Toys R Us Asia plans to open 60 more stores this year, mostly in China (its biggest growth market), Jo Hall, the company's chief commercial officer for Greater China and Southeast Asia, told the South China Morning Post during the company's annual toy fair in Hong Kong, according to an article published Wednesday.
"We are cautiously optimistic," Hall told the publication. "We continue to invest in refurbishing existing and opening new stores, and our investment budget in Hong Kong [for stores, information technology and online commerce] this year is the same as last year."
The company, which operates 550 stores in the region and 182 in China, is also looking to move into Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia, according to the report.
Toys R Us has quickly faded from the American retail market since it moved to liquidate last March. But in Asia, the iconic retailer is still just that — iconic. Banking on that reputation and what Hall noted as a consumer behavior that still favors trips to brick-and-mortar stores, executives see growth ahead for the 32-year-old Asian business operations.
The company's Asian enterprise was sold late last year to a group of investment firms and Fung Retailing Ltd. for $760 million and a bankruptcy court approved the deal mid-December. Toys R Us now operates in 10 markets in the region with its biggest being China, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
Such an expansion sits in strong contrast to Toys R Us' now defunct U.S. operations. But Carrie Gleason, policy director and campaign manager for Organization United for Respect and its Rise Up Retail campaign, argues that an Asian expansion highlights the strength of the toy business. "It's a testament that Toys R Us was an incredibly viable business and owned a huge share of the toy market, so there's no reason why what's happening in Asia couldn't happen in the U.S., and there are different rules and incentives for struggling companies to navigate growth or closing the doors."
Gleason has been pushing for severance pay for laid off Toys R Us workers affected by the retailer's 2017 bankruptcy and ultimate liquidation. This week, former employees began receiving paychecks from a $20 million hardship fund, created by former private equity owners KKR and Bain Capital.