FAO Schwarz on Thursday announced a global expansion strategy, starting with a brand collaboration this year with Kidsland, China's largest toy distributor. In addition to a flagship location in Beijing and Shanghai, Kidsland over the next five years will open 30 smaller FAO Schwarz specialty stores and shop-in-shops in 200 department stores across the country, according to a company press release.
The announcement comes on the heels of news that the iconic toy retailer is planning a new 20,000 square-foot flagship location at Rockefeller Plaza in New York in time for the holidays, the company also noted.
The retailer will also be able to reach consumers from all over the world thanks to a new agreement with travel retail company Hudson Group to open a chain of FAO Schwarz-branded airport shops in the U.S. and Canada, with the first store opening this year, the company said.
A little over a year ago FAO Schwarz was sold by now-bankrupt Toys R Us to ThreeSixty Group, a company that designs and sells consumer products including toys and home goods, for an undisclosed amount, and is now making good on a promise to seek growth overseas, as well as finding life elsewhere.
Famous for its store's floor piano, human toy soldiers and intricate toy trains, FAO Schwarz was founded in 1862 and became known for its Fifth Avenue store in the General Motors Building in Manhattan, where rents are among the highest in the world. Toys R Us initially bought FAO Schwarz in 2009, but in 2015 the toy retailer shuttered its iconic 45,000-square-foot, three-level store flagship Midtown store to save money. (That store is now an Under Armour location.)
In a statement on Wednesday, Lee Ching Yiu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kidsland International, said his company was excited about welcoming the iconic U.S. toy brand. "With customers looking for authentic brands and memorable encounters, we believe the brand will become a game changer in China's toy industry," he said.
In a tie-up with now-bankrupt department store company Bon-Ton over the holidays, FAO Schwarz brought back updated renditions of some of the best-loved items and some new favorites for the toy chest including its famous Piano Mat. But the company is putting most of its energy abroad. Last year the company inked a new deal to launch a webstore and expand its joint venture with longtime partner Fung Retailing in Asia. In 2016, the company opened 29 U.S. stores, including 27 outlet and express stores, and closed 16, while, internationally, it opened 73 stores and closed 17.