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Toy titan shifts focus to babies

Toys 'R' Us Inc. isn't closing its Lloyd Center store until later this month, but the store already has disappeared from the store locator on its Web site.

Its departure leaves the Portland area with three Toys 'R' Us stores Ñ one in Jantzen Beach Center; one at 10065 S.W. Cascade Ave.; and another at 12535 S.E. 82nd Drive.

The some 20 employees at the Lloyd Center store are being transferred to other area Toys 'R' Us stores.

The troubled toy retailer, brought low by competition with Wal-Mart's volume and discounting ability, is separating its toy business and its flourishing Babies 'R' Us unit, and may sell the former. Toys 'R' Us also put its international toy business up for sale this summer.

In Manhattan, N.Y., employees of the Union Square Toys 'R' Us store learned the day after Christmas that the toy store would be converted to the first Babies 'R' Us store in the borough. The flagship Toys 'R' Us store in Times Square will remain open.

In 2003, the retailer announced its decision to close all its Kids 'R' Us clothing stores in 2004.

The New Jersey-based company, which went public in 1994, saw sales drop 3 percent for the 39-week period that ended Oct. 30, on sales of $6.3 billion. At the beginning of 2004, Toys 'R' Us had 1,501 retail stores worldwide, including 685 toy stores in the United States, 44 Kids 'R' Us stores, and 198 specialty Babies 'R' Us stores. In 2005, the chain plans to open six additional Babies 'R' Us outlets.

Ñ Jeanie Senior