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A trojan welcome at FAO Schwarz Las Vegas

Making a splash in Las Vegas is no easy task. With erupting volcanoes, dueling pirates and now the entire city of New York splayed out along the city's famous Strip, it takes a really big statement to get noticed. When FAO Schwarz decided to open a store at The Forum Shops at Caesar's, the toy seller needed a store that fell in line with -- and stood out in -- the city's grand landscape.

"You only get one opportunity in Vegas to grab people's attention, and you've got to take it," says Dick Glass, vice president of store development for the New York-based toy retailer. "Everybody's on overdrive, and you've got to be large to be noticed."

The GLA of the Forum Shops store is nearly unmatched in FAO Schwarz's rich history. With 55,000 sq. ft. space on three floors, the store is twice the size of the retailer's average store and second only to its 75,000 sq. ft. Manhattan flagship.

For its Vegas-scale design, FAO Schwarz turned to its regular store designer, New York-based Newbold Associates. The design objective, says Newbold president Joanne Newbold, was to create a unified concept that emphasized the store's three-level layout in a themed, destination-based retail format.

Building off the ancient-world theme of The Forum Shops, Newbold set the store's tone by installinga gigantic trojan horse at the entrance. At 48 ft., the animatronic horse rises the full three levels of the store. Its head moves up and down, blows steam out its nostrils, and its eyes change color.

In addition, rather than concealing a small troop of soldiers, the FAO Schwarz steed houses a variety of animated "popouts." They include a giant telescope with roving eye, a robotic hand holding a feather duster, a cow dressed as an opera singer, a chorus line of Barbie dolls and King Kong holding a screaming Barbie in its hand.

As shoppers enter the store, they have a cutaway view of the horse's working gears. From the second floor, they can enter the body of the horse, which houses a small shop and a balcony overlooking the rest of the store.

To ensure that visitors traverse the store in its entirety, Newbold incorporated an escalator spanning from the first floor directly to the third floor. "We wanted to create a store that continued to unfold, with lots of surprises and interactive opportunities," says Newbold, who received architectural and retail production assistance from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based AAD.

The decision to create a larger footprint was in part dictated by three of FAO Schwarz's main suppliers: Hasbro, Star Wars and Golub. The companies sought to make their own statement in Las Vegas, which, as Glass points out, has the highest visitor turnover in the world and one of the highest levels of visitor spending on consumer goods.

On the third floor, the Star Wars department includes large flying models of the space ships from the popular film series, along with a "cantina" that serves drinks (non-alcoholic, of course) such as a Yoda Colada. The second floor features the Temple of Barbie and a Monopoly board pathway that makes sounds such as a honking horn when shoppers land on "Free Parking" or police sirens when they "Go to Jail." The path leads shoppers to a Monopoly coffee bar with tables shaped like dice.

Glass says he expects the store, which opened in late August, to be on most tourists' itineraries as they flock to the desert city. "Certainly anyone who enters Caesar's Palace will want to see it, but we think people staying at other hotels will be asking cab drivers and waiters how to get there. We think it's going to be a major Vegas attraction," he says.

TAGS: Retail
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