Toys R Us is closing its last U.S. stores by Friday, June 29

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

It's The End Of Toys 'R' Us: What Will Fill The Vacant Buildings?

National retailers are scooping up some empty buildings and there are some growing businesses that could be expanding in the area.

June 29, 2018 - 10:40 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) - Toys R Us is closing its last U.S. stores by Friday, the end of a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores, brightly colored logo and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

But many of the children who happily sang the "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid" jingle grew into busy parents who found shopping online more convenient. The company, which also owned the Babies R Us chain, was hobbled by $5 billion in debt after a leveraged buyout that left it unable to invest and keep up.

Related story: Local Toy Shops Prepare For Toys 'R' Us Demise

So what will replace the vacant buildings in South County, St. Peters and Fairview Heights? 

We asked Grant Mechlin, manager of Sansone Group's retail brokerage who says some brick-and-mortar retails are actually growing in the St. Louis market. Some possible new tenants could be growing brands like 

Fresh Thyme, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Bob's Discount Furniture, Punch Bowl Social or the rise of trampoline parks. Other national retailers like Walmart and Target are expanding their toy aisles to fill the hole. Party City is opening 50 pop-up toy shops this fall after leasing many of the empty Toys "R" Us locations.

Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last fall and pledged to stay open, but had poor sales during the critical holiday season as customers and vendors shied away. In January, it announced plans to close about 180 stores, but then in March it said it would liquidate the rest of the 700-plus stores.

Will the Toys R Us name and mascot disappear forever? An auction for the company's name, baby shower registry and various trademarks is set for late July. The 16-foot tall statue of Geoffrey the Giraffe that greeted visitors at Toys R Us headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey will be moved to a children's hospital in the state.