As someone who grew up revering FAO Schwarz as the epicenter of the toy universe, I was saddened by the company's gradual descent into oblivion. Toys R Us has owned the retailer since 2009 but had done little with it until soaring Manhattan commercial rents ended an almost 150 year run.
This week we learned that the venerable brand has been sold to ThreeSixty, a consumer products manufacturer. They are, please note, not a retailer.
ThreeSixty's brands products are varied and ubiquitous. According to a CSA article by Marianne Wilson, "Toys 'R' Us sells FAO Schwarz": "ThreeSixty designs, manufactures and distributes toys and other consumer products under a portfolio of owned and licensed brands — including, Sharper Image, Black Series, Discovery Kids, Smithsonian, and Animal Planet — for over 70,000 retail stores across the country."
What they don't have is retail stores. I think that is a problem for a brand like FAO that was as much about place as it was about product. It was therefore far more than the sum of its parts. It was a destination whose very name lit up a fantasy of the ultimate toy store. It was a place where one expected to find around every corner something new, amazing and magical. I simply don't believe that putting FAO Schwarz on a series of products, no matter how good they are, is going to ultimately be compelling.
I would love to see ThreeSixty, or if not them someone in the retail business, take on bringing this institution back to the place it used to be. A place where people dance on pianos and giant clocks smile the time. A place where your great, great, great grandparents shopped and you can too.
I hope ThreeSixty can bring FAO Schwarz back to life. The toy industry needs it, the kids need it…we all need it.