Times Square replots center of toy universe – Times Square

Times Square replots center of toy universe – Times Square – Toys “R” Us

Doug Desjardins

Since it opened its doors in 2001, the Toys “R” Us flagship store in Times Square has been the epicenter of the retailer’s universe and a key venue for toy manufacturers introducing new products to the world.

“We sold the first X-Box ever sold in the world here to Bill Gates at midnight the day it was released,” said Richard Markee, president of U.S. Stores for Toys “R” Us. “We pride ourselves in working with our manufacturers to make this a place for them to showcase the newest and hottest products.”

That reputation, earned in just two short years, has also given Toys “R” Us millions of dollars in free exposure. “We have a store [Times Square] that from a media point of view is the greatest place to launch a toy in the world,” said Toys “R” Us chairman and ceo John Eyler. “And last year we generated over $75 million of free media coverage in this industry.”

The Times Square store is far and away the largest and most unique store in the Toys “R” Us chain and the retail world at large. The three-story complex at the corner of 44th Street and Broadway features 110,000 square feet of retail space along with 25 major attractions that include a 60-foot-high Ferris Wheel, a 34-foot animatronic t-Rex and a life-sized Barbie dollhouse.

In short, everything at the store is larger than life and a little surreal, which is just what the company has in mind. “Our goal in developing Toys ‘R’ Us Times Square was to develop the ultimate toy store that’s the personification of every kid’s dream,” said Elliott Wahle, the president of U.S. stores for Kids “R” Us and Babies “R” Us, who was the Times Square store general manager when it opened.

The store has become a magnet for both shoppers and sightseers in the two years since it opened and attracts a steady stream of celebrities. “I was sitting in the office and the buzz is Larry King is in the store or Michael Jackson wants to come in,” said Wahle. “Not only that, but you have cabinet secretaries, governors and people like that. It’s a lot of things to a lot of different people and it is a huge commercial enterprise for us.”

And Toys “R” Us has used the store as a venue for celebrity appearances and product launches. Hillary Duff was here in July to promote the launch of Hasbro’s new VideoNow portable video player and the band Smashmouth performed here in August. Upcoming appearances include NASCAR stars Tony Stewart and Kyle Petty.

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COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group