I feel bad for the small crew that’s stayed on at Toys “R” Us (though not as bad as I do for the folks who weren’t as fortunate) through the course of their spectacular collapse and extraordinarily unusual bankruptcy proceedings this past year. While the last of their stores closed on June 29th in the U.S., on June 20th the company registered a new trademark for Geoffrey’s Toy Box – news that I broke right here on The Rock Father™ Magazine last week. All this time, there has been a crew working on what would emerge as Geoffrey, LLC, and before I go any further, I think it should be made clear that no one should be made to feel at fault for holding onto a job during times of crisis. Though the former Global Resource Center for Toys “R” Us in Wayne, NJ has been stripped-down and largely liquidated itself, there’s been a small crew at work, and those folks were placed into a really hard spot – supporting their families while friends and colleagues were let go, and also tasked with trying to reimagine and perhaps revive a brand that they loved. That said, the news of Geoffrey, LLC living on as Geoffrey’s Toy Box (branded merch, licensing, perhaps new stores… eventually) has been met with polarizing reaction from those within the toy industry, but tonight it became apparent that whoever decided to pull the trigger on re-activating the Toys “R” Us social networks wasn’t counting on public backlash.
I noted last week, someone had already been cleaning up the Toys “R” Us twitter account, deleting dozens of liquidation-era tweets and video ads, backing things up to March 9, 2018 – mere days before total liquidation was announced. While the June 29th message of #TRUBeContinued was still in the header, on Saturday, October 6, the TRU corporate accounts – @ToysRus, @BabiesRUs and @ToysRUsNews came back to life with new bios that read: “We are actively working to bring back our iconic brands in a new and re-imagined way.” All three tweeted the following message:
“Guess who’s back? He’s been traveling across the globe for the past few months but now #GeoffreysBack and once again ready to set play free for children of all ages. Share some of your favorite memories and get ready to make a whole lot of new ones!”
The tweets in response where just as polarizing as the toy industry comments, a mix of enthusiasm and disdain, but they were nothing compared to what happened over on Facebook. There, after nearly four months of having their pages deactivated (still there, but not accessible by the public), Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us and Toys “R” Us Careers came back online, and within just a couple of hours, TRU and BRU were back down (edit: after 12 hours they’re all back up, but with many comments deleted). The response was swift, with customers and former employees alike slamming the company by the thousands, many calling for retribution after more than 33,000 employees lost their jobs and shockwaves rippled through the economy, leading to layoffs at toy companies and others working within the distribution and marketing chains.
The problem isn’t that “Geoffrey’s Back,” but that he’s being funded by “a group of investors led by Geoffrey, LLC’s existing secured lenders.” The same lenders that pushed the company into liquidation in the first place rather than getting a true restructure in place. They flushed it all and gifted themselves the name and brands, allowing formation of new business rather than auctioning their assets to a new buyer that had no ties to the old company, as is the norm in these cases (see Gander Outdoors, Bon-Ton, Circuit City).
Geoffrey might be “back from vacation,” but for folks at the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas last week, his ghostly appearance might not have been a welcome one, and many were “not thrilled.” That seems to be the case on Facebook as well.