Perhaps the most recognizable signage in the retail universe was taken down a few years ago on New York City's Fifth Avenue, as FAO Schwarz closed for business. The window clings and graphics that graced the front of the store were iconic and the world-famous street hasn't been quite the same since.
"The toy maker reopened for business in the Big Apple Nov. 21."
FAO Schwarz officially reopened for business in the Big Apple on Nov. 21, its flagship store now located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of Manhattan, CNBC reported. The toy supplier's highly anticipated return comes mere months after another major children's products retailer – Toys 'R' Us – closed its doors for the final time in June due to slow sales and increased competition from major e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Overstock.
David Conn, CEO of ThreeSixtyGroup – FAO Schwarz' parent company – told the cable news network that the company has listened to its customer base and is aiming to refresh not only its product offerings but the overall shopping experience. Conn noted that brick-and-mortar shopping isn't just about providing customers with the products that they want, but also what their eyes crave, such as vivid displays – like translite graphics – which help with branding.
FAO Schwarz Chief Merchandising Officer David Niggli echoed Conn's sentiments.
"It's about the theater, it's not just a toy store," Niggli told USA Today. "Timing seems right for us to be back because everybody's doing that."
Physical locations can strengthen online customer volume
E-commerce was of course very much en vogue in 2015, but sales have grown exponentially ever since. This has forced retailers to reorient how they market to customers. While various chains have dialed down their physical footprint, few have gone away entirely. To the contrary, studies show store closings can lead to reduced web traffic, according to analysis conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Maintaining physical locations enables retailers to better connect with customers and improve their brand messaging.
This appears to be FAO Schwarz' strategy. Conn told CNBC that much of what motivates people to shop in store is rooted in nostalgia.
"We think this transcends even just toys," Conn explained. "We joke around … we were experiential before it was cool to be experiential."
FAO's comeback may spur small-business owners to focus on layout and take advantage of increased foot traffic during the holidays. In New Hampshire at The Mall of Rockingham Park, sales have been solid for Josh Heinzl ever since Toys 'R' Us declared bankruptcy.
"We're doing very well," Heinzl told the New Hampshire Union Leader. The purveyor of Josh' Toys and Games noted that he and his co-workers have stocked up on products that are all the rage, many of which are called to attention with aisle violators and shelf talkers. He's also expanded the store's gaming merchandise, which spans the full length of a wall.
"We've taken a big part of that business," Heinzl said, according to the paper. "That's kind of the unique turning point."
Bob Brenneman, owner of G. Willikers! Books and Toys, has also seen an increase in customer volume, which he believes may derive from its redesign that was finished in April, the Union Leader reported.
FAO Schwarz to sell product in department stores
As for FAO Schwarz, it's unclear whether more stores will open aside from its Rockefeller Plaza location, but it does intend to increase its brand messaging by selling items in other stores, Hudson's Bay and Kohl's among them, according to CNBC.
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