Eighty shopping malls will be getting temporary tenants as a present this holiday season. Retailer Toys ‘R’ Us is setting up the “pop-up stores,” it announced Sept. 15, along with adding temporary toy departments to 270 of its Babies ‘R’ Us stores. The move is an effort for the 847-store chain to take advantage of empty mall real estate and grab market share as other toy retailers have disappeared. KB Toys filed for bankruptcy last December, right in the midst of the Christmas shopping season, while FAO Schwartz was acquired by Toys ‘R’ Us earlier this year.
That Toys ‘R’ Us, which was struggling mightily just a few years ago, is in a position to expand in a recession says a lot about how the company’s fortunes have changed. Even if the move is temporary—the “pop-up” spaces will exist from October to mid-January—it should help the privately owned retailer compete with Wal-Mart and Target, not to mention Sears, which added permanent toy departments in 20 of its stores in June. With KB Toys out of the picture, there has been little selling of toys actually going on at the mall.
“Pop-up” stores are, of course, nothing new. Target has launched them for several years during New York’s Fashion Week, including this one for the “Gossip Girl”-themed Anna Sui line. The magazine Teen Vogue opened one last year, while Jones Apparel Group unit Rachel Roy announced temporary digs earlier this month.
Still, it makes a lot of sense that the concept would be proliferating amidst a depressed commercial real estate market, when vacancy rates are climbing and rental rates are falling. Pop-up concepts aren’t the only ones: Apparently health insurers are even seeking out cheap space at the mall.
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