheapens the brand.”
“It feels like a last ditch effort to keep Geoffrey in front of consumers in the holiday season at a time when Toys R Us really doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
If it gets launched, Geoffrey’s Toy Box will have a lot of tough competition in the pop-up space this year, Silver said. Party City’s Toy City stores are doing well already. FAO Schwarz is planning pop-ups, and retailers like Walmart and Target have expanded their holiday toy departments, he said.
Toys R Us opted to close all of its stores after lenders backing the bankruptcy financing said they had lost confidence in the company’s reorganization plan. All of the stores closed by the end of June.
The lender group told the bankruptcy court in a document filed Monday that it had canceled an auction for the brand names and intellectual properties scheduled for Thursday, saying it believed that keeping the property rights and launching a branding business and possible retail operation would produce greater financial returns.
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The lenders group told the bankruptcy court it envisions “a new, operating Toys R Us and Babies R Us branding company that maintains existing global license agreements and can invest in and create new, domestic, retail operating businesses under the Toys R Us and Babies R Us names, as well as expand its international presence and further develop its private brands business.”
Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the Geoffrey LLC group includes the Solus Alternative Asset Management and Angelo Gordon funds. The brand names and intellectual property rights served as collateral to secure loans.
Solus and Angelo Gordon has been criticized by worker groups for refusing to contribute to a fund for laid-off Toys R Us employees. Workers appeared before the New Jersey State Investment Council last week to urge the state to withdraw its $300 million investment with Solus.
Geoffrey LLC owns the rights to more than 20 toy and baby brands Toys R Us sold as part of its private label merchandise, including Imaginarium, Koala Baby, Fastlane and Journey Girls. It could continue supplying those products on a wholesale basis.
It also owns the Toys R Us and Babies R Us names in all countries except for Canada, and baby and gift registries operated by the former company.
The Geoffrey LLC plan is subject to final approval by the bankruptcy court.
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