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…
Illinois Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us Stores Slated to Close in 2018
- Toys “R” Us 6026 Highland Park 1610 Deerfield Rd. IL
- Babies “R” Us 9236 Schaumburg 16 East Golf Road IL
- Babies “R” Us 9293 Vernon Hills 295 Center Drive IL
- Toys “R” Us 6021 Matteson 5001 Lincoln Highway IL
- Babies “R” Us 6544 Bricktown 6420 W. Fullerton IL
- Babies “R” Us 9246 Burbank 7750 South Cicero Avenue IL
- Babies “R” Us 9285 Niles 5660 Touhy Avenue IL
- Toys “R” Us 9238 Naperville (already closing – previously-announced)
I tend to remember a lot of little details, and seeing this list hurts. For Christmas 2014, I made a special trip to the Highland Park store to pick up the Fisher-Price Power Wheels FROZEN Ford Mustang for our girls… My wife and I ordered baby furniture for our daughters from the Vernon Hills Babies “R” Us store, and when one of our cribs was recalled, that’s where I went for a new one. We also did some registry shopping at the Schaumburg location, but of all of these, Matteson holds the most memories.
The Matteson, Illinois Toys “R” Us was the first TRU store I ever knew as a kid. So many memories were made shopping that store back in the 1980s, when the toys were piled so high that the aisles were practically darkened by the towering merchandise. We attended character meet-and-greets there, bought countless birthday gifts, and often attended parties at the ShowBiz Pizza (now Chuck E. Cheese’s) next door. I remember fondly shopping for Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe and more in that store – and it just seemed so big at the time. Checking out new video games was also a treat at a time when everything was either in glass cases or available only by flipping the infamous “tags” for a better look. As recently as this past Christmas, my mom was still a regular shopper of that location.
Perhaps it’s a bigger sign of how things are going, but that particular town has within the past year seen its Walmart and JC Penny close, and right now its Target and Sam’s Club are both in the process of winding down. Factor in the demolition of Lincoln Mall along with a second empty Target (the currently-closing location is just 10 years old and located across the street from the one it replaced), an empty Circuit City, empty Best Buy, several empty restaurants, an empty K-Mart, several empty grocery stores and at least four desolate strip malls, and Matteson, Illinois may well be the ultimate poster child for the 2018 “retail apocalypse.”
As Toys “R” Us continues their restructuring, my fingers are crossed that they will come out strong. They’re an institution of great importance, something I’ve mentioned many times in the past. It’s also important to note that stores in Canada are not affected by today’s news, and that other TRU locations will continue to operate under normal conditions.