Toys "R" Us says to shut a fifth of its US stores

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Toys "R" Us Inc said on Tuesday it will shut about one-fifth of its stores in the United States in the coming months, as the toy store chain tries to emerge from one of the largest ever bankruptcies by a specialty retailer.

The closure of about 180 U.S. stores will begin in early February and continue until mid-April, Chief Executive David Brandon said in a letter on its website. http://bit.ly/2n5O1mR

Brandon, who joined as CEO in 2015 after spearheading a turnaround at Domino's Pizza Inc, acknowledged gaps in customer experience during the vital holiday season but pledged to focus on improving shopping experience, both at its stores and online.

The Wayne, New Jersey-based company, contesting growing competition from regional independent toy retailers and online giant Amazon.com, will also roll out deep discounts and revamp its loyalty program to lure more shoppers.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection just ahead of the 2017 holiday season in the United States and Canada to restructure $5 billion of long-term debt, casting doubts over the future of its 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.

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Toys R Us Fabulous 15

Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo from Fisher-Price, $39.99

Imaginext Ultra T-Rex from Fisher-Price, $99.99

PAW Patrol PAW Patroller from Spin Master, $59.99

Barbie Saddle ‘N Ride Horse from Mattel, $44.99

Little Live Pets Clever Keet from Moose Toys, $59.99

Journey Girls 2015 Italy Holiday Doll from Toys “R” Us, $49.99

LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack from Warner Brothers, $99.99

Shopkins Fashion Boutique Playset from Moose Toys, $34.99

Smart Toy Bear from Fisher-Price, $99.99

Guitar Hero Live from Activision, $99.99

Meccanoid G15 from Spin Master, $399.99

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Toys "R" Us, which also operates the infant- and toddler-focused Babies "R" Us chain, has set aside more than $400 million out of its $3.1 billion in bankruptcy loans for sprucing up stores over the next three years with more experiences and better-paid staff.

The company said it plans to remodel a number of locations by converting them into co-branded Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores, while also investing in websites.

All 83 Toys "R" Us stores in Canada will remain open, said president of the Canadian unit, Melanie Teed-Murch, in a letter to customers. http://bit.ly/2n7ztCp

As Toys "R" Us aims to exit bankruptcy in 2018, its efforts to reinvent its stores will shape how other retailers look to experiential shopping to tackle e-commerce.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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