REAL ESTATE

Going-out-of-business sales start at Toys ‘R’ Us

BY Marianne Wilson

It’s closing time—almost—for some Toys “R” Us stores.

The nation’s largest toy store retailer received court approval to move forward with its plans to shutter some 180 stores across its Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us banners nationwide. Liquidation sales at some of the locations started on Wednesday.

The sales, which are being operated by a consortium made up of Gordon Brothers, Hilco Merchant Resources, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group, will offer shoppers up to 30% discounts. Store furniture and fixtures will also be available for sale. The sales are expected to run through mid-April

Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection in September. In January, it announced plans to close up to 182 stores as part of its reorganization plan.

“The reinvention of our brands requires that we make tough decisions about our priorities and focus,” stated Toys “R” Us CEO Dave Brandon in a note on the company’s website last month. “The actions we are taking are necessary to give us the best chance to emerge from our bankruptcy proceedings as a more viable and competitive company that will provide the level of service and experience you should expect from a market leader.”

Toys “R” Us’ 83 locations in Canada are not part of the scheduled store closings.

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Fast-casual eatery in expansion mode

BY Marianne Wilson

Melt Shop is expanding its footprint in the Northeast — and the Middle East.

The company, which describes itself as a pioneer of the melted sandwich movement, has signed three franchise agreements to develop 26 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Staten Island, and the Middle East. To date, Melt Shop has nine locations open, with plans to grow to 100 locations over the next five years.

“We could not be more thrilled with the level of excitement and interest from prospective franchisees so soon after launching our franchise program. We’re looking forward to continuing this momentum in 2018 and recruiting even more qualified partners to join the brand,” said Spencer Rubin, founder and CEO Melt Shop.

Melt Shop recently announced it would open 18 locations across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware with new franchise partner Drew Smith, a seasoned multi-unit franchisee with Five Guys.

Founded by Rubin in 2011, Melt Shop began franchising in 2017 after opening eight corporate locations throughout New York, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. The company signed a multi-unit deal to open seven restaurants in the Middle East, four of which will open by the second quarter of 2018. Several domestic locations will open in 2018, including in Delaware and Staten Island Mall in Staten Island, New York.

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Study: Malls will become ‘consumer experience spaces’

BY Al Urbanski

The mall of the future will have more in common with Disneyland than Roosevelt Field, according to a study prescribing that retail real estate must be in the business of helping people accumulate experiences, not merchandise.

Whether or not A.T. Kearney’s clunky rubric for the new mall — “consumer experience space,” or CES — takes root, the consulting firm’s premise is on solid ground: The Millennials and Generation Z-ers who will comprise the bulk of shoppers in the near future will have less disposable income, more proclivity to share possessions, and greater desire for experiences than mall shoppers of the past.

“The key is to control the shopper’s journey and direct the consumer to the proper place, and malls will transition from anchors to attractions,” said A.T. Kearney partner Michael Brown, a co-author of “The Future of Shopping Centers” study.

“Department stores will still play a role, but they won’t be the main draw. Whether the draw is office or residential space or an entertainment venue, every property that exists today may be converted to a new purpose,” Brown said.

The U.S. has a special challenge in a changing retail world because it has so much retail real estate in play. Its 23.5 sq. ft. of retail per person is more than five times that found in either the United Kingdom or Japan, the report points out.

“In Europe, zoning and regulation kept in check what happened in America as we chased the Baby Boomers who needed places to spend their money,” said Brown. Even China’s mall development boom has been more on-trend because shopping areas there have always been closely tied to family dining and entertainment gatherings.

A crucial concept for retailers to grasp, according to the report, is that owning is not as important to younger consumers as experiencing. What’s more, they will have less money to spend than their parents did at their ages.

Baby Boomers are living more than 15 years longer than was expected at the time of their birth and many will exhaust their savings within their lifetimes. That means less inherited wealth and more healthcare expenditures for their children.

As a result, eat-drink-and-be-merry will live alongside live-work-play at CES’s. A little more than a third of discretionary spending went to experiences and experiential products in 1985. That percentage, predicts, A.T. Kearney, will rise to 48% by 2030.

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