Small businesses and Toys R Us are winners this holiday season 

Independent businesses brought in $23.3 billion this Small Business Saturday and Toys R Us is making a comeback and fulfilling kids’ wish lists with an experiential store at American Dream

December 15, 2021
  • Taylor Coyne

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Small businesses are winning this holiday season

As I strolled around one of my favorite bookstores this weekend, I couldn’t help but think back to the same time last year: it was pre-vaccine and COVID cases were surging in Los Angeles. Vromans, the aforementioned favorite bookstore, had recently launched a campaign calling for help from the community since sales had plummeted during the pandemic. While they had an online presence, it was not enough to keep them afloat after months of closures and without in-person events like book signings and readings.  

I’m happy to report that my experience this past weekend was a much brighter one. Everyone was still masked, COVID is still here, but the atmosphere was the opposite of 2020. People were out shopping like normal, interacting with friends and family, browsing for books and holiday gifts.

Vroman’s isn’t the only small business feeling the joy this holiday season. On Small Business Saturday, the Saturday following Thanksgiving, an estimated $23.3 billion was spent at independent retailers and restaurants. That’s up 18% from 2020 according to the American Express 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. Online shopping at small businesses was also up this year. 58% of shoppers reported that they made a purchase online, compared to 56% in 2020 and 43% in 2019.

Spending at independent retailers & restaurants on Small Business Saturday


Toys R Us is making a comeback. Again.

Toys R Us has had quite a turbulent few years. Rewind to 2017: Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy and shuttered and liquidated more than 700 stores across the country after years of failing to compete with big box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Amazon. A little more than a year after filing bankruptcy, Toys R Us was back after Tru Kids Brands purchased the rights to the company. Unfortunately, the two remaining Toys R Us stores in the U.S. succumbed to pandemic pressures and closed this past January.

The story doesn’t end there.

In March of this year, brand management company, WHP Global, announced its controlling interest in Tru Kids, and thus, Toys R Us. The company announced plans to relaunch physical stores and this past summer, Macy’s and Toys R Us announced a partnership where Toys R Us will open 400 stores within Macy’s department stores in 2022.

And just this month, WHP Global announced a two-story, 20,000 s.f. store that will open at American Dream in New Jersey. The store will have a two-story slide, a café and ice cream shop. American Dream opened in October 2019, only months before the start of the pandemic but has generally seen foot traffic increase since last fall. I expect lots of kids begging their parents for a trip to the mall once Toys R Us opens.

American Dream foot traffic

Contact Taylor Coyne

Senior Research Manager, Retail