The beloved toy company, Toys”R”Us, has a new CEO that’s ready to bring the brand back into the retail world. Announced today, WHP Global (a brand acquisition and management firm) now has a controlling interest in Tru Kids Inc., the parent company that formed after the cancelled bankruptcy auction in 2018.
The former toy-giant retailer has been trying to make a comeback since its 2018 bankruptcy, transforming into the Tru Kids brand and re-opening its former website (but with direct links initially to Target, followed by a change to its Amazon store front page). In 2019, Toys”R”Us did technically open new retail stores, presented as toy-interactive experiences instead of mega-stores loaded with toys. These trial-run locations have since closed, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that quickly caused all non-essential retailers to close their brick and mortar stores.
All of this sounds like a possible slow death for the brand yet again, but the backing of WHP and the promotion of Yehuda Shmidman from his Vice Chairman position at TRU to CEO (Shmidman is also the CEO of WHP) could be the restart the brand needs. Multiple news outlets have reported this shift as Toys”R”Us has been sold yet again, but it’s more fitting to call it a restructuring with more money being funneled into the Toys”R”Us identity.
In speaking with CNBC, Shmidman has shared his plans for the company this year — focusing on a post COVID-19 pandemic world:
In North America, Shmidman said the plan is to open Toys R Us stores, again — ideally a number ahead of this holiday season. He said this could come in various formats: flagships, pop-ups, airport locations or mini stores inside other retailers’ shops. WHP hasn’t yet set a number for how many locations it plans to open in the U.S.
“There are so many malls that will no longer be in the future, so we don’t need to be there,” Shmidman said. “But we could be in malls that do have traffic. … So we really have an opportunity not just to capture that experience for toys that people are yearning for, but also capture where [people] want to shop. That will be very interesting post-Covid.”
Beyond TRU and its many brands, WHP manages over $3 billion in retail sales across its portfolio and is backed by a “$350 million equity commitment from funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. with a leverage facility provided to WHP by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.”
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