For years, tales of haunted toy stores have spread as urban legends, like the fabled Toys "R" Us in Sunnyvale, California - one said to be so frightening, it's inspired decades of theories and once appeared on an episode of Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories, directed by Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist) and narrated by Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy. While the iconic retailer closed its doors here in the U.S. back in June, there is a chance for you to take a stroll through a Toys "R" Us once more, but not one of the many currently inhabited by pop-up stores like Spirit Halloween or Party City's Halloween City / Toy City combos... a haunted Toys "R" Us. For one month only, those who are brave enough have the opportunity to visit ZOMBIES 'R' US - "A New Haunted Experience" located inside the former Toys "R" Us location in College Point (aka Flushing, NY) Queens.
Back in the day, there was a fantasy that many kids had, and it was in large part due to Nickelodeon putting the bug in those kid's heads. The old Super Toy Run would find contest-winning kids getting to run loose in a Toys "R" Us store to load up their carts, snagging as many awesome toys as they could within a certain time limit and up to a specific dollar amount. Now, while TRU is gone, the dream is back! Nick and Walmart are teaming up to present Nickelodeon Toy Run: Family Style in Walmart stores across the country. Hosted by Nickelodeon’s JoJo Siwa, Nickelodeon Toy Run: Family Style will give three grand prize winners a shopping spree in the toy aisles of their local Walmart to stock up on their favorite, must-have holiday toys.
The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, and as promised, the #ToyWars are in full-effect with retailers stepping up to serve families who may be saddened by the loss of Toys "R" Us this year. While the big guns have been getting much of the press, there's quite a few smaller, regional retailers who are upping their game, and one is an old favorite of mine - Blain's Farm & Fleet. Family-owned and with just 39 locations across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, they might not be a familiar name, but they're a store that I've always enjoyed stopping at, particularly as a kid. In fact, while the closest store to us is over 20 miles away, my mom still does occasionally check out the location near her for their annual Toyland tradition, and as of today it's open for 2018 - promised to be bigger and better than ever. For over 60 years, customers have lined-up in the darkness prior to the 7am store opening, but this year there's even more fun to be had.
It's been an incredible (and unusual) year for toys, and as I happened to come across a small selection of FAO Schwarz-branded toys at Kohl's this past weekend, I was reminded that one piece of news that many have been waiting for is the full details on the opening of the new FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York City. Today, we know that November 16, 2018 will be the official opening date of the NYC store located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The new store will feature over 20,000 square feet of FAO Schwarz signature toys and items from partners such as Melissa & Doug, Marvin's Magic and Build-A-Bear as well as FAO Schweetz in partnership with IT'SUGAR. But that's not all...
I feel bad for the small crew that's stayed on at Toys "R" Us (though not as bad as I do for the folks who weren't as fortunate) through the course of their spectacular collapse and extraordinarily unusual bankruptcy proceedings this past year. While the last of their stores closed on June 29th in the U.S., on June 20th the company registered a new trademark for Geoffrey's Toy Box - news that I broke right here on The Rock Father™ Magazine last week. All this time, there has been a crew working on what would emerge as Geoffrey, LLC, and before I go any further, I think it should be made clear that no one should be made to feel at fault for holding onto a job during times of crisis. Though the former Global Resource Center for Toys "R" Us in Wayne, NJ has been stripped-down and largely liquidated itself, there's been a small crew at work, and those folks were placed into a really hard spot - supporting their families while friends and colleagues were let go, and also tasked with trying to reimagine and perhaps revive a brand that they loved. That said, the news of Geoffrey, LLC living on as Geoffrey's Toy Box (branded merch, licensing, perhaps new stores... eventually) has been met with polarizing reaction from those within the toy industry, but tonight it became apparent that whoever decided to pull the trigger on re-activating the Toys "R" Us social networks wasn't counting on public backlash.
It's been a massive week for the toy industry as the annual Fall Toy Preview has come to a close in Dallas. While the big news has been with Toys "R" Us lenders restructuring assets under Geoffrey, LLC and prepping to launch their Geoffrey's Toy Box initiative, a new opponent has entered the battlefield as retailers position themselves to grab market share left up for grabs following the closure of Toys "R" Us in the U.S. as we head into the holiday season. Go! Retail Group has announced a nationwide expansion of their toy business, and as part of that they're opening a new concept: TOYS EXPRESS. The new stores will open in 13 locations previously occupied by Toys "R" Us Express stores.