How Long Will St. Louis' Toys 'R' Us Stores Stay Vacant?

One of the largest locations to fill will be the 50,000-square-foot Toys 'R' Us at Lindbergh and Watson.

Michael Calhoun
March 19, 2018 - 10:38 am
Toys 'R' Us closing

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SUNSET HILLS, Mo. (KMOX) - The expected closure of all Toys 'R' Us locations will leave five empty "big boxes" across the St. Louis region, including an outlet store in Chesterfield.

What could fill those spaces?

Grant Mechlin, managing director of Sansone Group's retail brokerage, says think outside the box.

"The most active segment, outside of a non-retail segment and the specialty grocer segment, is the entertainment players -- not only from the theater side but from the restaurants," he says.

One example, he says, is Punch Bowl Social joining Alamo Drafthouse in committing to Midtown's "City Foundry," which is also an example of a non-traditional retail development.

He notes the rise of trampoline parks as an example of tenants which sell experiences instead of products.

Chains like Circuit City, Sports Authority and H.H. Gregg left empty big boxes of their own when they closed up, but Mequon says the St. Louis market didn't have much trouble filling those spots for two reasons: First, the region has slowed its breakneck pace of developing new shopping centers. Also, new consumer-oriented companies have been entering the market.

"Everything from Fresh Tyme on the grocery side to Academy Sports on the outdoor-sporting goods side to Bob's Discount Furniture on the furniture side," Mechlin says. "So there's been a pretty good mix across all categories."

One of the largest locations to fill will be the 50,000-square-foot Toys 'R' Us at Lindbergh and Watson.

Mechlin says the Sunset Hills shopping center is "very good real estate in a good market" and is normally all leased up. He doesn't expect much trouble finding a replacement for the toy store. 

But what about a planned 7,500-square-foot expansion?

We "probably need to figure out what happens to the Toys 'R' Us box first before we would do that," he says, "but I think the expansion could be incorporated into the Toys 'R' Us box to provide a little larger space for someone" like an Academy Sports.

Bankrupt Toys 'R' Us plans to close all 800 of its stores in the U.S., which could affect as many as 33,000 employees.