Toys 'R' Us R Back

Great news for children — and grandparents.

Toys ‘R’ Us is returning by year’s end. In more modest form, but still back.

Toys ‘R’ Us was the massive go-to temple of toys with vast aisles of eye-popping playthings for children, grandparents and parents that went out of business early last year.

The rebirth is still supposed to be a secret. But excited toy makers spilled the beans about the plans to move back into the business that once brought in $7 billion a year to the nation’s top toy chain.

It was founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus as a children’s furniture store just as America’s postwar baby boom took off. Fourteen years ago Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Vornado Realty Trust took the company private with plans for an IPO.

But declining sales, a series of disruptive management changes and the financial burden of debt from the buyout began a downhill slide that canceled the IPO after Walmart captured first place in toy sales.

Almost two years ago the company filed for bankruptcy, listing $4 billion in liabilities. Then in March 2018, executives announced a liquidation, closing 740 U.S. stores, 100 outlets in Britain and more in Australia. Some 200 Canadian stores were sold separately.

The return of this toy story is reportedly scheduled for this Christmas season, starting with a half-dozen stores of about 10,000-square feet, about a third the size as before, and an e-commerce site. Lenders have been toying with the idea for sometime with the name Tru Toys.

The new stores will have play areas where children (oh, all right, adults too) can try out the toys.

A business return may not be all that easy. Amazon, Target and Walmart have expanded into the toy void. And some toy makers who lost money in the liquidation may be hesitant.

But others have signaled enthusiasm for the return. “This market needs a self-standing toy store, that’s for sure,” said Isaac Larian, CEO of top-performing toy maker MGA Entertainment. “We will sell them inventory.”

So, turns out Geoffrey, the corporate giraffe mascot, may not be extinct after all.