JOLIET – Toys R Us, which has both a store and a warehouse in Joliet, plans to close most of its stores.
The 70-year-old retailer has closeed 740 U.S. stores and an estimated 30,000 people are out of work.
CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday that the company’s plan is to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, although it will try to find a buyer for about 200 stores that will be bundled with its Canadian business, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press.
The shutdown spells the end for a chain known for generations of children and parents for its sprawling toy stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.
Closings here would add to other big-box retail and restaurant closings in Joliet’s main retail district, where Toys R Us also operates a 670,000-square-foot warehouse. Toys R Us has not responded to requests for employee counts at its Joliet store and warehouse.
John Greuling, chief executive officer for the Will County Center for Economic Development, said he believes the warehouse employees are fewer than 300.
“They’re not on our major employer list, which means they have less than 300 there,” Greuling said. “However, many people lose their jobs there though, that’s not good.”
The warehouse, located near the intersection of Hennepin Drive and Division Street, has been in Joliet since the 1980s.
Greuling said there is a good possibility that the warehouse could be taken over by another user.
“That distribution center is a pretty good one. It’s at a good location,” he said.
The store closing, however, comes at a time when other retailers have been vacating locations or going out of business amid growing competition from online retailing.
Other empty retail locations to close in the past year include hhgregg and Gander Mountain stores. The Lone Star Steakhouse also has closed.
The future of other retailers is rocky.
The company that owns Carson’s stores is in the process of closing several Illinois locations this year, although the Joliet store is not closing.
Sears also has been closing stores, although not in Joliet. The company did, however, close its Kmart store at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue, which remains closed.
Other local big-box closings announced in the past year include the Target and Costco stores in Romeoville.
The closing of the company’s 740 U.S. stores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games. And it will force toy makers and landlords who depended on the chain to scramble for alternatives.
The company’s U.S. online store still would be running for the next couple of weeks in case there’s a buyer for it. Workers in the U.S. will get paid for the next 60 days if they show up for work, but after that all benefits and pay will be cut, Brandon told employees at the meeting, according to the recording.
Some workers will be asked to stay longer to help with the liquidation. It’s likely to also liquidate its businesses in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the recording. It’s already shuttering its business in the United Kingdom. Toys R Us had about 60,000 full-time and part-time employees worldwide last year.
“We worked as hard and as long as we could to turn over every rock,” Brandon told employees.
But Brandon took shots at shoppers and vendors who cut back on their support for the chain in recent months.
“I believe that all of them will live to regret what is happening to our company,” he said.