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Toys ‘R’ Us pops up downtown


NEW YORK —Just like a fish tank, the wrap-around windows of the Toys “R” Us Holiday Express store allow passers-by to sneak a peek into a temporary pop-up shop that opened in lower Manhattan on Oct.1. Inside the 25,000-square-foot area, which will operate until Jan.31, customers can shop the four-level space in search of ultimate gifts like Hannah Montana and Transformers merchandise, Wii products and guitars, to name a few.

By being located in the prime of the city’s NoHo neighborhood (Broadway and East 4th Street), the store caters to residents and tourists who are lured inside by the snowflake-covered exterior that undoubtedly states that the holidays have started—even if the thermostat reads 80 degrees.

The opening of the pop-up is not meant to downplay the fun factor of the Times Square location. Rather, Toys “R” Us is striving to establish itself as the authority on toys and holiday shopping. “It’s a great compliment to those who might not make it to Times Square,” said Lisa Lewin, a Toys “R” Us spokeswoman. “It’s our job to offer convenience.”

Although the pop-up store carries similar merchandise to the flagship location, it is located in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, which may appeal to customers who live in the city and prefer to avoid the bustle of Times Square. Yet, because the location is also popular with tourists, Toys “R” Us can count on visitors from all over.

One of the reasons for the shop’s early arrival could be the changing timeline when it comes to the start of the holiday season. By opening the pop-up, it has an edge in the industry—not many toy stores have specialized branches that strictly focus on the biggest holiday season of the year. For Toys “R” Us’ gm and director, Mindy Clements, early shopping is all about convenience and making sure the staff gets accustomed to the store during the less busy October. “We will have a highly trained team come holiday time,” she said.

Once customers go through the rotating doors, they are instantly greeted by one of the 100 employees outfitted in a crimson shirt and a smile. Spick-and-span and festive are the words that come to mind when describing the store that’s decorated by silver garlands intertwined with Christmas tree ornaments, snow flake-shaped signage and numerous images of Geoffrey the giraffe sporting a Santa outfit.

The first floor, also referred to as the ‘fashion floor,’ offers a slew of “Hannah Montana” products that range from dolls to licensed T-shirts, as well as a row of Barbie related merchandise. Big wheels and bikes park in the back, creating an on-the-go category. In addition, Toys “R” Us zoned in on supplying souvenir-type merchandise like key chains and laser-cut mugs that may appeal to tourists.

One fight up to the mezzanine, customers can rummage through Halloween costumes for eager trick-or-treaters. Come Nov. 1, the section will transform into a residence for Santa.

The third level primarily focuses on items for boys, board games and toys for toddlers. Transformers, which are particularly popular, line the shelves in one aisle, while Lego sets await construction in another.

Although toys make up a large portion of holiday gifts, consumer electronics create a lot of buzz these days. By descending to the lower level, customers will find themselves in an environment very similar to an electronics store, including PlayStations and electric guitars, but with an adult feel.

Although the company has not done any direct marketing aimed at the consumer, people are steadily discovering the pop-up. One shopper, Tracey Shelley, mother of three, said that she heard about the store on a message board. “It’s really great,” she said as she walked out with a Hannah Montana Halloween costume for her daughter. “A lot of stuff in a little amount of space.”

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