By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 27, 2018 | 3:25 p.m.
VIRGINIA – Nearly three months after announcing they were winding down their United States business operations following years of struggling operations, the final days of Toys”R”Us are upon those stores across the county and here in Central Virginia as all of the company’s stores are expected to be closed by the end of June.
Shoppers walking into Colonial Heights’ Toys”R”Us location just off Southpark Circle were greeted by the signage confirming the store’s imminent closure as they roamed what remained of the store’s inventory after the said they planned to close all of its 700-plus stores in the United States, thrusting the Tri-Cities’ only location and others into liquidation sales in mid-March of this year.
“I am very disappointed with the result, but we no longer have the financial support to continue the Company’s U.S. operations,” Dave Brandon, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of the retailer said in a statement following the announcement in March. “We are therefore implementing an orderly process to shutter our U.S. operations and will pursue going concern sales or reorganizations of certain of our international businesses, while our other international businesses consider their options.”
Portions of the store are closed off to customers as the store enters its final days of sales. (Michael Campbell)
Brandon continued, “There are many people and organizations who have remained in our corner every step along the way. I want to thank our extraordinary team members who helped build Toys“R”Us into a global brand. I also want to express my appreciation for my colleagues on our board who have continued to provide support to sustain the brand and our operations throughout the restructuring process. I would also like to thank our vendors who we owe a great deal of gratitude to for their decades of support.”
“This is a profoundly sad day for us as well as the millions of kids and families who we have served for the past 70 years,” he closed.
Within days, following the announcement of the planned shutdown, the Toys”R”Us family was hit with additional tragic news as the founder of the company Charles Lazarus died at the age of 94. While he was no longer part of the company, having served as CEO until 1994, his death left a profound impact on the leadership of the company as they worked to face the reality of closing 735 stores that will leave thousands of Toys”R”Us employees without a job.
After a hiccup with some stores regarding when liquidations would start, Toys”R”Us stores across Central Virginia began offering discounted merchandise in mid-March as the company worked to empty their warehouses of thousands of toys, games, children’s clothes, and other items.
As is common when a store announces their impending closure, shoppers flocked to the Toys”R”Us in Colonial Heights seeking deals on various items as signage inside the building let them know new merchandise was available weekly, but sales were final and in the store’s final days, only credit and debit cards were being accepted.
By the store’s final week, shoppers could only navigate half of the store’s sales floor as yellow caution tape closed off many areas toward the back of the store that had been open in the early days of the location’s liquidation back in March.
The Toys”R”Us store’s usually full, colorful shelves filled with the latest toys, gadgets, and other whimsical items to capture the eyes of the young and young-at-heart had been replaced with empty voids of space with nothing but off-white and beige shelving units on display for countless aisles.
Yellow caution tape sections off portions of the store where merchandise has been striped from shelves following weeks of liquidation sales. (Michael Campbell)
Much of the store’s electronics department had been emptied by the weekend, replaced with more miscellaneous items from various departments as the store moves more merchandise from the backrooms to what’s left of the sales floor.
The store has been selling fixtures, such as shelving units, racks, desks, and various retail store staples, such as peg hooks, hand trucks, and boxes.
As the end of June approaches, the closure of the Colonial Heights Toys”R”Us store serves as a local example of the national change in retail habits by consumers, who are increasingly shunning the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience in lieu of online shopping, coupled with financial mistakes by the company’s leadership that set the wheels in motion for this eventual closing following its $6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005.
According to Reuters, as of last September, Toys”R”Us was making interest payments of nearly a half-billion dollars per year. That month, the company filed for bankruptcy.
This is the second major retailer to close in the Southpark Mall shopping complex. Just across Southpark Circle from Toys”R”Us sits the vacant building that was the former home of Sears, a longtime anchor of the Southpark Mall building. In late 2017, following years of closures of Sears and Kmart stores, including the Kmart stores in Colonial Heights and Chester, Sears Holdings announced they would be shutting down the Southpark Mall Sears store as part of another wave of closures, leaving more employees out of work or forced to transfer to the only remaining locations in the region, which are in Chesterfield just outside of Midlothian or closer to Hampton Roads.
Once filled with toys and games, the aisles of Toys”R”Us are barren shells of their former self, devoid of merchandise as the store prepares to close at the end of the month. (Michael Campbell)
By the end of January, crews were removing the familiar white letters with black lines that had been fixed on the building for decades, leaving the anchor space empty with only brown paper covering the buildings various doors and windows.
No plans have been revealed for the future of that retail space.
While development continues around the Southpark Mall complex, with the addition of new restaurant LongHorn Steakhouse and auto business Discount Tire, there have been a number of high profile closures in and around the complex.
In 2015, Southgate Square’s Kmart store has closed, which was torn down and replaced by a new Burlington store that sits in a smaller footprint than the former retailer.
Both RadioShack stores in Dimmock Square and inside Southpark Mall ceased operations as their company faced turbulent business seas and in 2017, electronics and appliance retailer hhgregg announced it was closing nearly 90 stores as it too faced bankruptcy after having just moved into the former home of Virginia-based retailer Circuit City in 2010, who also went out of business in January of 2009.
Since that time, part of that hhgregg building footprint has been occupied by Harbor Freight, a discount tool and equipment business.
Prior to that, the former Dillard’s store that anchored the opposite side of Southpark Mall from Sears closed its doors and was eventually filled by four tenants, with Dick’s Sporting Goods taking the largest footprint of the space and three other businesses with outside access occupying the remaining space.
As for Toys”R”Us, unlike Sears Holdings, who has been doing phased closures of their stores, all of Toys”R”Us’ U.S. stores are expected to close by the end of the month. In addition, it was announced earlier this month that all of their Australian locations will be closing as well with stores in that country being liquidations last weekend.
“Thanks to each of you who shared your amazing journey to (and through) parenthood with us, and to every grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, and sister who’s built a couch-cushion rocket ship, made up a hero adventure, or invented something gooey,” the company said in a final post on their website which no longer allows for purchases. “Promise us just this one thing: Don’t ever grow up. Play on!”