SAN FRANCISCO, June 29 (Reuters) - As Toys "R" Us Inc stores across the United States marked their final day in business on Friday, the bankrupt toy retailer posted a farewell message to customers on its website next to an image of its iconic Geoffrey the Giraffe mascot thanking them and urging them to "Play on!"
"Thanks to each of you who shared your amazing journey to (and through) parenthood with us, and to every grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister who's built a couch-cushion rocket ship, made up a hero adventure, or invented something gooey," the message said.
"Promise us just this one thing: Don't ever grow up. Play on!" the message, playing on the company's famous jingle, added.
More than 700 Toys "R" Us stores are shuttering in the United States. The liquidation of the largest U.S. toy retailer is a blow to hundreds of toy makers that sold products at the chain, including Barbie maker Mattel Inc, board game company Hasbro Inc and other large vendors such as Lego.
Its closure also leaves a void for small toymakers who relied on the company to showcase new products.
Toys "R" Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September hoping to restructure some $5 billion in debt, much of which stemmed from a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout by private equity firms in 2005.
But the company changed course in March, saying it would sell its operations in Canada, Asia and Europe, and shut down in the United States.
In addition to online platforms like Amazon.com Inc , analysts have pointed to Walmart Inc, Target Corp, JC Penney Co Inc, Kohls Corp and Bed Bath & Beyond as chains that could pick up market share from Toys 'R' Us. Drugstores like CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp and discount outlets like Dollar General Corp or TJ Maxx may also stock their shelves with more toys, they said.
In a dire retail landscape, more than 8,000 U.S. shops closed in 2017, roughly double the average annual store closures in the previous decade, according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers. (Reporting by Jim Christie, editing by Tracy Rucinski and David Gregorio)