Toys R Us and F.A.O. Schwarz


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F.A.O. Schwarz had been committing slow motion suicide for years when it finally was purchased out of bankruptcy by Toys R Us.  It was sad to see this once bastion of all that was wonderful, mysterious and magical about toys get overtaken by years of poor management and an unforgiving toy retail market that turned away from highest value and towards lowest price.


6a0133ec87bd6d970b01348801903f970c-320wi Toys R Us is now trying to revive the brand.  According to a New York Times article entitled “Toys ‘R’ Us Overhauling F.A.O. Schwarz Brand,” the company is taking some action.  Here is how the article puts it:
Beginning Sunday, the company will open F. A. O. Schwarz sections in all of its Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and introduce a redesigned F. A. O. logo and toys. It also plans to open 10 temporary F. A. O. “pop-up” stores over the holiday season.

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.  Again, here is how the article puts it:

But some brand experts said that cramming F. A. O. products into the 595 Toys “R” Us stores could be perceived as an act of mass merchandising in itself, diluting what once made F. A. O. a special place.

“Its big-box retail selling F. A. O. Schwarz as big-box product,” said Paul Worthington, the head of strategy at the branding firm Wolff Olins. “It feels a little lacking in joy.”

6a0133ec87bd6d970b0133f4e1b824970b-320wi Here is my 2 cents worth.  F.A.O. Schwartz was, at one time, a national treasure.  Anyone who visited the store during the Christmas season saw the incredible range of toys and knew the wonder of the experience.  It is, sadly, doubtful that today there are many children under 12 who have even heard of F.A.O Schwarz.

I would like to see Toys R Us turn F.A.O. Schwarz back into the place to see all that the world offers in the way of toys. Make it a destination, not because there is a Ferris wheel in the lobby, but because the wonder of so much variety and quality.  Then Toys R Us can use F.A.O. Schwarz to teach generations to come about the joy of toys and while at it learn about what sells and what does not sell when the American consumer gets the chance to experience the toy industry in all of its fullness.

2 thoughts

  1. I am really puzzled why this is a story again this year when Toys R Us already opened FAO Schwarz boutiques in its stores back in fall 2009. The quality of those instore boutiques varied from location to location (some consisting of a small section or several shelves; others being no more than a rotating display) but they were there, selling FAO Schwarz brand toys, from that day to this. I could see them announcing that they were expanding the sections or dedicating themselves to revitalizing them, but why is the story being given out that these FAO sections are somehow brand new? All that said, I definitely agree that the boutiques drag the brand down and that FAO Schwarz does not mean much to kids outside of New York City.

  2. Good post, Richard. The toy industry needs an aspirational place that feels unlimited in terms of imagination, wonder and play. A destination for inspiration. Just like the fashion industry has it’s couture shows where the sky’s the limit in terms of creativity and design—it would be great if the toy industry also had such a place where big dreams were on display and one could become part of that transformative experience.

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