By Bob Uphues
Toys R Us, the international toy retail chain on Jan. 23 announced plans to shutter about 180, or roughly 20 percent, of its locations in the United States in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Virginia.
North Riverside's Toys R Us/Babies R Us location at 7451 Cermak Road is not on the list of initial store closures, which was included in the court filing. However, a number of Chicago-area locations are on the list including locations in Highland Park, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, Niles, Burbank, Matteson and at the Bricktown Square Shopping Center in Chicago.
"That didn't make my day," North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said of the retailer's announcement.
While Toys R Us is not planning to close the North Riverside location at this time, the village has already experienced at least two other major retailers – Sports Authority and H.H Gregg -- disappear after at first saying they were staying open.
"All I know is that our Toys R Us is one of the tops in the country," Hermanek said. "If they grab ours, you can call it a night for them."
The 182 stores identified for closure in the court filing are ones the company has determined to be "underperforming" with "negative sales trends" that "have failed to meet performance standards set" by the company.
If the court agrees with the company's motion to close the stores, Toys R Us said it would begin liquidation sales in February and would shut the doors on the underperforming stores by no later than mid-April. Allowing the stores to close quickly, the company argues in its Jan. 23 filing, will assist it in its "transition to a smaller, more profitable enterprise."
Toys R Us operates more than 850 brick-and-mortar locations in the United States. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2017.
Although, the village has experienced the loss of a number of important sales-tax generating retailers in recent years, North Riverside has been fortunate in being able to attract replacements.
Following the loss of the Edward Don Company, a foodservice equipment distributor that was the village's largest sales-tax generator, in 2012, North Riverside was able to attract Costco to replace it.
H.H. Gregg closed in spring 2017, but the vacancy was short-lived. Binny's Beverage Depot has thrived since opening at the Cermak Road location, virtually across the street from Toys R Us, last November.
The longest vacancy has been the former Sports Authority space at 1800 Harlem Ave. The sporting goods retailer closed in 2016, but 21,000 square feet of that location has been leased to the Cook County Health and Hospital System, which expects to open a primary care health center later in 2018.
Building plans for the health facility were filed with the village's building department last week and are currently under review.