Uneasy Start for FAO Schwarz Relaunch

It looks like relaunch of legendary toy marketer FAO Schwarz is off to a less-than-ideal start.

For one thing, the 100-page catalog, which dropped in early September, was mailed without an order form, and the service information goes so far as to state that the company doesn’t accept mailed-in orders. The catalog’s 800-number is prominently listed each left-hand page of the catalog, however.

The URL is just as prominently featured on each right-hand page of the catalog. But as of Oct. 6, visitors to www.fao.com were greeted with a message saying that the Website is still under construction. What’s more, the catalog states that gift cards won’t be available after Oct. 31—almost two months after the catalog was in homes.

Then there’s the retail channel. The flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue and the Las Vegas Caesar’s Palace store have yet to open, although FAO spokesperson Burns Patterson says the Las Vegas store is likely to open first.

“So far, we are pleased with the early results,” Patterson says. “The customer response hasn’t been negative.”

Founded in 1870 as a Manhattan toy store, FAO Schwarz had stumbled in recent years. In December 2003 its former parent company, FAO, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in less than a year. New York-based D.E. Shaw paid $20 million for Schwarz’s catalog and online operations and the New York and Las Vegas stores.

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