Manchester Babies R Us store to close

MANCHESTER — The Babies R Us store on Hale Road will close, Toys R Us said Tuesday in announcing it would close 182 stores nationwide.

The Toys R Us store in the Plaza at Buckland Hills will remain open.

Once the largest retailer of baby products in the nation, the Babies R Us store opened in the Buckland area in 2001. At the time, it employed 75 full- and part-time workers.

The chain will close three other stores in Connecticut, in Newington, North Haven, and Waterbury. No Massachusetts stores are slated to close.

Store closing sales are expected to begin in early February, with the majority of locations closing in mid-April 2018, the company said in a news release.

The company filed for bankruptcy last September as a means of taking the first step to financial reconstruction, but sales continued to fall short.

In a report on its third-quarter profits, the company said “disappointing” results “reflect the broad competitive trends across retail, they demonstrate the continued challenges we face in both baby and learning.”

Toys R Us, based in Wayne, New Jersey, has struggled with debt since private-equity firms Bain Capital, KKR & Co., and Vornado Realty Trust took it private in a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005.

The plan had been to take the company public again, but weak sales have prevented that from happening.

Toys R Us isn’t alone. Around three dozen retailers sought bankruptcy protection last year due in large part to a radical shift in consumer behavior, both in where they shop, and what they buy. Some of the companies that have gone under have been small, but there are also big retailers on the list, like Payless Shoe Source, Gymboree Corp., and True Religion jeans.

Chairman and CEO Dave Brandon said today that the company made some missteps during the critical holiday shopping season.

“As the leader of this company, I want you to know that we can and will address the gaps in the experience that you may have had when shopping this holiday,” Brandon said.

“My team is already hard at work to make the improvements necessary to ensure that we have the products you want, when, where and how you want them.

Weak holiday sales seem to be the final nail in the coffin for the company, which had said it in December it would close an unspecified number of stores.

Bloomberg News reported that holiday sales were down 15 percent from the previous year.

Toys R Us represents a cautionary tale to brick and mortar stores that fail to keep up with an increasingly digital market.

Lance Wills, the first global chief technology officer for the brand, told USA Today in May that 60 percent of its customers visit its website before even entering the store.

“The website really represents the front door to our brand,” he said. “In a year to two years, we have to catch up on 10 years of innovation, and that’s no small feat.”

Forbes reported in September that the company planned to invest $100 million in its e-commerce platform over the next three years —  part of its financial makeover.

This story includes Associated Press reporting.

Originally published by the Journal Inquirer