Wednesday 21 February 2018

Game over as Toys R Us closes Times Square flagship store

The Ferris wheel at the Toys R Us store in New York's Times Square was a huge attraction (AP)
The Ferris wheel at the Toys R Us store in New York's Times Square was a huge attraction (AP)

For decades, children visiting New York City savoured one stop above all: a trip to the kind of toy store that existed only in their imagination.

But now they will have to keep dreaming because t he massive Toys R Us superstore in Times Square, which wowed shoppers with a 60ft indoor Ferris wheel, a growling, 20ft animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a life-size Barbie dollhouse, has had its last shopping day.

Wednesday's shutdown ended a 14-year-run as a must-visit destination for any family willing to brave the big crowds. It followed the July closing of FAO Schwarz, the palace of expensive and unique toys romanticised in the 1988 film Big.

Shoppers and tourists came out for a last look at the type of extravagance unavailable online or at the local mall.

"It's a one in a million type of place," said Janet Roman, of Berlin, Connecticut, as she gave her nine-year-old grand-nephew Sherman Williams, his first - and last - tour of the over-the-top store.

"Our Toys R Us doesn't have a Ferris wheel in it."

A steady stream of people coursed through the 110,000 sq ft space in the heart of the Crossroads of the World. Shoppers rushed to buy must-go gifts and games, others took photos outside and the truly ambitious waited on a long, winding line to get one last ride on the Ferris wheel.

"When they were little guys, this was the big thing," said Mike Packer, of Wayne, Pennsylvania, whose 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter decided, for nostalgia's sake, to take a final spin.

"This is like an event to come here. It's an afternoon," his wife, Lisa said. "It's obviously fun for all ages."

Toys R Us opened in Times Square in 2001, when the neighbourhood was still only a few years removed from its bad old days as a centre for adult entertainment and grime. The company decided not to renew its lease, which expires in January, because of the high cost of renting the space, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Gaerlan said.

Toys R Us also cited high rent costs in July when it closed FAO Schwarz, which had enraptured generations of children in two locations near Central Park.

She said the company was searching for another Manhattan flagship store and would try to find positions for those among the more than 350 Times Square employees who want to keep working at Toys R Us.

Bradley Mendelson, an agent for the building's owner, Bow Tie Partners, said that at roughly 2,000 dollars (£1,350) per square foot, rental prices for ground-floor space in the area have become extraordinarily expensive - and with 21,000 sq ft of it, Toys R Us simply had too much space to cover.

"That's a lot of rent," he said. "Rent has gone from 400 dollars a square foot to 2,000 in the last 15 years when they rented the space."

Press Association

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