Toys ‘R’ Us is Not Playing Around With its Retail Re-launch

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Setting what might be an example of a future retail model, mega toy brand Toys ‘R’ Us is emerging from bankruptcy with a new retail strategy involving airports and cruise ships.

Called the “air, land, and sea” initiative, the big box MULO (multi-location) brand is opening up to 24 flagship stores and locations in airports and on cruise ships.

Toys ‘R’ Us closed all its retail stores in 2018 and has been through management changes since that time. The brand now has 400+ stores in Macy’s stores around the country. But with the fate of the big box department store in question, the iconic toy store is coming up with its own unique plan to keep the brand alive.

A 20,000 flagship store already exists in the New Jersey American Dream Mall. It opened in 2022.

Owned by WHP, which also owns  Anne Klein, Joseph Abboud, and Bonobos, Toys ‘R’ Us will be executing its new “air and sea” initiative in partnership with Go! Retail Group. Go! is the company behind, Toys & Games, Calendar Club, Attic Salt, NIQUEA.D, Snoozimals, and Kobioto.

Some of the lessons other MULO brands can glean from this bold move are:

  • If a company has true brand equity, consumers may remain loyal even if the company has a new configuration.
  • Reaching captive consumers in locations where they are and are in a mood to spend remains a good strategy. Vacationing people spend between $50 and $100 per person on souvenirs, and the average household spends about $600 yearly on toys. Airports and cruise ships are places where consumers are less likely to order online or look for bargain prices.
  • The store-within-a-store model may be sustainable, but brands shouldn’t rely just on one retail location to ensure future growth.

Total revenue in the toy sector is close to $40B. Although 2023 so far has been a weak year, analysts predict a boost this holiday season. 

Retailers need to continue to be agile and creative to capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of online shoppers, driving them through their doors by creating fun, engaging experiences. 

Although we don’t know yet if Geoffrey the Giraffe will adapt well to the air and seas or if the company will face more turbulence and sickness, the new model is an interesting one. As retailers discover that the big-footprint model may not be sustainable, location experiments like the Toys ‘R’ Us are becoming more commonplace.

MULO brands (retail, restaurant, service) can learn from each other how smaller and creative spaces can lead to revenue opportunities.

Learn more about this trend at Place 2023 and use code FON for a $300 discount.


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.