Fate of major retailer in doubt

THE future of Australia's 39 Toys 'R' Us outlets is in doubt after the struggling retailer announced it would sell or close all of its United States stores in the coming months.

Toys 'R' Us filed for bankruptcy protection last September - at the time saying its Australian locations, which employ 2700 people, would trade as normal - and in January announced it would close about 20 per cent of its stores.

On Wednesday, chief executive David Brandon told employees the retailer's more than 700 remaining US locations would go along with 33,000 jobs, Dow Jones reported.

The toy-giant has stores on the Sunshine Coast and in Toowoomba. 

"We're putting a for sale sign on everything," Mr Brandon told employees in a conference call, according to the news agency. "Frankly, all anyone has to do is offer one dollar more [than liquidators]."

Toys ‘R’ Us at St Andrews retail park in Birmingham, England, displays a closing down sale banner. The British arm of Toys R Us went into insolvency administration in February, putting 3200 jobs at risk. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA via AP
Toys ‘R’ Us at St Andrews retail park in Birmingham, England, displays a closing down sale banner. The British arm of Toys R Us went into insolvency administration in February, putting 3200 jobs at risk. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA via AP

Toys 'R' Us has about 1600 stores globally with about 60,000 employees. The 70-year-old company has struggled with more than $US5 billion in debt and falling sales due to competition from Amazon and discount chain Walmart.

"I have always believed that this brand and this business should exist in the US," Mr Brandon said, adding customers who had shopped elsewhere would miss the retailer and would "all live to regret what's happening here".

He said after the September bankruptcy filing, sales in the crucial holiday period were "no short of devastating" and the company's before-tax profit was "less than half" of the $US600 million it typically generates in a year.

"The last six months have been pure hell," he said.

Mr Brandon said in addition to shutting down in the US, the company was likely to liquidate in France, Spain, Poland and Australia, and will sell its operations in Canada, central Europe and Asia. Last month, the company's UK arm filed for bankruptcy and announced it would close 100 stores.

frank.chung@news.com.au


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