It has had a decades-long run in Columbus, but Toys R Us said Thursday it has made the ultimate decision to close all of its remaining 735 stores in the U.S.
That would include the Toys R Us store at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd. at Columbus Park Crossing, which has operated in the market more than three decades. It has done business at Columbus Park since 2002, relocating that year from 3150 Macon Road in Midtown Square, where it had operated at least since the mid-1980s. A Ross Dress for Less store is now in that Macon Road spot once inhabited by Toys R Us.
“I am very disappointed with the result, but we no longer have the financial support to continue the company’s U.S. operations,” Dave Brandon, Toys R Us chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement Thursday morning. “We are therefore implementing an orderly process to shutter our U.S. operations and will pursue going concern sales or reorganizations of certain of our international businesses, while our other international businesses consider their options.”
The company said Thursday it has filed a motion seeking U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval to begin the “wind down” of its U.S. properties and liquidation of all 735 stores in the U.S., including those in Puerto Rico. The company said it will release details soon about the “going out of business sales” to liquidate merchandise.
The toy retailer noted it is still seeking bids to sell its Canadian operations, along with other businesses in Asia and Europe, with hopes that it might be able to attract a buyer that would also take the 200 top-performing Toys R Us stores in the U.S.
Word of the Toys R Us decision to pull the plug on its U.S. operations began circulating Wednesday evening, with the the Wall Street Journal reporting that employees of Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us already had been informed of the mass closure and subsequent liquidation of goods in the coming weeks. However, an employee at the Columbus Park Crossing store, asked Wednesday night if the local workers had received the news, simply replied softly, “no.”
There were reports Thursday that employees have been told they will be on the job at least 60 days, while shoppers have 30 days to use gift cards.
“There are many people and organizations who have remained in our corner every step along the way,” Brandon said Thursday. “I want to thank our extraordinary team members who helped build Toys R Us into a global brand. I also want to express my appreciation for my colleagues on our board who have continued to provide support to sustain the brand and our operations throughout the restructuring process. I would also like to thank our vendors who we owe a great deal of gratitude to for their decades of support. This is a profoundly sad day for us as well as the millions of kids and families who we have served for the past 70 years.”
Toys R Us is already selling off merchandise at nearly 200 of its stores that it targeted for closure, a move it announced in January as part of its restructuring. As for the Columbus Park Crossing location, a Morningstar credit rating agency report last fall mentioned the Columbus store as among a handful in nine states that were facing the expiration of their leases in early 2018. Retailers that are eliminating locations often wait until leases expire to avoid financial penalties for breaking a contract early.
For Columbus Park Crossing, the loss of Toys R Us would be the third major retailer to succumb financially along Whittlesey Boulevard, with Sears shutting its department store doors nearly a year ago as part of a round of closures by its struggling parent company. Indianapolis-based electronics hhgregg also closed last May after its bankruptcy quickly turned to the total liquidation of the company. Sears also eliminated all of the Kmart locations in the Columbus-Phenix City market a year ago.