Toys ‘R’ Us Trims Losses by Making a Hamster Hot

New York Times, By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM

Long before stockings were hung and Christmas trees twinkled in windows, the chief of Toys “R” Us threw his company’s weight behind an odd bet.

It was early summer, and Gerald L. Storch had a fake hamster on his desk. His buyers, the executives who study and order merchandise, were predicting it would be a holiday hit. Mr. Storch laughed as the rodent scurried around and plopped off a table, then he turned serious: “How big can we make it?”

So big, it turned out, that mothers are now lying in wait in Toys “R” Us parking lots all over the nation, desperately hoping to score fake hamsters for Christmas.

Mr. Storch’s big order for Zhu Zhu Pets was the latest achievement for a man who, in the midst of a recession, has begun to pull off a retailing turnaround. Only five years ago, Toys “R” Us was in grave trouble. Sales had shrunk and the chain had fallen under the shadow of Wal-Mart, the behemoth discounter. Retailing professionals said the beleaguered toy industry was losing ground to flashy electronic gadgets.

When Toys “R” Us was sold, in 2005, for $6.6 billion to two private equity firms and a real estate developer, analysts thought it was only a matter of time before the chain would be carved up and sold.

They were wrong. The toy company’s new owners hired the bespectacled Mr. Storch, a longtime Target executive, to help Toys “R” Us get its sparkle back.

In the last year, Mr. Storch has taken bold steps. He snapped up nearly every well-known specialty toy chain and Web site, including F. A. O Schwarz and KB Toys. As mall retailers went out of business, Mr. Storch opened more than 80 temporary holiday toy shops in their vacant storefronts. He is opening supercenters, with Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores together under one roof. And he kicked off the holiday shopping season earlier than ever, opening his stores at just after midnight on the Friday after Thanksgiving, instead of hours later.

Recently, Mr. Storch stood at the flagship Toys “R” Us store in Manhattan and gazed at a replica of the Empire State Building made of Legos. “While it would be easy to get into a very defensive hunker-down mode during these economic times,” he said, “history has shown that the future rewards companies which are aggressive during economic downturns.”

Toys “R” Us has not gone unscathed in this economy; the chain said in its most recent reporting period that sales declined from last year. Even so, Mr. Storch has managed to make it the last big specialty toy retailer left in the nation, and one whose prospects are looking up.

Where consumers used to shop at KB Toys in malls throughout the country, they are now shopping at Toys “R” Us holiday boutiques. When tourists buy wide-eyed dolls at F. A. O. Schwarz, their dollars go into the coffers of Toys “R” Us. Even a search for the word “toys” on the Internet inevitably leads to a Web site owned by Toys “R” Us: Toys.com, eToys.com, BabyUniverse.com, FAO.com or ePregnancy.com.

Wal-Mart overtook Toys “R” Us as the largest toy seller in the country more than a decade ago. Mr. Storch’s fundamental strategy is not to try to compete by matching Wal-Mart’s prices, a battle he would surely lose. Instead he is trying to outfox Wal-Mart by focusing on service and especially on selection, perceiving the next hot toy trend and locking in big orders before his competitors even see it coming.

“Now our competitors are left competing purely by making price claims,” Mr. Storch said, adding that he would not reinforce “a rush to the cheap.” He pointed out that his competitors could not cut prices on toys they did not have.

Mr. Storch, 53, joined Toys “R” Us after 12 years at Target, where he rose to vice chairman and was widely considered to be one of two contenders for the top job. But in 2005 he abruptly left the company, never giving a reason. Retailing professionals said they think it became clear inside Target that Mr. Storch, known as more of an operations man than someone with a flair for merchandising, was not going to ascend to chief executive.

Four months after leaving Target, Mr. Storch was named chairman and chief executive of Toys “R” Us, where from his early days he held the chain accountable for its poor results and invoked the mantra, “We are not victims.”

Industry veterans praised Mr. Storch for his intelligence (he has a bachelor of arts, a master’s and a law degree from Harvard), and for bringing Toys “R” Us back from the brink. At the same time, Mr. Storch has been described as being obstinate and of not having a particularly warm personality. Industry professionals said he had gone through several senior executives.

At Target, Mr. Storch worked in areas as varied as supply chain operations and financial services, and led the development of the company’s grocery strategy and its Target.com business. “I remember when I was giving a presentation,” said Mr. Storch, “one of the board members saying, ‘Well, we can’t do a Web site at Target because, you know, you have to be specialized in something the way eToys is.’ ”

Today, Toys “R” Us owns eToys. All of the recent acquisitions are meant to differentiate Toys “R” Us from its value-priced rivals, especially the purchase of F. A. O Schwarz, which enabled Toys “R” Us to offer exclusive, high-end toys.

