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Toy retailer Camp takes over former Toys R Us store ahead of holidays


The Camp retail location, New York. June 4, 2019.

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Toys R Us was liquidated in 2011. The brand’s new owners promised to transform the store into a fun place for children. They would allow them to play with their friends and test out toys.

It was a great experiment. was tried and failedThe Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, few consumers were venturing outside of their homes to head to the mall — let alone to mingle in a crowded environment with children. Tru Kids was the last Toys R Us location. shuttered earlier this year

However, as the fears around coronavirus decrease, one company bets that experience-based shopping will return stronger than ever. This is especially true for families with young children. New York City-based CampIt hopes its approach will be better than Toys R Us’s. And the upcoming holiday season will put Camp’s business — part experience, part toy retailer — to the test.

On Tuesday, Camp is opening a store in the former Toys R Us shop at Garden State Plaza mall, which is operated by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. Camp is opening this store in the seventh of its locations, along with those located in Manhattan and Los Angeles. The company expects that three additional locations will open this year and double the number of its stores by next year.

Toys R Us was the mainstay of the toys industry when Toys R Us first opened. Walmart TargetAnd Amazon“We believe so,” stated Ben Kaufman (founder and chief executive officer, Camp) and former chief marketing officer, BuzzFeed. The toy market is more tightly regulated than ever. The majority of the share is being held by Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Kaufman continued, “We’re not big needle-movers for toys vendors in terms volume, just yet because we don’t possess enough locations.” Kaufman said that although we’re needle-movers, they are also taste-makers and can stamp their approval of “this thing’s cool.”

Camp stores are a truly unique place. You’ll find puzzles, Lego sets and L.O.L Surprise dolls on the shelves at the front. There is also sweet treats. A second door opens to a vast play area that offers rotating experiences and is sponsored by Paw Patrol.

On June 4, 2019, a child creates with markers and a pad at Camp’s New York retail location.

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Kauffman says Camp’s revenue comes from three streams. These are brand sponsorships, ticket sales to rotate experiences and merchandise transactions. Camp stated that Camp stores can be profitable as they aren’t dependent on the sales of thin-margin products.

Kauffman explained that “we have both a high profit line in ticketing and sponsorship.”

Camp collaborates with manufacturers to help them market their products. The company recently teamed up with Moose Toys in order to launch Magic Mixies. The toy — which prompts kids to mix a variety of ingredients that bubble and mist, and then wave a magic wand to reveal an interactive creature — has landed on several lists of must-have holiday toys. Kauffman reported that Camp’s inventory sold out in less than 48 hours.

Kauffman stated that this just shows how traditional retailers can buy and sell but can also be used as media platforms and marketing platforms for brands.

Camp’s past months have not been easy. Camp didn’t even have an internet presence when the pandemic hit, and they were forced to temporarily close their stores.

They were able to launch a new gift exchange service called Camp White Elephant, that allowed kids to trade gifts. Kauffman estimated that around 25,000 people used it on Christmas Eve last year.

Moving forward, Camp said it’s focused on building out its website to be accessible for younger users — not just their parents. Camp offers the Present Shop as an option. Children can input information like a budget, who they’re shopping for and Camp will help them choose gifts. You can give your kids a code to help you pay.

Kauffman stated that it recreates what kids felt when they walked through malls with $20 bills, trying to figure out what to buy for themselves, their dad, mom, and sister.

And while Camp will be competing with Amazon, Walmart and Target for toy sales during the holidays, the company hopes to win some of the dollars that consumers plan to spend on experiences — not just gifts.

Accenture found that 43% U.S. customers plan to spend less on physical goods this holiday season and more on experiences and services. This was 50% in Gen Z and 53% for the younger millennials. Accenture’s August survey had 1,515 respondents online. 

Jill Standish is senior managing director of Accenture, and heads the retail division. “This will be a very human holiday.” We’re seeing a preference for experiences over personal items.