- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - The 147-year-old toy retailer FAO Schwarz Inc. said Wednesday it replaced its chief executive Ed Schmults with Barry Erdos, the former president of online retail site Bluefly.com, effective immediately.

Erdos had been president, chief operating officer and acting chief financial officer at Bluefly.com since January 2008. Before that, he was president and chief operating officer at Build a Bear Workshop Inc.

Schmults had been chief executive at FAO Schwarz since 2005. The company said he resigned to pursue other interests. Under his tenure, the company signed a deal with Macy’s in 2008 to open up to 685 toy stores at Macy’s locations over two years. He also introduced a workshop at the company’s New York flagship store to allow customers to create their own Muppets.

The privately held company does not release sales data, but in December, Schmults told The Associated Press that similar to most retailers the company experienced a drop in overall holiday sales, critical to toy retailers.

Retailers across the board have reported weak holiday sales amid the recession and consumer spending dropoff.

FAO Schwarz _ immortalized in the 1988 Tom Hanks movie “Big” _ is known for high-end toys, but began to offer its own branded $20-and-under toys during the holiday season.

It has faced financial difficulty in the past. Amid tough competition from discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., the company filed for bankruptcy protection twice in 2003, first in January after a weak 2002 holiday season. It was purchased by D.E. Shaw group in 2004.

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