John Eyler, Chairman and CEO of Toys "R" Us

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, August 18, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: With Labor Day just two weeks away, retailers are hoping for a strong finish in back-to-school sales, and, if Wall Street analysts have it right, we could be on track for a retail recovery in the second half, just in time for the crucial holiday shopping season.

Just what this guy wants to hear. That guy, by the way, is John Eyler. He’s the chairman and CEO of Toys "R" Us.

John, good to see you.

JOHN EYLER, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TOYS "R" US (TOY): Good to see you, too, Neil.

CAVUTO: I was tempted to talk to you about this with the power outage in New York last week. Your big old Ferris wheel and your marquis Times Square store, that just stopped, didn’t it?

EYLER: Well, to their eternal credit, our staff rallied around, and they actually rotated the wheel by hand and got people down. There were a number of people up in the Ferris wheel.

CAVUTO: Really? How long did it take to get them out of there?

EYLER: Forty minutes maybe.


EYLER: The wheel’s always full. We’ve had over a million people ride it so far.

CAVUTO: And they just hung out there, didn’t they? They wouldn’t leave the store, I mean, afterwards, right?

EYLER: Yes. They hung in there. We also had one of those flash occurrences where everybody comes in and they have a 30-second moment where the store was completely packed. They were all worshipping the dinosaur.

CAVUTO: So no one was stealing anything or running out of the store.

EYLER: Hope not.

CAVUTO: That was OK. Good. Let me ask you a little bit, John, about the state of the business. Kind of a flat quarter. You were just reminding me during the break that, last year, the comparisons were tough because you had "Spider-Man" out and you had all these tough comparisons. What about going forward?

EYLER: First of all, on a common accounting basis, if you net out EITF 216, which is a change in accounting, on a common accounting basis for the half, we lost one cent this year -- against 10 cents last year -- and, for the quarter, we lost two against eight, so, despite a tough economy, we’ve been making good progress.

CAVUTO: But the weak dollar helped you this go-around, right?

EYLER: Oh, not much.

CAVUTO: Not much?

EYLER: Not much. Less than a cent. And so we’ve been making good progress internationally in Babies "R" Us and in our dot-com business. It’s continued to be tough to turn the toys business, although it’s been getting better, and I think, like other retailers, the last couple of weeks since the quarter ended for us have shown really marked improvements. So we’re reasonably more optimistic than we were a few weeks ago.

CAVUTO: But everything in your business is geared toward the holiday season, right?

EYLER: Sure is.

CAVUTO: But what kind of percentage chunk do you get out of that?

EYLER: In October, November, December, we do half of our business.

CAVUTO: Really?

EYLER: In that 90-day period.

CAVUTO: So everyone says you need like a hip product down the pike. Whether it was stuff based on a movie, "Finding Nemo" this past quarter, or something more involved. Do you buy that?

EYLER: Not really. I think that we’re operating the business better and on a broader gauge, and the biggest hit product we ever had represented less than 1 percent of our total volume, so well...

CAVUTO: What was that? The Cabbage Patch Doll.

EYLER: It was probably Pokemon at its peak.

CAVUTO: Really?

EYLER: Ran about 1 percent of our total volume, maybe slightly over that, but, when you take a look at a business that does $4-1/2 billion in the back half, one product isn’t going to make or break the season.

CAVUTO: But it’s always weird. It’s the one product you least plan on. Like if you were to tell me that Pokemon was going to be big -- or 20 years ago, that Cabbage Patch was -- I wouldn’t have ever figured it out.

EYLER: Well, again, we do the best we can to predict it, but sometimes they come out of left field. The best example...

CAVUTO: Well, what about video games, though, and all? That was a kind of a week -- do you need new -- like a new hit product, or are all these guys cannibalizing each other?

EYLER: Well, video games is a price-deflation problem, but there’s a lot of good kids-rated titles coming out this fall. There haven’t been very many this spring. So we think it will be better this fall but still a soft business.

CAVUTO: You still have the coolest job on the planet. All these parents and kids...

EYLER: Except for yours, Neil. Except for yours. I like your new studio.

CAVUTO: ... they all suck up to you, don’t they?

Thank you, John, very much.

John Eyler, Toys "R" Us CEO. Can you imagine all the people who chase him down for stuff?

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