At The Toy Association’s PlayCon in San Francisco, Ellia Kassoff, head of Strategic Marks, LLC, addressed toymakers and others about the plans for resurrecting the KB Toys brand in malls around the country. First announced back in March (with an update here), KB Toys will return as a new retailer rooted in nostalgia – and the plan is to do it starting with pop-up shops this coming holiday season. Prior to being destroyed by Bain Capital Partners (who also killed Toys “R” Us), KB operated under many variations of their name, including K•B Toys, K•B Toys Outlet, K•B Toy Works and Kay-Bee Toys between 1922 and 2009. With Toys “R” Us currently in the final processes of winding-down operations in the United States, the biggest question is how, exactly, will Strategic Marks be able to pull this off – and how it’s going to be done in time for this year’s holiday season. Today, Kassoff offered up answers – some of which came directly from members of the audience.
Kassoff says that the new KB Toys is working with a key group of experienced people coming directly from Toys “R” Us. Due to the amount of people located near what will soon be the vacated TRU headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, KB will soon be opening a home office based in the garden state. Current plans include 400-600 seasonal pop-up stores for 2018, after which locations will be evaluated to become permanent locations. The current goal is to have 600-800 permanent stores within 3-4 years.
Much of the funding for this launch is said to be provided by malls directly, many of whom are taking ownership in the opportunity to have a toy store in their malls, eager to capitalize on the additional foot traffic that may bring.
While Toys “R” Us started working on the “experience” aspect of shopping too late in the game (it is widely believed that the opportunity was stifled by the debt from their leveraged buyout), KB Toys looks to create an experience that Kassoff calls “80% the way you remember it,” but with some new twists. In addition to having a dedicated “Toy Nerd” on hand in each location to be vastly knowledgeable about the industry and collector market, KB plans to work with collector groups and toymakers on in-store events, “roadshows with vendors,” “meet and greets with toy designers” and more.
Beyond the small stores, there is also a concept for KB Experience Stores that will be the size of a Toys “R” Us, each of which will include features such as a cafe, party rooms, a party registry and the ability to order toys online and pick up giftwrapped toys in-store. With a brand-new web platform built from the ground-up, KB is expected to have a fresh and fully-functional omnichannel presence that will lack the “band-aids” that were placed on the old Toys “R” Us website over the years.
While there’s a lot to absorb, the one question that kept coming up is how KB will be back in action with the holiday season just months away. Kassoff reiterated that with many former staffers of the Toys “R” Us Express locations (a large chunk of which were in former KB Toys locations), he has been assured by the team that this is all doable.
Stay tuned for more news on the return of KB Toys as it comes in!