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FAO.com Already Preparing For The Holidays

One of the cool things about FAO Schwarz in New York is that you can actually play with the toys -- remember Tom Hanks in the movie "Big?" Well, now the company has added a "virtual playroom" for cyber kids of all ages in a re-launch of its FAO.com e-commerce site.

The New York City landmark and toy industry authority re-launched FAO.com, getting a jump on the holiday gift-giving season and attempting to "capture the magical traits" of the 138-year old brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan.

The move underscores the importance of the holiday shopping season for retailers and e-tailers, alike. FAO.com originally launched in 1995. The company said the new site offers a larger selection of toys, an improved, easy-to-navigate interface, advanced search capabilities, real-time inventory management tools and the interactive "virtual playroom."

The virtual playroom allows customers to "try before they buy" selected products in a three-dimensional setting. FAO.com visitors can view potential purchases at 360-degree angles. Consumers download the Pulse Player plug-in from the FAO.com site to their desktop, and once a toy is selected, the virtual toy will come to life and perform various actions.

"FAO Schwarz's long-standing success is attributed to its dedication to offer customers a place to not only shop, but to interact and become an active player in the entire shopping experience," said Bud Johnson, CEO of FAO Schwarz. "With the relaunch of FAO.com, we're providing consumers of all ages with an 'FAO virtual world.' It is truly a magical place."

Using the Allaire Internet Business Platform and custom-developed middleware from PageDigital, professional services company marchFIRST built FAO.com to offer a more intuitive and improved online shopping experience.

The site now offers easy-to-access menus, shortcuts and listings, which are itemized by specific category, brand, character and FAO exclusive boutique. And, there are advanced search capabilities. Search terms include key word, toy category, brand, character, age, gender, price and FAO exclusive merchandise.

FAO.com will also offer real-time online inventory status, so that all visitors will know which items are in stock and which ones are not. In addition, the site now offers "persistent shopping." With it, customers can now select from an array of items, add them to their "shopping bag," and if in a hurry, come back at a later date to pick up where they left off, finish the checkout process and complete their purchase.