FAO Schwarz‘s Chief Merchandising Officer David Niggli chatted with the Toy Book about the company’s pandemic protocol, initiatives, and more.
The Toy Book: How did FAO Schwarz cope during temporary store closures? What new initiatives did you implement in order to ensure a safe shopping environment for consumers when stores reopened?
David Niggli: Our flagship location at 30 Rock was closed from March through July. Like many other retailers, we switched our focus to our website so that our customers would still be able to shop at FAO Schwarz from the safety of their homes. When we were closed, we utilized the time to prepare for when we felt it was safe to reopen. Like other retailers, we focused on setting safety protocols and standards for our employees and guests that included the mandatory wearing of masks, visual markers for social distancing, plexiglass shields at cash wraps and demo stations, and plenty of sanitizer stations throughout the store. In addition, all associates had daily temperature checks to ensure the health of our staff.
Our goal was to ensure safety while also delivering the quintessential FAO experience. Since FAO is synonymous with magic and known for the “theater” of the in-store experience, we spent a great deal of time implementing measures that would enable us to deliver on the FAO promise in a safe way. The feedback from our customers was overwhelmingly positive.
TB: How did FAO Schwarz respond to the early challenges presented by the pandemic, both internally, at your retail locations, and for consumers?
DN: At the onset of the pandemic and store closures, we focused on safety and delivering the FAO “promise” — the experience you get when you are physically in the FAO store. To this end, we focused on expanding our online assortment, thereby providing access to all of our wonderful toys despite the store closure, implementing virtual personal shopping, and introducing the Academy of Wonder. The Academy of Wonder combines a magic or STEM product with an actual live Zoom class directly from our store to teach our customers all the amazing ways to engage with the product. Our Academy Professors provide a fun-filled and educational class that both kids and parents can enjoy safely from home.
When we reopened in July, we also utilized technology to deliver the interactive theater for which FAO Schwarz is known. This included video demonstrations and virtual demonstrations in which our demo team members live-streamed from a remote location, showcasing our favorite toys, so they could still interact with our customers, while also keeping a distance that was significantly more than 6 feet!
This State of the Industry Q&A response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!