Toys “Яn’t” What It Used “2” “ᗺ”

Some of you have probably read that the Toys R Us brand is back in retail after a several-year hiatus caused by our old friend, Private Equity. Well, Macy’s has introduced a “Toys Я Us” section in each of their 400-odd locations and over the weekend Business Insider did a photo essay about what it looks like.

Despite the name of the publisher, the typical BI photo essay indicates little to no input from actual insiders and focuses solely on the consumer experience. If you’re still keeping up with this blog, you probably already love those articles too, but just in case, here’s an example about Amtrak trains. I’ll wait.

Okay, that was fun right? So BI posted a new one last weekend about the flagship Toys Я Us store in New York City. It has over a dozen photos, including a selfie of the author, before you even get inside the front door of the new location. It’s 14,000 square feet within the eleventieth floor of the Macy’s Herald Square tower.

Then I had some time to waste at Briarwood Mall the other day, so I got out my picture-taking hand and wandered over to see the Ann Arbor implementation of the new TЯU. Embeds don’t work well/at all in my WordPress instance anymore, so you should probably open the Insider article in another tab so you can compare and contrast our experiences.

The Front-Of-Store Stage Setter

Geoffrey cut some weight. (C)A2RS.

All entrances of the Macy’s store have a Geoffrey sign. This is the latter-day Geoffrey, essentially unchanged from the 2007 flat redesign. His wife and kids are still vanished. The display pictured above is near the north entrance from the parking lot, right by the big register counter.

Creepin’ On a Come-Up

Don’t tell the Bureau of Land Management this appeared here. (C)A2RS

I think the Briarwood Macy’s has an elevator in one corner of the store, but I did not examine it for fancy appliques like Herald Square’s had. The sign seen above advises you to head upstairs for the TЯU fun.

Briarwood isn’t working with the kind of floorspace Macy’s has in New York City, so there aren’t as many distractions to traipse through to arrive at the good stuff. In fact, you can see it right at the top of the elevator:

At The Top of the Elevator

Noisy like a giraffe. (C)A2RS

Longtime mall denizens may realize that TЯU has moved into the area on the second floor that used to be Macy’s cafe. As a little kid, nothing made me feel like an International Gentleman of Leisure more than eating with my folks or grandparents in the restaurant at Hudson’s, sipping chocolate milk poured from a little pitcher. As a mall employee decades later, if the duration of my lunchbreak permitted, I would steal over to the Macy’s Cafe, consider ordering a big bowl of fro-yo, then settle for a fountain Coke and a bagel instead. But food service has fallen out of vogue in many affordable department stores (I’m sure the Nordstrom at 12 Oaks still has the cookies you can google the zillion-dollar recipe for), and so Toys Я in this space now.

Of the items pictured in the BI feature, the Nerf firing range, Lego tables, and indoor playground did not make it over — the Geoffrey figure on the bench is the sole extent of the interactive displays here in Ann Arbor.

From a soft-bullet 12-gauge to hard-sided luggage. (C)A2RS

The tiled walkways separate TЯU on two sides, but there’s very little demarcation between the toy department and the luggage, as you can see above and in the first photo where a pair of blue suitcases intrude from the right.

The Other Toy Department

Confusingly, there is a second toy department in the Briarwood Macy’s store. This Macy’s location includes “Backstage,” a TJ-Maxxish store-within-the-store that takes up about a third of Floor 2 and includes its own discrete shoes, menswear, womenswear, housewares, and… Toys.

These “Я” a different toy section. (C)A2RS

The inventory of the Backstage Toys section is similar to Toys Я Us, just less timely stuff. No Black Panther, Black Adam, Blackpink, or Jack Black stuff here, though there were some popular brands. Besides this department, there were also toy-adjacent impulse buys in the line for the second floor registers, as well as some out-of-season water toys in the “Last Call” clearance bin near the kitchen tools.

What Would My Kid Self Do?

There were a few lines in the article that bugged me. The photo of the Mandalorian toy display that identified its heroes as “Boba Fett and Baby Yoda.” The gratuitous placement of Macy’s Herald Square in-store food concessions (maybe there IS some inside involvement after all). But it was the last line that really made me wince:

As I left the store, my only complaint was that I wasn’t able to travel back in time so that my kid self could have enjoyed it too.

Ann Matica, Business Insider

My kid self would not want to be in a corner of Macy’s. Maybe if they had incorporated more of the interactive and play stuff seen at the NYC store. My kid self would arrive at Briarwood and promptly go to Kay-Bee Toys or Fun Factory, or ask to check out Sears, which, if he arrived there today, would look like this:

The former Sears sales floor, as spied through the pegboard display walls set up by temporary tenant Spirit Halloween, November 2022. (C)A2RS

But if he absolutely had to come to the Briarwood of 2022, I think we all know where little Britain would definitely spend all day. At the Apple Store. Then he’d ask to be taken to Arborland, where the big Toys Я Us is. I have bad news for us, little fella. But first, write us a blog post.