There’s been one overarching narrative in the toy industry for the last few weeks. As Toys R Us edges ever closer to oblivion, the prevailing thought seemed to be that the “toy store” was dead. But not so fast, as KB Toys is not only alive, but planning a grand return to form.
So how’s this for a shocker? No really, come on, this is a surprise and no one out there suspected it was coming. If anything, I had just assumed that the day of the brick and mortar toy store was going to be over. And with a capital ‘O’ mind you. But that is not the case, not at all.
Boom and bust
Back in earlier times, Kay Bee Toys was a beast of a store. Located in malls across the US (and the world?), Kay Bee had almost everything that TRU had, just on a smaller scale. While Toys R Us was all about free-standing big box-type places, Kay Bee had their storefronts within shopping malls, and man was that great.
As a kid in the 80s, I would head right to the shop in my local mall whenever I went there with my mom. She was free to shop while I was more than occupied with my new action figure, or the manual/box from the new video game she picked up for me. Atari games in particular were plentiful after the video game bust (that I didn’t even realize was happening).
I can remember more than once, being on the receiving end of three or four games at a time from Kay Bee, since they literally cost pennies on the dollar at the time. Seriously, even the lowliest Atari games are more expensive now than they were back then. It was amazing.
But then the 90s came in, and the local Kay Bee in my mall went the way of the Dinobot. It was in the early 2000’s that the one I stopped in occasionally when visiting the big city vanished as well. And that, as they say, was that.
Or, maybe not.
Yes folks, Kay Bee is back. Or maybe I should say “KB” is.
Guess who’s back?
KB seems to be the name now, as it’s attached to all of the apparently reborn KB Toys’ branding. It was the name for a while before the company went under initially I believe, so it makes sense to pick up where things left off. The logo looks somewhat similar to the classic one in color scheme, though there’s no toy soldier. It’s simpler and a little more modern. That’s kind of a funny notion when talking about a toy store.
As of a few days ago, I kind of thought the whole idea of a dedicated shop for toys was antiquated. Toys R Us is pretty much gone at this point, and that was the last of the great chains. Local shops? Eh, pretty much all history as well in this day and age.
I think it’d be fair to say that pretty much all toy collectors and kids alike were resigning themselves to the inevitable fact that the likes of Target and Amazon would be their only options for action figures and the like. Then something pretty amazing happened.
KB announced, out of nowhere, that they were coming back from the dead.
They claim that they’ve learned from their mistakes the first time around, and that the new owners of the name are dead set on bringing back the quality and the feel that the Kay Bee of old had.
They’ve even extended an offer to current TRU employees to apply for work. Honestly that’s pretty great for all parties. It gives the new KB a ready made staff, and gives thousands of Toys R Us workers a place to apply for work that they know wants them.
I’m more than game to believe the hype here, and buy in to the idea. Not the least reason being that I love brick and mortar specialty shops. I don’t particularly desire an all-digital and/or big box future. For now anyway, I eagerly await the near future announcements that the new KB will be making as to store openings. For their part, they are saying to expect store openings this year – and in time for the holidays.
Fingers crossed that there’ll be one in the mall that I frequent. Maybe I’ll pick up a Dinobot.