Friday marked the beginning of the end for toy seller Toys R Us as the toy retailer began liquidation sales on March 23 at hundreds of stores around the country.
The going-out-of-business sales are the latest in a series of sad news for the 70-year-old company. On Thursday, Toys R Us founder, Charles Lazarus died at the age of 94. Lazurus, who began his retail career selling children's furniture, pioneered the creation of what was one of the nation's biggest superstore chains in 1948.
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The company also revealed that it planned to start liquidation sales. But sales planned for Thursday were postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances," signs posted outside stores around the country and a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
The mass liquidation event at 740 stores will join the ongoing going-out-of-business sales at 182 stores that began last month. Those locations should be shuttered for good by mid-April.
Toys R Us promised "deep discounts and promotions." But workers at a Toys R Us in New York City's Times Square, where most merchandise had only been discounted 10 percent with a few items on sale at 30 percent off, said Friday that it could be a month before deep discounts come.
Shoppers from around the New York City area visiting the Times Square and Manhattan Mall stores looking for deals found themselves reminiscing about the impact that the store had on their lives.
Chris Rohr, a shopper at a store on Broadway in Times Square, grew up riding the 60-foot-Ferris Wheel inside of the company's flagship store in the area, which closed in 2015. For Rohr, the end of Toys R Us meant the end of an era for a generation of children who viewed it as more than just a place to sell toys.
"I was in and out of there all the time. There used to be trips and excursions with my mom just taking me out," he said. "She wouldn't even buy me anything but we'd go around, play and look at everything."
He added that it's "hard to get inspiration from an online posting."
The liquidation marks a generational shift in kids' interest in toys, according to Ben Bartholomew, a shopper at the Manhattan Mall.
"The demographics are shifting and it's pretty scary to think about toy stores not doing well," Bartholomew said. "Because there's less kids and I think that will have cascading effects on a lot of industries."
"For a lot of people in my generation, Toys R Us was kind of a place where you would want to go and hang out and toy manufactures would use it as a showroom for a really long time," Bartholomew said.
Toys R Us said on its website that customers can continue to shop online for products "for a limited of time," but it was unclear when the retailer's online store would stop accepting orders. All online orders are expected to be fulfilled and customers should expect to receive them.
The retailer said customers can continue to use their Toys R Us credit cards through the end of the liquidation sales, and will honor Toys R Us gift cards until April 20. However, rewards or discounts associated with the card will no longer be accepted. It has also stopped accepting coupons, including from the Geoffrey Birthday Club, on March 22.
Stores will accept returns on products purchased before the liquidation for the next 30 days. All purchases made after liquidation sales begin are final, which means they cannot be returned or exchanged.
Victor Valez, a shopper at the Manhattan Mall, used Toys R Us stores as more than just a place to buy his children toys, but baby supplies as well.
"I used to go in there and buy my daughter's milk and diapers," Valez said. "I used to get them by the case because they had good prices."
Formula would cost more at his neighborhood bodega, he said.
At Babies R Us stores, no new registrants will be accepted, but existing registrants can still continue to access their registries while the online store is still open. They encourage shoppers to save or write down products on their registries as soon as possible to list what they want before the option is turned off.
The company has been posting job openings recently for temporary positions to help during the liquidation process. But the store closings mean that around 31,000 employees will ultimately be laid off.
"It's sad for the employees," said Rohr, the shopper in Times Square. "I mean think about how many people are losing their jobs because they can't maintain a brick and mortar store."
For additional questions about products, warranties or rewards, customers in the U.S. can contact the Customer Service Department at 1(800) TOYSRUS or 1 (800) 869-7787 between the hours of 8 AM and 11 PM ET. The company also shared customer FAQ information here.