A Tale of 2 Toy Stores: FAO Schwarz vs. CAMP

Toys “R” Us is gone. The question is now: that will fill the void? By Party City’s Toy City pop-ups to JC Penney’s enlarged toy segments into Kroger’s Toys”R” Us-branded segments, stores across the retail spectrum have entered the ring. However, where these replacements have fallen short is the lack of attention on toys as a whole.

FAO Schwarz and CAMP took the Big Apple’s households by storm. Here is what they have done right and how they compare.

A lesson from the classics with FAO Schwarz

If it ai not broke, do not fix it, right? That is the approach that heritage toy shops retailer FAO Schwarz took — with a few essential important tweaks, of course. The shop was a Midtown Manhattan landmark for decades, until closure in 2015. But what David Niggli, Chief Merchandising Officer of FAO Schwarz, noticed was,”New York was not New York with no FAO Schwarz.”

Under the new ownership of ThreeSixty, the shop has been revamped in a new Rockefeller Plaza place that honors and preserves the essence of the new when amplifying in-store experiences.

The iconic, life-size keyboard has been restored and is ready for play. Sales staff dressed in the brand’s mascot toy soldier uniforms participate with shoppers and keep true to the shop’s legacy.

An interactive Build-A-Bear Rocket Ship, a baby doll adoption centre where children sign adoption paperwork (like new parents), a Discovery Science Lab for exciting experiments, and a DIY race car section which comes complete with your own pit crew are simply a couple of the most notable new offerings. The vital thing is that every section lends itself to the general aim of the shop: experimentation.

The store remained true to the beloved brand, relying on the powerful emotions of parents’ nostalgia and shock and amazement for the new creation. The remarkable result was a harmonious marriage of new and classics flair, all ready for children and their families to research and purchase.

CAMP takes us back to Camp

CAMP represents the most recent foray into retail (and media’s overall interest in merchandising). CAMP targets Millennial parents, the demographic that’s ripe for having children and outfitting them with everything under the sun.

When you walk into CAMP, it seems like an old-fashioned general store — plenty of shelves and wood for inventory. But head to the back and walk through a secret wall and you get to the exciting part. Dark and woodsy, the Base Camp segment is experience, no stock. It seems like a true pop-up encounter matches children’s museum, where children can feel as though they’re at summer camp. The section comprises a tree house, an arts and crafts station, a disco room, and a”Campitheater” for daily events.

The whole idea operates on another level than traditional shops, relying on retail partnerships for in-store activations and earnings from daily activities. Throughout the holiday season, Mastercard holders obtained free toys and gift wrapping, but CAMP expects future partnerships also. In actuality, the store intends to rotate offerings every 8-12 weeks, like an exciting carousel of adventures .

CAMP’s next step is opening more shops throughout the nation to discuss camp-like experiences with a broader audience.

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Succeeding at the experiential

Both toy shops took different approaches to achieving the same aim of experience-driven retail. FAO Schwarz maintained the powerful experiential elements of the past and included exponentially more. CAMP created an experience-first, inventory-second business model which has the enthusiasm of a pop-up but the staying power of a brick-and-mortar shop.

Where FAO Schwarz intermixed experience and shopping, CAMP produced a distinct separation together with the hidden Base Camp. But the important thing here is that both goals are achieved: customers can have exciting adventures and buy toys in a single, fun location.

Our main takeaway is that it is not really about older toy storers versus new — it is about evolution. Where these retailers excel is in how they embrace the legitimate objective of toys: fun. These are fun destinations that go above and beyond what Toys”R” Us was able to do, and we look forward to experiencing what they do next.