Toys “R” Us posted a loss of $67 million for the three months ended Oct. 31, an improvement over a loss of $104 million last year. The company typically makes large investments in the third quarter to prepare for the holidays. Net sales were $2.7 billion, down from $2.8 billion last year. Sales at United States stores open at least a year declined 9.3 percent year-over-year. Still, Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst with Needham & Company, said Toys “R” Us had lately gained market share.

“The profitability of the company is better than it’s been in a decade,” he said.

Also, Toys “R” Us, which is owned by the private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital, and a real estate developer, Vornado Realty Trust, refinanced its debt so that no major payments are due for two years. Last month, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the chain’s outlook.

Retailing professionals said Toys “R” Us — which has 849 Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores in the United States and more than 700 international stores — will probably file for a public stock offering in the next year or so. Toys “R” Us declined to comment on that.

Buyers at Toys “R” Us were first introduced to fake hamsters, known as Zhu Zhu Pets, almost a year ago, at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair.

“We saw the potential,” said Lisa Harnisch, a vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Toys “R” Us. Ms. Harnisch and her colleagues knew children adored hamsters — and they sensed that mothers would like fake hamsters that required no care.

By May, Toys “R” Us had partnered with Cepia, the small company that created the hamsters, to do a test run in a few stores in Arizona. Sales were off the charts. “At that point we knew this was going to be really big,” said Ms. Harnisch, adding that Mr. Storch trusted her and her team to find the season’s hottest toys but “at the same time he’s very challenging and he’s very aggressive.”

“From his perspective it was less about that item,” she continued, and more about “how do we make it big for Christmas?”

Toy’s “R” Us spent the summer talking to Cepia about how many fake hamsters could be manufactured and what exclusive variations could be made for Toys “R” Us. In August the chain began placing orders for the holidays. This week, Toys “R” Us promised it would have more than a million Zhu Zhu Pets and accessories available through Christmas eve.

Mr. Storch boasts “vastly more Zhu Zhu inventory than anyone else,” and other people in the toy trade confirm that claim. That buzz is what has mothers camping out in the parking lots of Toys “R” Us.

Zhu Zhu Pets Electronic Hamster – Mr. Squiggles Brown

If I had to pick a favorite Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, who would it be?   There is not a lot to pick from…the litter is pretty small right now.

It would have to be….the Brown guy….Mr Squiggles.  Why you ask?  Well…he’s got a great name.   Mr Squiggles is like a super awesome name (not sure if that sounds right…I sound like a 7 year old).

The reason why the Zhu Zhu Pets are so popular amongst kids is the fact that zhu zhu pets are not just toy hamsters but they are actually the worlds first interactive plush toy hamster.

Buy Zhu Zhu Hamster Pets online at www.cmdstore.com

Get 15% off Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster

Zhu Zhu Pets are the hottest 2009 toy out-selling everything else in the universe. Get an additional 15% off your purchase when you spend over 20 dollars (before shipping charges) at Cmdstore.com. Simply add the items you want to your shopping cart and then proceed to checkout using the coupon code: cyber15. Then click the apply button and your discount will be given. Coupon expires Monday, 11:59pm on November 30th, 2009 so hurry to take advantage of this limited offer.

Cmdstore Star Wars Logo

CmdStore.com is one of the retailers able to offer the season’s number one hot toy, Zhu Zhu Pets, with every accessory possible still available for sale through the site! Cmdstore has been in business for over 16 years and is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau Inc (BBB).

Here are some other Zhu Zhu Pets articles you might be interested in reading:

Zhu Zhu Robotic hamsters are holidays’ unlikely new craze!

Zhu Zhu Hamster Pets Names!

Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamsters – How to buy and find the pop culture phenomenon toy in stock!

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamsters Invade America

Zhu Zhu Hamster Pets Names

Every child wants a Zhu Zhu Pet hamster and we have all of them in stock as well as all the Zhu Zhu accesories for this most wished for of toys. They are also know as Go Go Pets or Go Go Hamsters in the UK and Europe. If you have been wondering where to buy Zhu Zhu pets hamsters then the links here will take you to where to buy Zhu Zhu pets online and you can buy Zhu Zhu pets hamsters accessories as well. The Zhu Zhu pet hamster sale is gaining momentum so be sure to buy Zhu Zhu hamsters now if you really do want to ensure that you get what you want.

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamsters Mr. Squiggles

Here he is, Zhu Zhu pet hamster Mr. Squiggles. He is the favorite pet hamster and a must for Christmas or birthdays.

