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Toys `R' Us Grabs a Starring Role on Broadway


New York

Client Toys 'R' Us

Architect Gensler, New York

Building Type Toy store

The building's spectacular


signage attracts advertisers and customers alike

Photos by Paul Warchol

The mandate was straightforward enough. Beset by competition from discount stores, Toys `R' Us Inc. (TOY) wanted to remind shoppers why they still need a toys-only emporium. And where better to get the message out than in that media fishbowl, New York? The plan was to set up--right in Times Square--an international flagship store that could serve as a geographic and emotional destination for customers and for toymakers. Toys `R' Us wanted the job accomplished in 18 months, just in time to catch the crucial holiday-shopping crowds in 2001.

With architectural firm Gensler and store-interior designer J. Newbold Associates, the retailer conjured a plan to convert two former theaters into a magic box that would exceed any existing expectations of a toy store. It would have huge interior spaces, a giant animatronic dinosaur, and a 60-foot-tall Ferris wheel in the three-story atrium, with each car modeled on a different toy. It also would have an exterior skin consisting of 165 scrolling electronic panels to convey bold images, enabling the store to stand out amid the visual cacophony of Times Square.

The $25 million investment is paying off: In less than six months, the store attracted more than 5 million visitors. Holiday-season sales significantly exceeded projections. The store also has been candy to companies selling toys--Microsoft's (MSFT) Bill Gates paid a visit to launch Xbox--which have forked over millions to advertise on the building's electronic skin. Not least, the store-as-amusement-park is serving as a laboratory for the chain's hundreds of other stores.

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