The Breakfast at Tiffany's doll is the perfect doll to be the genesis of this article--a doll celebrating one New York institution (Tiffany's) which symbolizes the breakdown of another (FAO Schwarz). Now, in case you think I'm making too much of the FAO Schwarz financial trouble, think again--if no buyer can be found for FAO Schwarz in the next 10 days, it will most likely cease to exist. Completely. This includes the flagship, storied, and much-loved New York store.
My emotional attachment to FAO Schwarz may be more than the emotional attachment of your average doll-loving citizen, since I grew up in New York and experienced an annual Christmas pilgrimage to FAO. Plus, I've long enjoyed their Christmas catalogs, peppered with their outlandishly expensive fantasy toys. My son, now 11, also eagerly awaits the catalog each year to get ideas for his Christmas wish list. Its very hard for me to imagine no FAO to visit during Toy Fair next year, and no FAO Christmas catalog for 2004.
Of course, I'm not the only one feeling the pain of the possible demise of FAO Schwarz. The New York Times said today: "For those who grew up poring over FAO Schwarz catalogs filled with prim and starchy dolls, Steiff teddy bears that came with various clothing changes, and tree-shaped dollhouses populated with tiny stuffed animals, the latest turn of events, particularly at this point on the calendar, seemed almost tragic." They also quoted Chris Byrne, the editor of Toy Report, who said "It is a depressing story, because for many people, that image of FAO Schwarz is part of their holiday tradition...It is an entire holiday tradition that is going away, or at the very least, is being jeopardized and will change radically."
The New York Times article also blames Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, not content to chase everyone out of the inexpensive toy business, is now going after the premium toy business as well. Toys R Us has noticed this, as I reported in my Dolls Blog last week, and its effecting their business practices. As a doll retailer, I have also noticed certain Collectible Barbie dolls at Wal-Mart, and I'm worried that no other store can match the prices that Wal-Mart offer these Barbies at and make a profit. In fact, I recently decided to not place an additional Christmas order for some of the Barbies that I saw at Wal-Mart, after overhearing several of my customers in my store telling a friend how much cheaper Wal-Mart was for Collectible Barbie dolls.
Well, you might be able to buy your fine dolls and toys cheaper at Wal-Mart than FAO Schwarz, but trust me, you aren't going to feel the magic of toys and dolls at Wal-Mart, or make Wal-Mart part of your treasured Christmas tradition, the way you could at FAO.
Manufacturers who sell their fine dolls and toys to Wal-Mart should be wary--what happens when Wal-Mart is the only game in town? According to the same New York Times article, the fate of FAO Schwarz will reverberate up the entire toy supply chain, and I agree. I shudder to imagine a world where Wal-Mart is your only choice to buy a toy; a world where the FAO Schwarz-type stores of the world cease to exist.
So, I'm sitting here staring at my FAO Schwarz (well, I guess NOT FAO Schwarz) Breakfast at Tiffany's Madame Alexander dolls, and I hope that dolls like this continue to be made far into the future--and, if they are made far into the future, I hope that I don't have to navigate the crowded, un-inspiring aisles of Wal-Mart luggage and inexpensive clothing to get to them.