Many people buy Zhu Zhu pet Mr. Squiggles first as he is the most popular. Also…Mr Squiggles is a great name for a zhu zhu pet. How can you go wrong with a name like that.

If you are a parent and wondering what the fuss is all about then just imagine, a hamster that plays and runs around and makes unique noises but without the mess. The kids absolutely love the Zhu Zhu hamsters and Mr. Squiggles is the favorite of all. Who else do we have?

Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster Num Nums

Zhu Zhu pet hamster Num Nums is a firm favorite. Buy Zhu Zhu hamster Num Nums quick before he runs away!

Zhu Zhu hamster Num Nums is a super fast hamster that the kids will love. And we all love hamsters that don’t make any mess. He is a great addition to the zhu zhu collection and don’t worry if you spell zoo zoo hamsters, zu zu hamsters zhuh zhuh or anything else, you will still find Num Nums!

Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster Pipsqueek In Yellow

Zhu Zhu hamster Pipsqueek comes in a lovely yellow and don’t worry if when you hover over him it says out of stock. Click on pipsqueek and you will see him for sale. You can buy Zhu Zhu hamster pipsqueek easily from Cmdstore.com.

All the zhu zhu hamsters have their own unique sounds and you can pet them to listen to what they have to say or watch them run around the ground or in their hamster cage.

All the pet hamsters make different sounds so why not get them all. And finally we have:

Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster Chunk

Zhu Zhu hamster Chunk is a white hamster who loves to run. The children love this white hamster and he is a very cheeky chappie indeed so why not buy Zhu Zhu pet Chunk now.

These pet hamsters are the gift that kids are asking for and don’t forget that you can browse all the zhu zhu accessories simply by clicking on any of the zhu zhu hamsters.

Before we take a look at the Zhu Zhu pets houses and other accessories I wanted to talk a little about where to buy Zhu Zhu pets hamsters. People wondering where to buy Zhu Zhu hamsters can spend hours searching for these little hamsters online without much luck. There are only a few places to buy them and with our special links that take you to Cmdstore. You may have heard how cheap they were at Wal-mart or Toys R Us a few months ago but unfortunately you will not be able to buy Zhu Zhu pets at the prices they once were.

There are limited supplies of the Zhu Zhu in stock now and buying Zhu Zhu pets right now means you will secure these most sought after gifts early.

Zhu Zhu Hamsters, buy online now if you want to make sure that you get them. It is very likely that they will be sold out well before many people even consider beginning their Christmas shopping so get them early if you don´t want to be disappointed.

Buy The Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Funhouse

Most people that buy the Zhu Zhu pets also buy many of the Zhu Zhu pets accessories. Chief among those is the Zhu Zhu pets Hamster funhouse.

If you were wondering where to buy Zhu Zhu pets funhouses then click on the image to buy it online. The Zhu Zhu hamsters pet Funhouse is almost compulsory for children who want a Zoo Zoo pet and it really does show off remarkably well just how amazing these hamsters perform. The Zhu Zhu house has a bedroom a bathroom a tunnel and a kitchen. It is also very easy to add on many extras that we will take a little look at later. The Zhu Zhu pets funhouse really will show you just how intelligent these pet hamsters can be.

Zhu Zhu Pets Adventure Ball

Of all the accessories for Zhu Zhu pets the best selling add on apart from the Zhu Zhu hamsterhouse is the Zhu Zhu pets adventure ball. The Zhu Zhu adventure ball allows the children to put their favorite hamster in the ball and they can watch them rock and roll around the floor. As a bonus we also get a Rattlin’ Clatterin’ mini ball which makes it a great extra for the Zhu pets.

Again the adventure ball for Zhu pets is hard to find so it saves a lot of time and money by buying online. You can buy the Zhu Zhu adventure ball by clicking the image or the links at the top of the page.

The Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Wheel

The Zhu Zhu Pets hamster wheel can be added to the funhouse. It has three tunnel connections as well as the hamster wheel itself. The zhu zhu pets love nothing more than spinning around on their very own hamster wheel, just like a real hamster does.

They simply dash up the ramp and start spinning, pretty awesome. This is another of the many extras than can easily be added to the funhouse to turn it in to something truly massive.

Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamsters – How to buy and find the pop culture phenomenon toy in stock

zhu zhu toys
Maybe you’ve heard of Zhu Zhu pets toy hamsters, some say the hottest toy cultural phenomenon to hit parents crazed at finding the best-selling toy critters since fads like the Cabbage Patch Kids left people tearing over toys in stores in the ’80s.

Formerly known as Go Go Pets, the Zhu Zhu Pets are toy hamsters that scurry around on wheels and don’t make a mess or stink up houses like the real thing.

