Despite the chilly weather and a newly snow-covered ground, the line stretched down W. 49th St. with shoppers who had either visited previous incarnations of the store in their youth or looking to recreate the iconic piano scene in the 1988 film,
. All on line looking forward to the experience-focused store for the first time.
What was waiting beyond the gold doors? A revamped retail concept that caters to a multitude of interests, developmental stages and play styles.
“The store is all about experience,” says David Conn, chief executive officer, ThreeSixty Brands. “We have a lot of unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else from make-your-own remote-control car, that allows kids to create on a touch screen and then have a mechanic help them put
The interior features bold colors and graphics, with design elements including graphic interpretations of the brand’s toy soldier, area-specific art such as the gears and gas meters that wallpaper the toy car section or the stylized bear heads that are featured in the Build-A-Bear Workshop and more. In addition to Build-A-Bear, dedicated spaces have been reserved for Discovery’s #MindBlown STEM line, Mattel’s Barbie, Spin Master’s Hatchimals and Paw Patrol, Hasbro’s Transformers, and more.
Interactive stations include the scientist demonstration at the Discovery #MindBlown section, miniature grocery store complete with carts and plastic food items in a Melissa & Doug-branded area, a hair chalk and nail salon in the Alex Brands Toys spa and beauty section, demos in the Sharper Image section ( a fellow ThreeSixty Brands subsidiary) and a rideable stuffed animal area.
And, yes, the interactive piano made a comeback with a new look and element on both the floor and ceiling.
“This store has experience, theatre, magic shows, product demonstrations, dance on piano has come back on the ceiling and the floor so that people can see it out on Rockerfeller Plaza,” remarked Conn. FAO Schwarz closed its once famous New York City flagship in 2015, when it was owned by Toys ‘R’ Us and dismantled several of its U.S. brick-and-mortar operations. It re-launched in 2017 under the ownership of ThreeSixty Brands with shop-in-shops at more than 5,000 retailers nationwide.
FAO Schwarz was founded in 1862 as “Toy Bazaar,” and quickly established itself as a retail case study, both in terms of size and reach, in America’s largest cities. Capitalizing on its locations and inventory, FAO Schwarz became a shopping destination rather than simply a quick stop. Despite undergoing a formative name change, the Bazaar concept lived on as the store engaged in product exhibitions, one of the first mail-order catalogs, in-store activations, and pop-culture at large, most notably in the movie Big. Also notably, Nintendo first premiered its Nintendo Entertainment System at FAO Schwarz in 1985.
With the New York store taking off, toy enthusiasts may be wondering what’s next. “FAO Schwarz is going to China, where we’re opening a flagship in Beijing in 2019 and next month we’re opening our first airport store at Laguardia airport here in New York,” says Conn.
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