FAO Schwartz

With Toys R Us gone, it was only a matter of time before another brick and mortar retailer filled that void.  Ironically, that company is FAO Schwartz, the institution that was eventually driven out of business by Toys R Us.  The flagship store in Midtown Manhattan shuttered in 2015, but now a new location will open in Rockefeller Center.

As the original Schwartz was waning, in 2009, they sold the brand to TRU, who carried a line of toys labeled with the FAO brand.  In 2016, the California-based ThreeSixty Group Inc. purchased the label and with TRU out of the picture, they are now mounting an ambitious campaign to relaunch FAO.  That starts with the new 20,000-square-foot location at Rockefeller Center but the plan is for the company to grow into a worldwide toy powerhouse.

For those who lived outside of New York, FAO is best known from the 1988 Tom Hanks movie ‘Big’ and the iconic “piano dance” scene.

How does ThreeSixty Group, Inc. plan to succeed as so many other brick and mortar stores are suffering as more and more consumers turn to the web for their buying needs?  Perhaps from borrowing a bit from the old school mentality on display in ‘Big’, by making their new store a destination experience and not just another soulless emporium.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “the store won’t just be staffed with traditional sales clerks, but also product demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing various costumed roles, including toy soldiers.”

And fittingly, the giant piano will be back with dancers ready to “tap out a few tunes” to entertain visitors.

Not to be a wet blanket, but the old FAO Schwartz actually did the same thing and it didn’t work out for them.  And if anyone ever visited the Times Square Toys R Us, that location was also more than just another toy store.  Unfortunately things didn’t work out in the long run.  But with Toys R Us gone, many consumers who spent their entire lives shopping there have a huge hole in their hearts and wallets, yearning for another destination devoted strictly to playthings, whether they are toys or video games.  If done properly, FAO Schwartz could fill that gap, especially now that they have little competition.

What do you think of FAO Schwartz rising from the ashes?  Can they replace Toys R Us?  Or more importantly, can they stand up against Amazon.com?