Tru Kids, the new owner of the Toys R Us brand, is partnering with Candytopia, the company known for its interactive candy exhibits, as part of its efforts to revive and evolve the toy store.
Through its partnership with Candytopia, the companies will create Toys R Us Adventure, "an immersive wonderland that celebrates the whimsical, silly and fun of toys." Toys R Us Adventure will have more than a dozen interactive play rooms that include installations featuring the Toys R Us mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe.
Tru Kids executives have promised they will make shopping at Toys R Us stores the interactive experience that its predecessor failed to capture. Toys R Us' lack of innovation and store upkeep was one shortcoming, along with a crippling debt load, that critics argued led to its demise.
"We never really had a canvas there to bring play alive," said Tru Kids CEO Richard Barry, who previously worked as chief merchandising officer at Toys R Us.
Candytopia has become popular with families looking to give their kids a sugary day of fun and millennials in search of a good Instagram picture. The company, created by candy artist Jackie Sorkin, events and production design expert Zac Hartog, and retail executive John Goodman, has opened limited-time locations in Santa Monica, New York and San Francisco.
The Toys R Us Adventure play areas will open in late October in Atlanta at Lenox Marketplace in Buckhead and in Chicago on North Michigan Avenue, which is known for its Magnificent Mile shopping district. The exhibits will stay open through the 2019 holidays before moving on to different cities.
The experience will likely move to four spots next year, said Goodman, Candytopia's CEO. Like Candytopia, it will charge admission: $28 for adults, $20 for kids 4 through 12 and free for children under 4.
The experience will also feature toys from Melissa & Doug, Spin Master's PAW Patrol brand and figurine company Schleich, the company said Thursday.
"We believe this live experience coupled with our new experiential retail stores will attract families from around the world and create a unique opportunity to rediscover the magic of this beloved family brand," said Barry in a statement.
Toys R Us liquidated its U.S. business last year, forcing its 800 U.S. stores to go dark. Following the bankruptcy, the company's lenders acquired the rights to the Toys R Us brand name and the iconic Geoffrey the Giraffe mascot. Tru Kids, which is managing those brands on behalf of the toy retailer's lenders, has been trying to stage a comeback that reimagines how retailers of today might best take advantage of the Toys R Us legacy.
Tru Kids is planning to open 10 Toys R Us stores around the U.S. in 2020. Like Toys R Us Adventure, those efforts will be supported by a partnership with another forward-thinking retail company. Through a joint venture with B8ta, the stores will offer an in-house technology platform to help brands create their own mini shops within the space.
Whether the revived Toys R Us will attract toy brands has been a question among industry insiders. Many toy companies, such as Crayola, felt burned when the Toys R Us liquidation left them short.