Toys "R" Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in long-term debt, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. ahead of the key holiday shopping season, saying it will continue its normal business operations.

The company based in Wayne, New Jersey, announced late Monday that it was voluntarily seeking relief through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.

The company's Canadian division also said  Tuesday after the close of stock markets that it had launched its own voluntary reorganization proceeding under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada) in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. The company said its 82 stores across the country will remain open during the process.

Toys "R" Us said court-supervised proceedings will help restructure the outstanding debt and set the stage for long-term growth. The company announcement also said separate operations outside the U.S. and Canada are not part of the filings. And it emphasized that its stores worldwide will remain open and that it will continue to work with suppliers and sell merchandise.

"The company's approximately 1,600 Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores around the world — the vast majority of which are profitable — are continuing to operate as usual," the company statement added. "Customers can also continue to shop for the toy and baby products they are looking for online."

Dave Brandon, company chairman and CEO, said that the court filing provides a path for the company and its investors to work with its debtholders and other creditors to work on restructuring the debt beleaguering the pioneering toy retailer.

"Together with our investors our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the $5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet, which will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business ... and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide," he said in the announcement.

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The company has 1,600 Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us stores around the world. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

The move comes at a critical time ahead of the peak holiday shopping season that is crucial to retailers' bottom lines. Brandon expressed confidence in the looming reorganization, vowing that the iconic Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us brands known to shoppers for generations would continue on.

In a separate statement, the company also said its online sales sites worldwide remain open for business during the court-supervised process. It added that the company's operations outside of the U.S. and Canada, including operations in Europe and Australia as well as some 255 licensed stores and joint venture partnership in Asia — all separate entities — were not part of the Chapter 11 filing or the parallel Canadian move.

The company has nearly 65,000 employees worldwide and bills itself as a leading global retailer of toy and baby products. Merchandise is sold through 885 Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam, and in more than 810 international stores and over 255 licensed stores in 38 countries and jurisdictions.

With files from CBC News