WALKING by the new Toys R Us store you may be forgiven for not noticing it was right in front of you.
That's because the iconic toy store has returned to the UK high street inside pre-existing WHSmith shops.
It marks the first time the retailer will be back as a store since 2018.
Knowing this, I wasn't expecting too much, perhaps a counter or two or a few shelves with some action figures and board games, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
The concession sits within the Broad Street WHSmith shop in Reading and is one of six which have opened within the last month.
I am told it is so far one of the biggest Toys R Us shop-in-shops at 2,000 square feet, with other branches such as Oxford and York sitting at just 1,000 by comparison.
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The site in the centre of the busy town doesn't look particularly large from the outside and I wondered how the stationery shop could hold both a Post Office and a mini toy shop.
If it wasn't for the signs in the window and at the door,you'd hardly know it was there.
Inside it looks just like any other WHSmith, but the Toys R Us logo hanging from the ceiling welcomes shoppers upstairs.
Once up the escalator, you can see the children's toy land that awaits you, separated off with branded signage and the classic Geoffrey Giraffe mascot most of us remember from childhood.
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The shop itself opens up towards the back and becomes much wider, the ideal spot for the concession.
I was definitely surprised as I approached with how jam-packed each of the shelves and mini aisles looked, spotting some favourites like LEGO, Barbie and Disney toys straight away.
Each toy type is separated into various sections of the shelves, usually with at least four or five shelves for each.
I spotted dozens of variations, each appealing to different age groups including action figures, board games, technology, soft toys and crafts.
The shop also had a special appearance from the giraffe Geoffrey, who is on tour this summer visiting various locations.
Each store also has demo areas where staff can demonstrate how to use some of the toys, including a remote control car and drone.
I'm told by the team that the idea is that WHSmith becomes a bit of a one-stop shop for not only stationery and reading but also now toys too.
Shoppers are able to browse the selection and then take their chosen purchase to any of the checkouts within the shop.
Prices appear to be largely similar to that of its competitors such as Smyths and The Entertainer, which a Tamagotchi and the Squishmallows range costing the same at each for example.
There was also a half price shelving unit with board games such as Monopoly and See the Story on sale.
So far the chain has only revealed plans to open a total of nine shops this year as part of the trial process.
Some of the stores are smaller than others but still offer hundreds of toys.
Each store layout differs from location to location, with some concessions situated upstairs if it has a second floor but some downstairs if one floor.
Here's the full list of locations where Toys R Us that have or will be opening this summer:
- Canterbury (St George Street) – opening July 1
- Chelmsford (High Street) – opening July 1
- Cheltenham (High Street)
- Cwmbran (The Mall)
- Oxford (Cornmarket Street)
- Poole (Towngate Shopping Centre) – opening this summer
- Reading (Broad Street)
- Solihull (Mell Square)
- York (Monks Cross retail park)
But if there isn't a store opening near you, you can still head over to the online site which launched just before Christmas last year.
Customers can get free delivery on all orders over £20 and next-day delivery on orders placed before 6pm.
The standard delivery charges match those of Smyths toy store which charges £2.99 for delivery of orders between £10 and £20 and £4.99 on orders below £10.
The website is not related to WHSmith, which only owns the exclusive sub-licence for the brand and physical stores.
The former high-street staple, Toys R Us collapsed in 2018 and closed all of its 100 UK branches.
It then announced plans for a relaunch in October last year.
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The UK relaunch follows successful attempts to make a comeback in the US and Australia.
You can find your nearest newly opened Toys R Us on the retailer's website using the map tool.
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