The survival story of Toys «R» Us in Spain and Portugal would serve as a script to produce a successful television series. While the US parent company ceased its activity, business managers in Iberia refused to sell, rebelling against the vulture funds that ran the company, as they maintained that the business in the Peninsula was profitable. After carrying out several maneuvers with the objective of delaying a possible settlement up to the maximum in time until finding investors, Last August it was announced that Green Swan acquired 60% of the business in the Peninsula, while the remaining 40% was owned by the managers that were part of Toys «R» Us in both countries. In this way they managed to keep the company afloat and guarantee the more than 1,300 jobs.
Today Toys «R» Us lives a moment of change. Among its plans is to open 25 stores in the next 5 years between Spain and Portugal, in addition to betting on new smaller stores to enter the center of the cities. Its new CEO, Portuguese Paulo Sousa, receives ABC in one of the new stores that the company has opened in Madrid. In it there are toys available for children to try -the motto is "forbidden not to touch" – one of the strategies of the new team to improve the experience in stores. Asked if it is not a little chaotic that the place is full of children playing, he smiles and explains: "otherwise, it would not be fun".
Although they want to erase all traces of the past, what is the difference between the old Toys «R» Us and the new one?
The only similar thing is the name. Innovation is the strong point of the new partners, something unthinkable in the previous stage.
How is billing being in this Christmas campaign?
The last week was very good, especially in Portugal, where it is over. In Spain we are in the strongest fifteen days of shopping and it is being noticed. The Christmas campaign accounts for 50% of annual sales.
Is it positive that two months account for half of the annual turnover?
We would like it to be different because it would be much easier to manage.
He talks a lot about the customer experience. What would be your assessment if a child plays in the store but ultimately does not buy?
We would not mind, because if he has a good time, come back. When we have 50% of sales in two months, what we are looking for is for the client to return for the rest of the year.
In September he said that one of the objectives was for 20% of sales to be online, how is the process going?
Right now it is 6%, which is very little. We are making changes that will be released in mid-2019. Only the change of "software" implies an investment of 2.5 million. It will be a very risky but necessary change to facilitate the purchase process and the collection of online orders.
Is not it risky to invest in a sector where it seems that physical stores will succumb to the power of Amazon online?
I do not believe that physical sales will disappear. There is no toy crisis, but a company that within the free market has been badly managed and that caused a wave of negative influence on all others. But this is not because Amazon is stronger. Amazon existed and will continue to exist. We respect them very much, but we do not have to fear them. Everything that Amazon learned from toys was learned thanks to Toys «R» Us, because Toys' first online store was Amazon. It is normal for them to sell toys because they know how to do it, but we know how to do it better.
They bid on the Poly contest to try to acquire it, but it was not possible. Do other options have views?
There are some interesting options outside Spain and Portugal and maybe at the beginning of 2019 we have news. I can not overtake more. Our business logic is to expand our purchasing capacity and become more global. Spain has one of the strongest toy industries in Europe and I think this strategy would be a great opportunity for Spanish suppliers.
Is the sector going to live a process of concentration?
Yes, in fact, it is already happening.