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FAO Delivers Baby Business Online

FAO Schwarz last week christened FAO Baby, a channel within the toy retailer's e-commerce site devoted to high-end products for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

The channel was launched in conjunction with the new FAO Baby stores that opened in New York and Boston on Thursday. While the 139-year-old retailer has traditionally offered a mix of toys for children age 12 and younger, FAO Baby will target mothers with children age 5 and younger.

The Web channel and its affiliate stores will offer wood toys, apparel, bedroom furniture, and other infant and preschool products. Pricing generally ranges from $20 to $100. FAO.com has an average order size of $100.

Clicking a large ad at the top-center of FAO.com's home page offers access to the FAO Baby channel. Viewers can take a virtual tour of the site — as well as the new 10,000-square-foot New York store — and be guided by a digital 3-D image of FAO's mascot, Bobby the Soldier Bear.

The interactive aspects of the site were designed to let viewers familiarize themselves with its products and hopefully lower the number of returns for online orders, said Lauryce Graves, executive vice president of Internet operations.

“Anything we can do to give customers a chance to try [products] before they buy is a win-win for everyone,” she said.

FAO, New York, still holds its 40-plus retail stores as its top priority, followed by its catalog business and then e-commerce. The firm's Web site generates approximately 15 percent of its revenue.

The retailer will spend $400,000 promoting its e-commerce site this year, said Alan Marcus, spokesman for the firm. However, he didn't specify how much will be allocated towards pitching the FAO Baby channel.

The retailer ran a half-page ad in The New York Times last week announcing the launch of the online channel and the New York store. And while list development and other promotional aspects have yet to be finalized, the firm plans to support the FAO Baby channel with a limited number of postcard mailings, e-mail campaigns and newspaper inserts.

The channel also will receive mention in FAO's 6 million-piece mailing of its fall catalog, dubbed the Ultimate Toy Catalogue. In addition, the New York and Boston stores will adorn promotions for the FAO Baby online channel.

“We are a privately held company that doesn't have a huge advertising budget, but we will be doing promotions,” Marcus said. “We want to concentrate on our core strengths and leveraging things like our stores to promote the Baby [brand].”

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