Toys “R” Us stores have seen a significant shift in its retail offerings since the COVID-19 pandemic. The store now features an entire department for kitchen and home decor, with fluorescent signs advertising 40% off products labeled as being from Rooms + Spaces, the home goods retailer that was opened by Putman Investments during the pandemic. The chain’s shrinkage from 24 stores to two in roughly a year is a mystery, but retail experts believe that Rooms + Spaces’ retrenchment from standalone locations to its appearance at Toys “R” Us is likely due to shifting consumer habits amid high inflation, sluggish home sales, and competition from several old and new retailers in the same segment of the market.

The retail landscape in general is struggling, with consumers either having less money or spending less. Household furniture has also been affected, with many people buying things in COVID because they were in their homes, and people are now spending money on travel rather than purchasing things for their homes. Stalwarts like Ikea, Hudson’s Bay, Walmart, and Canadian Tire feature in most Canadian markets alongside new entrants like Fox Home, Dollarama, and Loblaw also keep expanding their merchandise ranges.

Ont.-based Putman Investment, who started Everest Toys in the 1990s, purchased Sunrise Records in 2014, HMV in 2019, and Toys “R” Us Canada in 2021. In May last year, Putman revealed a plan to snap up 21 properties left vacant through Bed Bath & Beyond and BuyBuy Baby’s bankruptcy and turn them into a new concept, Rooms + Spaces. An August press release announcing grand openings for many of the Rooms + Spaces locations bumped the chain’s expected store count to 24.

Many of those stores appear to have opened, but in the months since, Rooms + Spaces has retracted. Customers report frequent emails offering significant markdowns and social media is rife with chatter about stores that disappeared within months. In December, Vancouver media reported the company had to vacate its West Broadway location due to legal notices posted on its door noting it had defaulted on its lease.

Some feel the emergence of Rooms + Spaces products in Toys “R” Us is both an admission of the bleak current retail landscape and a brilliant idea. Indigo Books & Music Inc. has expanded heavily into the toy category and added housewares, but taking advantage of those synergies and salvaging the business will take a lot of work.

Source: Canadian Press
Source: Financial Post
Source: Globe and Mail
Source: The Star