Just as BuyBuy Baby bid bye-bye to its stores, its longstanding and ardent competitor has itself been reborn.
Babies R Us — which was acquired by brand management firm WHP Global in 2021 —is back in brick-and-mortar, opening a location at American Dream, the massive three million sq.-ft.-plus entertainment and retail center in the New Jersey Meadowlands. At 10,000 sq.ft., the new Babies R Us store has a much smaller footprint than the brand inhabited in its previous life.
“It’s a store for today, and its 10,000 square feet is the perfect destination for parents to try out cribs, strollers, and car seats with experiential elements we’ve put in the store,” WHP chairman and CEO Yehuda Shmidman told Chain Store Age in a live cell-phone video tour of the first physical location for the brand since its 700-plus locations closed in 2018.
Shmidman said WHP decided to bring Babies R Us back to physical retail because it has what bargain-prices discount sellers and online brands lacked: brand value.
“There are many great retailers, but they lack great brands,” Shmidman said. “Charles Lazarus was a brand-builder. He created Geoffrey the Giraffe. He created the ‘I’m a Toys R Us Kid’ song. Great brands are emotional. They take you back to your childhood.”
WHP re-introduced Toys R Us to retail at American Dream in 2021, opening a two-level, 20,000-sq.-ft. store. It has since opened new locations in nine states and has in-store shops at Macy’s locations nationwide.
What great retailers of the 21st century must also have, Shmidman added, is a strong omnichannel strategy, which the smaller footprint of Babies R Us delivers with customer experiences such as test tracks to try out strollers and an automobile seat where customers can try installing an infant car seat. It also has a photo-opp station where parents can announce their new arrival, a nursery design center, a baby registry lounge and a “comfort zone” to feed or change baby.
WHP intends to follow the same plan for Babies as it did for Toys: First stop American Dream, next stop America.
“We really believe that we’re going to get good feedback from customers at American Dream,” said Shmidman, who noted that Toys R Us fares well internationally with more than 1,400 stores in places like China, Spain, and Dubai. “We’re starting here and then we’re going national.”
An announcement detailing expansion plans for Babies R Us is expected from WHP by the end of the year. The New York-based company’s retail brand lineup includes Express, Bonobos, Anne Klein, and Isaac Mizrahi.