Business

Toys ‘R' Us Express tests the waters at Federal Way mall

Toys “R” Us Express opened July 30 at The Commons Mall, located at 1820 S. Commons, and will stay throughout 2010. The toy retailer was formerly located on 20th Avenue South in a building that remains vacant today. - Katie Adams, The Mirror
Toys “R” Us Express opened July 30 at The Commons Mall, located at 1820 S. Commons, and will stay throughout 2010. The toy retailer was formerly located on 20th Avenue South in a building that remains vacant today.
— image credit: Katie Adams, The Mirror

Federal Way welcomes back Toys "R" Us to the downtown core.

The toys and hobbies megastore opened July 30 inside The Commons mall. The mall location marks the second time Toys "R" Us has operated in Federal Way. In its previous form, the retailer was located in a building of its own on 20th Avenue South. That building remains vacant today. The mall location signifies a change in how Toys "R" Us is approaching business.

Convenience factor

Though unconventional, locating Toys "R" Us inside The Commons is a way for the retailer to test the market. The mall space is considered an "express" store, spokeswoman Jennifer Albano said. It caters to last-minute shoppers and customers looking to purchase several items in one quick trip, she said.

"We are always looking for great locations that would benefit from the products and services that Toys ‘R’ Us has to offer, and we were able to find an ideal location in The Commons at Federal Way," Albano said.

Federal Way's express store is one of many. Toys "R" Us began opening express locations during last year's holiday season. Approximately 90 stores are now in business across the nation in malls and shopping centers, Albano said. The locations feature items expected to move fast in a mall setting. Playthings and toy favorites, such as dolls, action figures and educational toys, can be found at express stores. Toys "R" Us expects to add more express locations this year as space becomes available, Albano said.

Leasing terms

Toys "R" Us will have an appearance in the Sears wing of The Commons, at least through the end of the year. The store is operated out of an approximately 3,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by the World Poker store, said Gary Martindale, the mall's general manager. The space sat empty for about six months, he said. The Toys "R" Us business license expires Dec. 31. If all goes well up to that point, at year's end, mall management will attempt to negotiate a longer leasing term, Martindale said.

A familiar site

Toys "R" Us first opened its doors in Federal Way in 1987. It remained until 2006, when the company closed 73 locations nationwide. The only other Washington store to shut down was in Bellingham.

In early 2006, spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said there was "no singular reason" for closing the stores. Waugh said a review of the retailer's portfolio led to the closures. Several criteria were applied when deciding which stores to close, she said. At that time, Waugh was unable to explain the criteria that were applied. She said none of the criteria were connected with a mid-2005 change in the company's ownership.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. (KKR) and Vornado Realty Trust, both associated with an international investment group connected to Bain Capital Partners, acquired Toys "R" Us Incorporated in July 2005. The group paid $6.6 billion for the retail chain, which includes Babies "R" Us. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Company is a private asset management company. Vornado is a commercial real estate firm.

At the time of its 2006 closure, the Toys "R" Us store employed 42 staff members. The employees were transfered to other stores or given a severance pay.

Check it out

Toys "R" Us was started in 1948 in Washington, D.C., and became a publicly traded company in 1978. Its stores are now in the U.S. and other countries.

Beginning this past October, Toys “R” Us Express shops were introduced into more than 260 Babies “R” Us stores nationwide. The average shop provides approximately 2,500 square feet of toys. This is nearly triple the space generally allotted to toys in Babies “R” Us stores.

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