It was almost a month ago exactly when I reported news that Toys "R" Us Australia was entering voluntary administration. Now comes news that the toy store down under will be facing the same fate as its U.S. counterpart, announcing this morning that they will close all 44 Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores in Australia, resulting in around 700 jobs lost. The first Australian Toys "R" Us opened back in 1993, with the chain gradually expanding nationwide and adding 11 Babies "R" Us locations to the mix. The most recent news in North America finds Canada moving forward at a brisk pace, while more than 115 parties have shown interest in picking up select IP assets from the U.S. operation.
In the interest of full disclosure, GameStop has been a great promotional partner and ally of The Rock Father™ Magazine over the past few years, as has their sister company, ThinkGeek. I feature their content often (I was even wearing ThinkGeek-supplied Marvel High-Tops to the World Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War) and do so not just because of our relationship, but because I'm a fan first and I like their stores. I hope I can continue working with them for a long time to come, but then there's some occasional rumblings... word that things on the business end aren't as sunny as they could be. They're facing some challenges, but I don't think it's beyond fixing - in fact, quite the opposite. They could be on the cusp of an evolution that could set them up for years of success, or they can bow to investor pressure and wind up in a leveraged buyout situation with private equity involved. If GameStop is playing with private equity (which they confirmed this morning), they might add a few extra credits to gain a few more lives temporarily, but the debt they may incur could have them facing a "boss" they can't beat, ultimately leading to a premature "game over."
With changing habits and interests, we've been hearing a lot about how retail is moving toward being "experiential." This is also leading many brands to get creative in how they connect with families, and that means creating the experiences themselves. For the folks at Whirlpool Corporation, that meant a fresh approach to their World of Whirlpool in Chicago, now open to the public as a new consumer experience center. At the media preview this week, I had the opportunity to experience it first-hand, and my immediate thought is that this is exactly what companies need to be doing because it's going to allow the general public to learn in ways that have in many cases been limited to media or expensive courses. Whirlpool is going well beyond the typical appliance showroom by teaching "life hacks" and culinary literacy that will help people save time, save money, and most importantly - improve the time spent with family.
As the remains of Toys "R" Us continue to be sold off for scrap here in the U.S., our neighbors to the north have a much brighter picture... the sale of Toys "R" Us Canada to Fairfax Holdings Limited. The sale keeps the iconic Toys "R" Us brand alive in Canada, along with Geoffrey the Giraffe and Babies "R" Us. TRU Canada is now an entirely Canadian-owned and operated business employing more than 4,000 Canadians as the only exclusive coast-to-coast business with over 80 locations dedicated to kids and babies.
Monday, May 14, 2018 marked the end for many employees working at the Toys "R" Us Global Resource Center in Wayne, New Jersey. While "several hundred" staffers are said to have stayed on as the wind-down of the U.S. businesses continues, there's the "highly unusual" early exit of many top executives, including Chairman and CEO David A. Brandon. "Unusual" seems to be the key word as this story just gets weirder... could former CEO Jerry Storch want back in on the Toys "R" Us action?
As of this morning, the world is waking up to discover the magnitude of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War. With the biggest opening weekend box office of all time ($258.2M domestic, $640.9M globally), the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) officially becomes the biggest superhero opening of all time - simultaneously grabbing the trophy for the biggest individual Saturday and Sunday box office off all time in North America. Capping off the first 10 years of Marvel Studios, the films will have pulled in more than $15B globally by the time Infinity War completes its run and the next five films are already on the way. The success of the studio is a team effort, and one of the people responsible has been there since the beginning - Victoria Alonso, EVP of Physical Production, and Executive Producer of Avengers: Infinity War. Together with Kevin Feige (President) and Louis D'Esposito (Co-President), she's helped shape the MCU into something that fans love and other studios often seek to emulate - overseeing every aspect of production from start to finish. Last week, mere hours after a late night celebrating the World Premiere of Infinity War, I was in the room at Marvel Studios in Burbank for one of the most unusual and enlightening meetings that I've ever been a part of. It was a conversation that for some mirrored the emotional rollercoaster (laughs! tears!) of the film itself - the rules tossed aside not for a rehash of what's been said elsewhere, but for a discussion about parenting, motherhood, and making the world a better place for our kids.