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Thursday, September 13 2018 12:08

Kid CEO? Toys 'R' Us China has a New Army...

While Toys "R" Us is currently dead here in the States, Geoffrey lives on in other parts of the world, including China. What's of concern right now is that a growing battle between a couple of the very companies responsible for the swift collapse of TRU here in the States (led by Solus Alternative Asset Management, because "Soulless" was too obvious a name) may put the entire Asian operation at risk due to a fight over the use of the Toys "R" Us name. In the meantime, it's business as usual in the Far East, and the folks at Toys "R" Us China just wrapped their hunt for a "small CEO." Actually, about 150 of them - children dubbed as Honorary "Chief Experience Officers."

"Generations of children around the world have grown up with deep emotional connections to Mattel's brands and characters. There are so many stories to be told and so many imaginations to be captured by these iconic brands..." -- Robbie Brenner, Executive Producer, Mattel Films

There's a lot to be said about controlling your own properties and guiding their destiny. Marvel has done it... Hasbro has done it... now Mattel wants to do it. After years of bouncing projects around between various stages of development at numerous studios, Mattel has announced the creation of Mattel Films, a new division of the Company focused on developing and producing motion pictures based on the Company's iconic and globally-recognized franchises. Academy Award-nominated producer Robbie Brenner has been appointed to lead Mattel Films as Executive Producer, reporting to Ynon Kreiz, Mattel's Chairman and CEO.

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As the saga of Toys "R" Us here in the United States just continues to drone along, it appears that the much-anticipated June 18th intellectual property auction has failed to happen. As filed on June 11, an extension was being sought that would place the auction on August 6, dragging things out for nearly two more months. Up north, however, things are looking bright for the folks at Toys "R" Us Canada, and they've wasted no time in getting things back to fun - welcoming customers with a message that they're "here to play, here to stay!"  With that comes a search for a "fun, energetic tween who loves to play with toys" as TRU Canada kicks off the search for its next Chief Play Officer (CPO). As the spokesperson for Canada's leading dedicated toy product retailer, the CPO is the toy expert for Toys "R" Us Canada and gets to share expert recommendations on the hottest toys and trends with parents and gift-givers from coast-to-coast.

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.

It was in September of 2017 when the rumblings of a major restructuring really took hold for Toys "R" Us. I offered-up some commentary on one of their owners, Bain Captial, and how I feared that they were positioning Toys "R" Us for a repeat of the fleecing and destruction that they subjected KB Toys to in the early 2000s. A week later, the rumbles became reality as Toys "R" Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While it was "business-as-usual" for the most part at the actual stores, now that the holiday season is behind us, the dark reality that everyone knew was coming has arrived: store closures. In a statement issued late on Tuesday, Dave Brandon, Chairman & CEO of Toys "R" Us announced that they're pairing down the store list, but he reaffirmed the commitment to making Toys "R" Us a destination for generations to come. One thing not included in the message was the actual store closing list, but that was buried in a court filing from yesterday afternoon. Around 180 stores will be shuttered between February-April, and sadly the Toys "R" Us that I shopped at as a kid is one of the ones about to go, and as an adult I've shopped at four of the eight Illinois locations about to go dark. Of note is that many of the store closings are actually stand-alone Babies "R" Us locations, and it's expected that nearby Toys "R" Us stores will be remodeled to be TRU/BRU combo stores. Here's the local list...

When I think of the toys of my childhood, there's a few that have pretty legendary status. There was a time when some of the best playsets were made of little more than cardboard, and because of that, not many of them survived. One such playset was one of my favorites - the G.I. Joe Cobra Missle Command Headquarters. Originally offered as a Sears exclusive back in 1982, this was one of the first G.I. Joe playsets that I had, and I played with it until it fell apart. While I still have the figures that came with it, the set is a memory (I might have some Super 8mm film of it), but now it's all coming back. Next month, Hasbro will issue a reproduction of that playset as an SDCC exclusive, complete with modern figures. Check this out...

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