Update on KB Toys (Toy Association Town Hall Meeting)

At PlayConEllia Kassoff did a panel discussing the future of KB Toys (Kay Bee Toys). Here’s some highlights from the video.

  • Ellia Kassoff, CEO of Strategic Marks, acquired the KB Brand “about a year ago”. His company, Strategic Marks, is the “leader in the retro space”. (See his retro candy company, Leaf Brands.) They rebuild brands, keeping the charm of a well-loved brand, while “tipping the hat and bringing it to the 21st century”. Their goal is to make the new iteration feel like the original, so that parents are just as excited to shop at KB as their kids!
  • They’re in talks to hire some of the Toys R Us family to work on the KB brand, some of whom started out with KB originally. Many are from the Toys R Us Express team, so they’re used to putting up multiple temporary shops in a short amount of time.
  • They foresee 300-400 pop up stores in place for this 2018 holiday season. Why pop up stores? Pop up stores can be set up quicker than permanent locations. More importantly, pop up shops are a valuable tool to test the market and see what locations would benefit from a permanent space.
  • To improve the shopping experience, they’re working with toy insiders, mommy/collector groups, etc to help build “the best toy chain from the ground up”.
  • The goal is to get 600-800 permanent stores up and running in the next 3 to 4 years.
  • They will not be using outside investors to fund the brand. (This is what ruined KB and Toys R Us. Just google Bain Capital and Toys R Us or KB Toys.)  Ellia went straight to the malls and approached them to become investors, as KB is a staple in the mall landscape. All of their funding for this venture will be coming from large mall chains. Because these malls would have a vested interest in keeping the brand alive, some of the ailments that KB faced before with renting space, display restrictions and the like are “out the window”.
  • KB ‘experience stores’ will be a larger format store, about the size of Toys R Us. They could feature a cafe, party room, birthday party registries, demos and more. These larger stores will be an extension of the smaller mall locations. Experience stores will allow more space to showcase smaller toy companies/brands, which could then be moved over to the mall locations.
  • He sees the staff being well versed in toys, “toy nerds” is the term used. Ellia wants people who really love toys to work in the KB Stores; people who have a passion for the industry.

If you want to give it a listen, the video should start right at the point where Ellia begins. If not, fast forward to 48 minutes in.

I’m really excited for this! Fingers crossed a pop up location heads our way so we can do a ‘Walkin’ the Toy Aisles’ post from there! It looks like KB Toys and the crew behind it are really working hard to put together the next big toy chain! What do you think of their plans? Let us know in the comment area!


May 10, 2018. Tags: . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Update: Toys R Us Liquidation (US Stores)/KayBee (KB) Toys Returning

Today, all 700+ Toys R Us stores in the United States were supposed to begin their liquidation sales. However, it looks like Friday, March 23rd, is the new date for liquidation sales to begin. This change could be due to a number of reasons, but I bet it has something to do with the most recent news that MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian has announced his plans to purchase some of the Toys R Us stores and essentially keep the brand alive. It’s important to note that Larian is using his own money, not MGA Entertainments. (He’s just that rich!) MGA Entertianment is known for Bratz and the current trend, LOL Surprise dolls.

Larian, along with unnamed investors, have $200 million dollars on the table and are currently crowd funding to reach $1 Billion dollars.  As this isn’t a charity donation, those who donate specific dollar amounts get fun incentives, assuming Larian reaches the $1 Billion dollar goal by May 28th, 2018. Some of the incentives are special edition Num-Nums, L.O.L Surprise, Little Tikes products, a factory tour and finally, for donations of $50,000.00 or more a block party, theme park stays, 5 years worth of toys from Toys R Us and more! Of course, there’s also smaller incentives, like shirts, bumper stickers, etc. Donating won’t make you a partner in the new Toys R Us brand, but is a way for dedicated shoppers to help keep the brand alive.

I, personally, am not 100% sure that crowd funding for this sort of cause is right, per say, but, I’d be lying if I wasn’t thinking about tossing in $5.00 to the campaign.

Why is Larian so interested in keeping Toys R Us alive? According to Larian, nearly 1 in every 5 sales of MGA Entertainment products is purchased at a Toys R Us store. Not to mention, Toys R Us is known for their variety of toys. Newer or smaller toy makers will have a much tougher time finding a physical store to carry their stock once Toys R Us is gone, which could mean even more jobs lost. (Think about the number of toy aisles in a Target or a Walmart vs a Toys R Us. These other big box stores just don’t have the space to ‘test’ out new toys just hitting the market.) Larger companies, like MGA Entertainment, Mattel or Hasbro, are not immune to the possibility of lay offs if Toys R Us leaves the retail market, either.

To read the court documents, many of which are from toy makers looking to get their stock back before liquidation begins, go here. For me, I’m keeping an eye on all the liquidation news and probably hitting up my local store a lot more often within the next few weeks. Toys R Us stores, for the most part, stopped receiving new stock two weeks ago and have an estimated closure date of early May 2018.

My advice to you is this: First, use up those giftcards now. Second, if you see something you like, grab it. Don’t wait until ‘next time’, because there may not be a ‘next time’. And most importantly, please be nice to all the employees. It’s not their fault that the toy you wanted is out of stock. It’s not their fault that the only toy store in 50 miles is closing. It’s not their fault that the lines wrap around the stores. Remember, the faithful employees you interact with while shopping at your liquidating Toys R Us are people who are losing their jobs– their livelihood. They’re not getting bonuses or severance checks. So, be nice to them. Because, in the grand scheme of things, you not finding the toy you wanted or standing in line longer than you might usually is way less agonizing than the stress, loss and emotional struggles the hard working Toys R Us crew at your local store will be going through once Toys R Us finally closes and they lose (possibly) their only means of survival.

