KB Toys: The Reason the Pop-Up Stores Never Happened

Last March, Toys "R" Us announced that they were closing their doors, an announcement that was met with sadness and even some shock from fans who had grown up as "Toys 'R' US Kids". However, not all hope for the brick-and-mortar toy store was lost. A few days after the Toys "R" Us announcement, the long-defunct KB Toys chain dropped some equally surprising news: they were making a comeback and would be back in action in time for the holidays.

Except, the holidays came and went with no sign of KB Toys. The 1,000 pop-up stores promised by Ellia Kassoff, CEO of Leaf Brands and head of Strategic Marks, LLC that had taken ownership of the KB Toys trademark in 2016. Now, we know why: the funding wasn't there.

Kassoff recently told the Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association (LIMA) that efforts to secure funding for the pop-up rebirth of the toy retailer fell short despite his previous claims that that mall owners and toy companies would be investing in the project (via The Toy Book).

"The toy companies had lots of conflicts of interest that prevented them from investing in KB given that they sell to other retailers, and mall operators don't typically invest in prospective tenants," Kassoff said. "It is taking a while to get this done and build out a strategy. Once we get the money together, we will be off and running."

Last year at PlayCon, Kassoff had unveiled that there were discussions of partnerships with groups such as Go! Retail Group and Party City for some of the KB Toys pop-ups, but those stores ended up launching their own, pop-ups, Toys Express and Toy City. There's also been talk that Toys "R" Us could be making its own comeback while FAO Schwarz, which had closed its doors in 2015, opened a new flagship location last November and is already expanding.

It's a situation that appears to be leading Strategic Marks to be rethinking their strategy when it comes to the rebirth of KB Toys. The new plan is to open 200-250 freestanding and mall locations in 2019, locations with short-term leases that will allow the company to test the viability of the stores and, if successful, convert to permanent stores.

“The idea is to create temporary locations where we can try out the market and see how it goes, and if we are successful turn it into a permanent location,” Kassoff said. “If it is not successful, we will close it and move to another location.”

What do you think? Is KB Toys really going to make a comeback? Let us know in the comments below.

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