Final countdown for iconic FAO Schwarz NYC store

America’s most famous toy store, FAO Schwarz, will be closed in little more than a week, a victim of New York’s steepening premium rents and changing consumer shopping trends.

Tellingly, one of the world’s largest selection of toys will be replaced by laptops, smartphones and smartwatches: Apple will move into the prime Fifth Avenue space while its own usual store undergoes a refurbishment.

The FAO Schwarz store, where in the 1980s movie Big, Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia played the Chopsticks on the giant floor piano, will close on July 15.

It will be the first time since 1870 that the city will be without an FAO Schwarz store, the brand founded by Frederick Otto Schwarz originally as Schwarz Toy Bazaar.  It’s been at the current location for 29 years.

With news of the imminent closure spreading, a Facebook page has been created by fans trying to preserve the brand. Parent Toys R Us says it is committed to opening the store in another location when it can find space at an affordable rent.

And therein lies the catch. The toy shop’s neighbours are the likes of Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Valentino and Armani.

“You go into Tiffany’s, you’re not walking out without spending at least $100 or $200, because you’re not going to find anything under that,” Jim Silver, editor in chief and chief executive of TTPM.com, a website devoted to all things toy-related said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s different when you’re selling toys that cost $30, $50 or even $70. With that type of rent, it’s almost impossible to break even.

“There’s some pricey stuff in there, but it’s one per cent of the purchases,” said Silver.

Cushman & Wakefield, which tracks retail rental rates across the world’s major shopping hubs, says rents in the upper Fifth Avenue area are the highest in the US. Ground floor units fetch an average of $3683 per square foot a year.

Another factor in the store’s demise is changing consumer shopping patterns. Not only have toy tastes changed over the years, it’s tough to compete with Amazon.com when you’re paying the some of the world’s highest retail rent.

Kids today still enjoy traditional toys, but they’re also seeking gadgets. Cue the temporary Apple store…

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