Rockford’s Toys ‘R’ Us Closure Could Impact Local Economy


It’s the end of an era. A store that once owned 20 percent of the retail toy market is now closing its doors. Toys ‘R’ Us announced Wednesday that it will close or sell nearly 800 of it’s locations across the country. One of those is on East State Street in Rockford.

“Going in there, talking to [the employees] about the store closing, and you can see how they’re so sad and they connect with the customers,” said Rockford residents Chantel Simmons and Sean Seawood, outside the store on Thursday.

The company employs more than 30,000 people. Roughly 50 are working for the company in Rockford.

“Well, I think it’s important to understand the effect that e-commerce has had on our entire world.
Rockford is no different than any other community that is facing the same situation,” said Rockford Area Economic Development Council President Nathan Bryant.

The location’s future is uncertain. The question is, what could fill the space?

“To find another tenant of that size is not going to be easy,” said Bob Mandala, Commercial Division Manager at Key Realty. The location would join a number of other vacant spots near the State and Perryville corridor, including ‘Gordmans’ and ‘Gander Mountain’. The difficulty is cost.

“They’re big spaces and they are pricey,” Mandala said. “I think that’s the key here is can you make with what your costs are?,” he added.

While uncertain about who could buy the space, Mandala is not ruling out a local a company’s ability to buy it.

“The good news is we had ‘American’, and then you had Martin Gustafson, a local guy, take over that and their doing quite well, from what I understand,” he said.

As for the jobs and employees in the store, Nathan Bryant says those jobs won’t be hard to fill.
“On one hand, we might have a retail slip on dollars, but on the other hand a piece of property rolls over, another tenant comes in, and we do a good job of catching those jobs at a different location, another part of the market,” Bryant said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Toys ‘R’ Us’ Midwest corporate office to get details on a closing date and future sales but did not receive a response.

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