By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – Toys “R” Us announced Wednesday that it was shuttering up to 182 stores, about one-fifth of its U.S. outlets.
The retailer filed for bankruptcy in September of last year and is now planning to close down stores across the country between February and April. The 60-year-old company has 1,600 stores globally, with 880 in the U.S. None of the international stores are included in the planned closings.
In a court filing, the company blamed the bankruptcy on increased competition from brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Walmart as well as the shift toward online shopping.
Toys "R" Us CEO Dave Brandon in a letter to customers posted on the New Jersey company’s website suggested that holiday sales at the end of last year were not high enough to save the closing stores.
“The reinvention of our brands requires that we make tough decisions about our priorities and focus,” Brandon wrote.
“To that end and following a top-to-bottom assessment of our business, we have decided to close a number of our U.S. stores. We also intend to convert a number of locations into co-branded Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores. The actions we are taking are necessary to give us the best chance to emerge from our bankruptcy proceedings as a more viable and competitive company that will provide the level of service and experience you should expect from a market leader.”
Brandon was hired in 2015 after leading a corporate turnaround at pizza chain Dominos.
Brick-and-mortar retailers had a disastrous 2017. There were a record-breaking 7,000 store closing announcements last year, according to a December report by retail think tank Fung Global Retail & Technology.
A publically traded company for over 25 years, Toys “R” Us was taken private after it was bought by several private equity firms in 2005.
The announcement Wednesday rattled the stocks of toymakers, though, with shares of Mattel dipping 1.32 percent to $17.52 during afternoon trading.