F.A.O. Schwarz, Fall 1997

Sep 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

What is purple and furry and has a big smile? It’s Barney, the friendly television dinosaur-and the cover model for the Gold Award-winning F.A.O. Schwarz toy catalog. F.A.O.’s bright and dramatic (and presumably, expensive) cover, the judges agree, is dynamite in terms of grabbing the attention of both parents and children. It’s “pure TNT,” one judge declares.

Featuring a die-cut gatefold of Barney’s face-vivid purple against a kiwi green background-the front cover graphic and execution are “unbelievable,” says one judge. “You just have to take it from the pile of other mail and open it.” Moreover, a flocked paper stock covering the die-cut image gives Barney’s face a brushed velvety feel (and no doubt helped sell a few of the three-foot plush Barney dolls for sale on the back cover of the catalog).

Like F.A.O. Schwarz’s retail stores, the catalog goes for high-level impact, with excellent use of color and space. “It’s big, bold, and brassy,” a judge comments. “The imagery and storytelling throughout the book are just great.” Another judge applauds the catalog’s notes and tidbits that appear on the upper left corner of every few pages. For instance, on a page selling remote-control model cars, the corner note reads, “The year was 1959, and young sports car buffs were treated to the latest model electric Customized Corvette. With any luck some of them might be driving the real one today!” The body copy is easy to read, engaging, and informative; “it speaks to both the child and the adult,” a judge says.

The merchandise also appeals to both kids and parents, with a mix of children’s toys and adult collectibles. The assortment ranges from an inflatable Lincoln Logs playhouse to a set of Madame Alexander dolls from the classic TV series The Honeymooners, with plenty of products in between. Many of the items are exclusive and promoted as such with the “only at F.A.O.” logo headline.

Panelists also give F.A.O. Schwarz high marks for its attention to customer service and ordering. Overall, the catalog boasts top-drawer policies, such as a personal shopping service, gift wrapping, and online shopping (www.faoschwarz.com). Policies are clearly outlined, such as a specific returns restriction for collectibles, which must be returned within 30 days.

But perhaps what most impresses our judging panel is the company’s ability to capture the 136-year-old upscale toy retailer’s in-store shopping experience via catalog. It just goes to show you that, as a judge notes, “imagination can bring outstanding results”-and in this case, the Gold Award as well.