The Toy Book spoke with David Niggli, chief merchandising officer at FAO Schwarz, about the company’s plans to expand its retail locations and licensing program and more in its annual State of the Industry Q&A.

FAO Schwarz expanded with flagship stores in Europe and Asia. How are these locations performing? Do you have plans to expand to more retail locations?
Our international flagships are performing way above expectations, and the global response to the brand has been inspiring. It has proven that FAO Schwarz is an international brand and that the combination of experiential retail with unique product offerings is a winning model worldwide. In terms of expansion, it comes down to finding the right partner with the right location. That is our No. 1 priority in terms of choosing where we might expand next. We are always looking at new partners and opportunities to expand our global presence.

How important are in-store experiences? How does FAO Schwarz keep them going all year long?
In-store experiences, from demonstrators and customization to great service, are key to the success of an FAO Schwarz store. This is what we do 365 days of the year, so there is no question as to the need to keep them going and to keep refreshing and adding new experiences every year. We recently added a Barbie Styled By You experience [in which] consumers can work with a Barbie Stylist to create their own very special Barbie. Additionally, we have a National Geographic/Steiff adoption program [through which] consumers can support the preservation of endangered species, and we have an upcoming experience with Sesame Street launching soon.

FAO Schwarz partnered with Global Icons for further international licensing expansion. Do you have any details you can share?
Global Icons will expand and build upon FAO’s existing licensing program and current product lineup. The program will leverage the brand into strategic categories that will deliver the same attributes of big imagination, creativity, and fun as our most-loved products.

Global Icons will tailor a one-of-a-kind program with various brand collaborations and a strong focus on experiential licensing. The program will continue to develop internationally, utilizing its current presence in China, the UK, and Ireland, with many more to come. Global will look for licensing partnerships in experiential retail, fashion accessories, food and beverage, footwear, health and beauty care, home furnishings and decor, infant products, publishing, youth electronics, and sporting goods.

What are your predictions for the state of toy retail this year?
Toy retail, like all retail, has been affected by online sales, which will continue to grow and thrive. However, we have proven that brick-and-mortar stores are not dead. The consumer is willing to physically come to a store if you give them a reason. At FAO Schwarz, we have been offering an experiential and interactive retailing experience that engages both kids and adults, which is proving globally to be a winning combination.

This State of the Industry Q&A response originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!