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PARSIPPANY, N.J. (CBS/CNN) — The new owners of Toys “R” Us want to bring the brand back to the United States. But they can’t say when it will happen. The troubled toy company found another life last month as New Jersey-based Tru Kids Brands, roughly half a year after Toys “R” Us closed the last of its stores in the United States. It is now owned by the company’s former creditors.
More than 700 American Toys “R” U.S. stores closed last spring. But the company kept 900 stores open in Europe, Asia and India. The new owners have plans to open another 70 stores overseas — mostly in Asia — by the end of the year. They’re also considering plans for the US market, including brick-and-mortar stores and online sales, though it’s not clear when a relaunch would happen.
“We have significant interest about how to bring the brand back to the U.S.,” Richard Barry, the CEO of the new company, told CNN Business on Monday. He was the former global chief merchandising officer at Toys “R” Us.
“We’re talking to a whole series of different companies, some are existing retailers, some tech companies,” Barry added. “We’re working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to bring it to life. At this point we’re not ready commit to what that might look like.”
Tru Kids Brands’ owners won the rights to the Toys “R” Us brand last October. They also took over the former company’s other assets and brands including Babies “R” Us, Geoffrey the Giraffe, and Imaginarium.
Tru Kids Brands has dabbled in the United States since then. The company teamed with US grocer Kroger to set up “Geoffrey’s Toy Box” sections in 600 stores during the holidays. Thirty-five toys were part of the promotion, which featured the iconic Toys “R” Us giraffe mascot.
The company is in talks to return to the UK and Australia, where it also closed operations last year. But Barry said the United States is “clearly more important,” since it’s where the company started.
“Despite unprecedented efforts to capture the U.S. market share this past holiday season, there is still a significant gap and huge consumer demand for the trusted experience that Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R ‘Us delivers,” Barry said in a statement. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write the next chapter of Toys”R”Us by launching a newly imagined omni channel retail experience for our beloved brands here in the U.S. In addition, our strong global footprint is led by experienced and passionate operating teams that are 100% focused on growth.”
Tru Kids Brands says it will employ other veteran executives of the former Toys “R” Us. The company will headquartered in New Jersey, where the former business also was based.
Several reasons contributed to the demise of Toys “R” Us, but an unaffordable debt load was at the top of the list. The new company has an advantage, since it doesn’t have that burden.
But bringing Toys “R” Us back to the United States won’t be easy, said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. The old company struggled to maintain prices that were competitive with big box rivals such as Walmart and Target, both of which sold more toys than Toys “R” Us.
Amazon and other websites also offer a wide selection of toys online, digging into sales at big box warehouse stores like Toys “R” Us.
“I think there is space in the market. Toys “R” Us left a very big hole,” Saunders said. He added that the question for the new company is how they can compete and make a profit.
Saunders suggested that Toys “R” Us find a way to differentiate itself, perhaps by reinventing the experience for parents and giving them a reason to go to the store.
(©Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company contributed to this report.)