Amazon mulls Toys R Us plan

Amazon mulls Toys R Us plan

Amazon has looked at the possibility of expanding its retail footprint by acquiring some US locations from bankrupt Toys R Us.

The online giant isn’t interested in maintaining the Toys R Us brand, but has considered using the soon-to-be-vacant spaces for its own purposes, said sources.

Last week, the embattled retailer said it would close all its remaining stores in Britain and the North after failing to find a buyer.

Around 120 jobs will be lost in the North, where the New Jersey-headquartered company has four stores. Some 3,000 jobs will be lost overall in the UK.

In December, the company said that, as part of bankruptcy proceedings in the US, its stores in Newtownabbey and Derry would close in spring 2018.

A move by Amazon in the US would let it quickly expand its brick-and-mortar presence, coming on the heels of buying Whole Foods Market and its more than 450 locations last year. The Seattle-based company has also opened its own line of bookstores and a convenience-store concept.

Additional stores would give Amazon space to showcase its popular Echo line of devices, which run on the Alexa voice-activated platform. Amazon sees voice as the next interface for people to access technology — supplanting computer mouses and touch screens — and the benefits may be easier to demonstrate in a real-world setting.

A bigger network of stores would put inventory closer to where shoppers live, potentially enabling quick delivery to e-commerce customers. The space could also serve as a staging ground for grocery delivery from Whole Foods stores. Amazon is already planning to roll out free two-hour service to Whole Foods customers in four cities, including Dallas and Cincinnati.

Still, the company is under little pressure to hammer out a deal and deliberations may lead nowhere. In 2015, Amazon held discussions about acquiring some RadioShack locations around the time of the electronics retailer’s bankruptcy filing. Nothing came of those talks.

The North American Toys R Us, meanwhile, may live on in some form. The company, which filed for US bankruptcy in September, announced plans to shut down its US operations last week. But its Canadian unit is up for sale. An investment group led by Isaac Larian, the founder of toymaker MGA Entertainment, has submitted a bid to acquire the Canadian business.

- Bloomberg and Irish Examiner

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