The president of Toys “R” Us Canada didn’t book off a lot of playtime this summer.
Melanie Teed-Murch, who also leads Babies “R” Us Canada, started a cross-country tour of the chain’s major stores Tuesday at their Dartmouth Crossing location.
“I have been a very active president and CEO, in that I’ve been to over 70 of the 82 stores during my tenure of the last two years,” Teed-Murch said during an interview at the Dartmouth store.
“That’s important, but our associates know what’s happening with our company. I need to get to the Canadian customers and let them know that we’re really here to stay and here to play.”
The necessity for that messaging is the swirl of headlines that the Toys “R” Us brand has generated since last fall. The U.S. chain filed for bankruptcy in September and indicated in March that it would shut its 735 stores there.
Toys “R” Us Canada announced June 1 the completion of its acquisition by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. As a result, the toy and baby retailer is a Canadian-owned and operated business with more than 4,000 employees. There are about 55 full- and part-time workers at the Dartmouth outlet.
Fairfax Financial Holdings, a publicly traded company based in Toronto that is primarily engaged in insurance and investment management, reportedly paid $300 million.
If a customer has grown attached to any of the brand’s exclusive offerings, they should continue to be available in Canada.
“We own the intellectual property for Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us, as well as all of our private brands that we have here,” Teed-Murch said.
With the near-term future of the company secured, she’s turning her attention to helping it survive an increasingly cutthroat retail landscape. The strategy is to seamlessly integrate web and mobile shopping opportunities with the traditional brick-and-mortar store, said Teed-Murch, who pointed out that the most-desired customer is the one who shops through all the channels offered.
“A child wants to experience the magic and wonder of a toy store. When you go back to the fall and look at our social media, people were saying, ‘I can’t believe a world without Toys “R” Us Canada here.’ When people tell me about their first experience being in a Toys “R” Us, they light up,” she said.
“But what we need to do is evolve, and that’s really investing in our web store, investing in our mobile experience, adding curbside pickup and having the best of both worlds really feed into and nourish one another.”
Toys “R” Us recently opened concept stores in Langley, B.C., and Barrie, Ont. This format includes dedicated play areas, interactive stations for kids and mobile pay options. Teed-Murch said the East Coast also offers an opportunity for the company.
“I would say, in the Halifax market, we probably need another store. We probably need another store more in the urban centre that caters to those that don’t want to come over the bridge.”
Teed-Murch joined Toys “R” Us in 1996 as a store manager. She continually took on roles of increasing responsibility.
“It’s true. I worked my way up. I graduated university and started right away with the Kitchener store in Ontario as their manager and worked up all through the merchandising departments, all different posts. I’ve worked in almost every area — planning, e-commerce, merchandising — to the helm of the company.
“It’s a fantastic company. It’s even better now that it’s Canadian-owned by Fairfax, and it’s such great ownership. We’re so blessed.
“It’s a great ending for a great team. The team has been the jewel in the crown of the global Toys “R” Us world, delivering double-digit growth for 10 years.”