Anyone who has ever been to London, if only for a few days, would have walked past the iconic toy shop, Hamleys on Regent Street. This world famous toy shop has enchanted kids (and more than a few adults including yours truly) for generations since it was founded in 1760. It wasn’t until 1881 though that it was moved to Regent Street. The number of toys in Hamleys London is staggering as you can find 40,000 different toys across its 7 floors. Being spoilt for choice is an understatement here.
Just mention the name “Hamleys” to anyone who has been to the store and I am sure their eyes will light up. It’s easy to have a pleasant memory of the store as you forget all your daily woes as soon as you step through its doors and are transported to the magical land of toys.
Through its 250+ years history, Hamleys has brought cheer to so many kids. It’s long become a trusted worldwide brand. Hamleys promotes customer loyalty and brand growth through its unique approach to retailing, including instore entertainment, toy demonstration, colourful and engaging store design combined with Hamleys own brand of toys. Hamleys has around 55 million visitors every year. Those who walk through its doors are greeted by Hamley and Hattie bear (they are siblings, btw) watch a puppet show or take part in a magic trick.
In 2013, Hamleys extended significantly further than their flagship store in London. Hamleys is now a global brand with 30 stores across 12 countries and territories including Russia, India, United Arab Emirates and Scandinavia.
Hamleys stores outside of the UK and Ireland are operated by franchise partners who are supported by the Hamleys UK team. The Hamleys UK support includes store development, staff training and product selection to ensure the Hamleys experience is delivered locally, guaranteeing fun events, quality toys and memories to cherish.
The local partner in Malaysia, GRV Toy Store (GRV) aims to open at least 5 Hamleys toyshops in the next 5 years.Toys available at Hamleys include arts & crafts, action toys, build it, dolls, games, outdoor, preschool, soft toys and vehicles.
In conjunction with the opening of the first Hamleys flagship store in Malaysia that spreads over 20,478 sq. ft, the first 500 shoppers will receive an Angry Bird card game worth RM20.90. On the opening day 30th November 2013, there will be Ben 10 Bloxx character walkabout and free popcorn samplings. There will be many opening offers, e.g., purchase a Transformer Beast Hunter Deluxe (RM59.90) and receive a free Beast Hunter Legion (RM24.90) and purchase a Playskool Step Start Walk & Ride (RM149.90) and receive a Spiderman Vehicle (RM59,90).
This morning, I had a half hour chat with GRV’s Director, Mr. Kim Manaf.
What was the catalyst for GRV’s decision to bring in Hamleys?
Our company was looking to diversify from fashion brands and we had been to UK quite often so we experienced Hamleys first hand as a customer. Timing is key for every market. If we’d brought in Hamleys into Malaysia 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have worked as it was price driven then. Now people are ready to embrace new brands and through discussion with friends, it’s time someone came in (to the toy market) and offered an alternative to what is available presently. We feel that the time is right now and we want to bring in the excitement of Hamleys. The entire process of bringing in Hamleys took more than a year.
To what extent is the store going to be a replica of the flagship store?
From shopfit to concept to product mix, we can replicate. The part we are working hard to deliver is the interactive portion. In Hamleys London, you will see bubbles and a ringmaster shouting “Welcome to Hamleys” – we are trying hard to deliver that part. We will localise some aspects and work on replicating the interactive experience.
Are there any Hamleys house brand products?
There are Hamleys house brand toys which comprise 30% of all the toys in Hamleys. That is the point of differentiation. Hamleys toys are an exclusive brand which are popular. There are also seasonal Hamleys toys in limited numbers.
Are you going to implement online shopping?
Not at the moment. The market here is not like it is in Europe. Geographically, we are not too far off from the stores unlike US or Australia. We prefer “brick and mortar” to enhance the Hamleys experience.
What is the Hamleys experience?
If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “magic” for both adults and kids. As a dad, I feel bored looking around existing toy shops. Hamleys provides you the opportunity to relive your childhood days. Even dads will be excited by Hamleys exclusive train sets which are made to scale. We want parents to experience excitement as well. We will plan table soccer activities between dads and sons. We’d like to get parents involved and offer an alternative to electronic gadgets like iPads. We offer interactive experiences and face-to-face activities.
Will you be offering the same events as Hamleys UK, e.g. sleepovers, birthday parties?
There will be a party room at our flagship 1U store. We can conduct birthday parties for groups of 10-12 kids. It’s much more fun for kids to celebrate their birthday parties in a toy store. Parents can find their gifts at Hamleys. There will be activities like story telling. We can do themed parties like Barbie. This 20,478 sq. ft store is the biggest toy store in Malaysia.
How many of the Hamleys toys available in UK will be available here?
There will be about 10,000 toys in this store. Sabuteo table soccer game is one of the top 10 toys in the UK. We will localise the choices.
Will the 5 stores in 5 years all be in the Klang Valley?
For the other 4, we are planning one in Penang, one at KLIA to target regional travellers, one in the city centre and perhaps one in a suburban area in the Klang Valley. We don’t want to open a store just for the sake of opening a store. For example, there is only one IKEA and people come from near and far. People must look forward to coming to our stores. We want to offer a good quality experience so we have to restrict the number of stores.
What are the recommended toys for Christmas?
Plush toys are always popular, even for Valentine’s Day. Everyone loves giving and receiving plush toys. Plush toys are for all age segments.
Any events planned for Christmas?
Not specifically for Christmas but during the holiday season, we will have mascot appearances, block building competitions.
Any plans for a membership card/privileges?
We are working on the mechanics for this. We give guided tours to selected schools, run a programme with the schools to guide students on what marketing is about. Students write a paper and the winner gets a prize from Hamleys. The Hamleys Bear will be making appearances at hospitals’ pediatric wards, it lifts their spirits to be visited by the Hamleys mascot.
The Hamleys flagship store is located at Lot F319, 1st Floor, 1 Utama Shoping Mall, No. 1 Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama Damansara, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.