And no biting, either, which is perhaps the appeal behind the Zhu Zhu Pets (pronounced Zoo Zoo Pets) that are sending parents across the nation online — scurrying themselves to stock up on the animals and all their accessories before the Christmas 2009 craze to get them ensues.

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamsters are interactive toy pets, each with their own set of over 40 sound effects, squeaks, chirps, and more. Used in their playsets, they recognize what room they’re in and play appropriate sound effects. They make cooking sounds in the kitchen, brush their teeth, shower, and toilet flushing sounds in the bathroom, and sleep sounds in their bedroom.

How to buy the Zhu Zhu Pets and find them in stock:

Detailed reports of how to find the Zhu Zhu Pets for $7.99 or $8.00 in stock have been written — but for parents short on time and energy and patience at tracking them down in their local Wal-Mart stores, and longer on monies to spend who want the little “Zoo Zoo Pets” now can find a plethora of Zhu Zhu Pets online in stock at Amazon.com

You can also buy Zhu Zhu Pets from Cmdstore.com. Below is a nice pic with all the basic instructions on how the Zhu Zhu Pets work. Click the banner and you can check out what they have in stock.

Below are a few of the Zhu Zhu Pets available for sale at Amazon.com:

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Pipsqueek – Yellow
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Mr. Squiggles – Light Brown
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Num Nums
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Chunk – White
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Funhouse (Hamsters Sold Separately)
Zhu Zhu Pets Adventure Ball
Zhu Zhu Pets Add On Garage
Zhu Zhu Pets Add On Hamster Wheel

Zhu Zhu Pets™ Hamsters Top Toys“R”Us Hot Holiday Toy List, FunFare’s 2009 Holiday HOT DOZEN

zhu zhu toys

ST. LOUIS (Business Wire) — Zhu Zhu Pets™ hamsters are officially one of the hot toys of 2009! Zhu Zhu Pets™ were recently included on some of the most influential toy lists of the holiday season. Toys“R”Us, a leading specialty toy retailer, named Zhu Zhu Pets™ to the 2009 Toys“R”Us Holiday Hot Toy and the “Fabulous 15,” which represents the best toys of the holiday season. Additionally, renowned toy expert Dr. Toy has included Zhu Zhu Pets™ on her Top 10 ‘High Tech’ Toys and her Top 100 Toys list of 2009. FunFare Magazine, a leading consumer toy publication, also named Zhu Zhu Pets™ to its 11th Annual Holiday HOT DOZEN.

In recognition of these recent honors, Zhu Zhu Pets™ will make special visits to children’s hospitals around the nation. As part of these visits, pediatric patients will receive their very own Zhu Zhu Pets™ hamster and will have the chance to experience the hottest toy of 2009 firsthand.

“We are so excited that Toys“R”Us and industry experts love Zhu Zhu Pets™ as much as we do,” says Natalie Hornsby, director of brand development and marketing strategies, Cepia, LLC. “We look forward to the hospital deliveries and the opportunity to bring a little joy into children’s lives.”

The best alternatives to real live hamsters, Zhu Zhu Pets™ hamsters don’t poop, die, or stink, but they are still a riot of motion and sound. They dart around in their hamster tubes and busily scurry from room to room. You never know where they’ll go next! Simply pet the hamster’s back, set him down, and watch him Zhu Zhu Zhu-oom! Zhu Zhu Pets™ like to be picked up and snuggled too! Pet them gently on the nose, and they’ll squeak with contentment. These hamsters have over 40 different sound effects, depending on the unique environment they encounter.

Zhu Zhu Pets™ are available for sale at Toys“R”Us, Walmart and other select retailers.

About Zhu Zhu Pets

Zhu Zhu Pets™ are innovative, realistic, interactive, plush, and artificially intelligent hamsters that talk and move around in their own playsets. Zhu Zhu Pets™ include two play modes: nurturing mode where the hamsters coo and purr and adventure mode where the hamsters explore their habitat with intelligent audio and mechanical responses to various habitat stimuli. Over a dozen add-ons can be purchased to build an ever-evolving hamsterworld for your hamster to play in and explore. Powered by 2 AAA batteries (included), Zhu Zhu Pets™ are suitable for ages 3 and up.

Click The Zhu Zhu Pets To Buy Now

Where to Buy Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster Toys?  You can also buy them at Amazon.com.

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Pipsqueek – Yellow
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Mr. Squiggles – Light Brown
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Num Nums
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Chunk – White
Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Funhouse (Hamsters Sold Separately)
Zhu Zhu Pets Adventure Ball
Zhu Zhu Pets Add On Garage
Zhu Zhu Pets Add On Hamster Wheel