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FAO Schwarz: Pricey toys for rich kids
Revamped toy retailer appeals to rich; for the holidays -- $15,000 toy Mercedes, $30,000 playhouse.
September 9, 2004: 5:33 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - For kids whose parents are loaded, baseball mitts or big wheel cars are just so gross.

So this holiday season, the children of the well-off will get to play in high style with their $15,000 toy Mercedes or their $12,000 tree house -- all courtesy of the legendary, and formerly bankrupt, toy retailer FAO Schwarz.

Although the retailer's famous stores are now shuttered, a new incarnation of the company is going high-brow with an upcoming catalog aimed at the superrich.

Other items in the catalog, a million copies of which will be shipped this week, include: a $9,000 rocking zebra, "starter jewelry" like a tiny $950 diamond bracelet and La Petite Maison -- a custom-made playhouse that starts at $30,000 but could cost more depending on the recommendations of the "professional children's interior decorator." (Click here for a roundup of last year's over-the-top toys.)

"When children are used to living well," the catalog says, "they should play like this."

"Our catalog is very, very different this year," Kim Richmond, FAO Schwarz's executive vice president for marketing, told the New York Times, which reported on the catalog Wednesday.

"And probably the most significant difference is that we do not carry the products carried in mass-market stores, the major toy brands," Richmond was quoted as saying. "It is a new strategy. Our position is about things that are really spectacular and unique that you wouldn't find anyplace else."

While the catalog does contain some spectacular items, FAO Schwarz spokesman Burns Patterson stressed that it still has everyday items, such as $15 FAO Schwarz stuffed bears.

"The niche they are occupying is unique toys," Patterson told CNN/Money, "but there are a range of things. It's not all about the ultraluxe toys."

FAO Inc., the parent company of FAO Schwarz, filed for bankruptcy last year and closed its 14 retail outlets around the country. After attempts to turn things around, the company sold its flagship store in New York City and another store in Las Vegas to New York investment firm D.E. Shaw Laminar Portfolios, which also acquired the FAO Schwarz name and its Internet and catalog business.

Although the landmark stores remain closed, Patterson said refurnished New York and Las Vegas stores are scheduled to open in time for the 2004 holiday season and an online catalog is set for an October debut.  Top of page

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