Now, onto part two of this post– KayBee Toys (or KB Toys) may be making a return to retail! For those who don’t know, KB Toys was a mall staple from 1922 to 2009. Smaller than Toys R Us, it is still held in fond regard by those who walked around its aisles. Before it liquidated, KB Toys was the 2nd oldest operating toy retailer in North America (behind FAO Schwarz). Sadly, KB Toys fell victim to the same management problems as Toys R Us, when Bain Capital, the current owner of Toys R Us, saddled the mall toy store with a large amount of debt after acquiring the brand for $302 million, largely borrowed from creditors, in 2000. (This is exactly the same thing they did with Toys R Us.) This article talks a bit about the questionable management of Bain during the time it owned and liquidated KB Toys. The article is politically charged, but has some interesting information.

According to another article, “After buying KB Toys in 2000, Bain and its co-investors had the retailer borrow $85 million to pay the firm and its co-investors a dividend — a move that left the chain, which had been generating steady earnings, strapped for cash as deepening price cuts at Walmart lured more shoppers away from malls.” This lead the company to liquidating in 2009.

In 2017, a company called Strategic Marks, LLC acquired the KB Toys brand. They’ve been working on a plan to bring back the “Great American Toy Store”. With Toys R Us liquidating, their current goal is to support the toy companies by opening pop up shops set up under the KB Toys umbrella for the 2018 holiday season. Obviously, Strategic Marks is still developing their plan, but it seems like they’re on the right track.

In messages posted to LinkedIn by Ellia Kassoff, Founder of Strategic Marks, he says, “We’re in discussions with many of the toy manufactures, as we try to find out the best way to support them and the 20% loss of the US toy market due to the Toys R Us liquidation. We believe we will have the infrastructure in-place and [hopefully] save the toy industry.” In another post, he said, “Our umbrella, Strategic Marks, LLC has been very successful bringing back many of the most popular products and companies over the last ten years because we follow a very strict formula; [To bring back the experiences we loved as a child, just as you remembered them].” You can ‘follow Ellia on LinkedIn, where he seems to be posting short updates on the KB Toys re-launch.

So, that’s about it on Toys R Us and KB Toys– for now. News seems to be changing every day. I try to share news on my Facebook page, so subscribe to that for more news on this topic. What are your thoughts on KB coming back? Toys R Us’s possible return? Do you have found memories of either store? Share them in the comment area!


UPDATE: TMZ is reporting that the founder of Toys R Us, Charles Lazarus, passed away today at the age of  94.

March 22, 2018. Tags: . Uncategorized. 16 comments.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter!

Please enjoy these special holiday videos! Posted on Barbee0913’s channel, you’ll see a compilation of battery operated toys! It’s a fun trip back in time! Below that, you’ll see my channel’s holiday special, A Very Merry Blooper Reel!

As always, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for the comments, shares and hits here on the blog and YouTube channel! Without you, Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter would have disappeared long ago. But, thanks to how amazing you all are, we’ve been going strong since 2010! Here’s to an equally amazing 2018! From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

December 24, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Fashion Doll Quarterly, Winter 2017 Issue

Do you subscribe to Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ). If so, you may see a familiar name in it! Jane Easterly, the showrunner of the annual Pullip convention PUDDLE, was kind enough to ask me if I felt like writing coverage for the 2017 event, that would later be submitted to a magazine. That magazine turned out to be FDQ!

Winter 2017- My PUDDLE Coverag

Check out my PUDDLE coverage in the Winter 2017 issue! I touch on a bit of the history of the show, as well as the day’s activities, vendors and contest winners! PUDDLE may have started out as a small gathering of Pullip fans, but ten years later, it’s grown into much more than that.

At PUDDLE, I went around and asked people why they attended the show year after year. While, of course, they mentioned their love of the doll brand and seeing all the amazing custom dolls on display, the one answer that everyone gave me was this: the people. It’s all about the people, the community of collectors that attend every year. While I didn’t directly quote anyone, hopefully that point came across loud and clear in this write-up.

PUDDLE Coverage 2017 Page 1-2

PUDDLE Coverage 2017 Page 3

So, next time you’re at Barnes and Noble, check their magazine section for the Winter 2017 issue of Fashion Doll Quarterly! I hope you enjoy reading the coverage as much as I enjoyed writing it!

November 17, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Estrela’s 80th Anniversary Giggles/Boneca Gui Gui Reproduction Doll

Brazilian doll company Estrela is celebrating 80 years in business. In honor of this great achievement, they’re releasing some of their classic toys. Included in their offerings is a reproduction Boneca Gui Gui (known as Giggles in the United States) doll!

Boneca Gui Gui (Estella Exclusive))

Boneca Gui Gui (Estella Exclusive))

Boneca Gui Gui (Estella Exclusive))

Also on sale is a reproduction Tippy and Brazil’s version of the classic GI JOE.

If you’re a long time readers, you’ll know that Giggles has made a few appearances here on the blog. She also happens to be one of my mother’s favorite dolls (Barbee0913 on YouTube). That’s why, I’d really like your help! Are there any Brazilians out there who might be able to help me in bringing one of these dolls to the US? It seems you need a special citizen number to order from the Estrela site, which, clearly we don’t have. I’d really like to be able to add one of these to my mom’s Giggles collection and hope one of you can help! If you can, please e-mail me at taps1223(at)sbcglobal(dot)net, Subject: Giggles.

What do YOU think of this reproduction or the other two made in celebration of the companies 80 years? Share your thoughts in the comment area.

July 18, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 8 comments.

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