Hamleys has given its world-famous Regent Street store a makeover.
The shop stayed open throughout its first refit in 12 years.
Hamleys will promote the redesign when it unveils its predictions for this year’s top Christmas toys on June 28th, but ToyNews was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour in advance.
“We really believe this is the best toy shop in the world,” said Hamleys head of retail and marketing Nigel Wheatley. “And we would know – we’ve been to most of them.”
The store plays up to its reputation as a tourist destination by welcoming customers with an opening ceremony every day. That type of theatre is central to Hamleys’ approach to retail.
A mantra for the redesign was to “think like a seven year-old,” said Wheatley. “Because the difference is, when a child buys a toy at Hamleys, they remember where they bought it.”
The retailer has also recently expanded its events offering, which ranges from luxurious birthday parties to overnight stays where kids get the entire toy shop to themselves.
Wheatley explained: “It’s what the customers tell us they want. They don’t want mass-market, they want to create a memory when they come to Hamleys. That’s so important and we’ve made the store reflect that.”
Floors are now themed to represent toy categories, while footpaths and staircases have been widened, and extra pay points added.
Pre-school is Hamleys biggest category, so it has been placed in the prime first-floor location.
Within the floors, sub categories have been arranged to make the browsing experience more seamless. Sales of children’s books had seen a boost since being positioned adjacent to electronic learning products from LeapFrog and VTech.
Hamleys has also worked with suppliers to create unique fittings.
“This is probably the best showcase for their brand in the world,” added head of buying and planning Laura Olver. “We’ve worked pretty closely with the big key partners to make sure that, within the Hamleys design, we’ve really maximised their brand.”
Toy brands are now housed within a general golden theme and logos are suffixed with the phrase ‘At Hamleys’.
Colin Morrisey, Hamleys’ head of VM and design, explained: “Over the years it had become a patchwork of different brand treatment. On some floors it actually looked like a house of brands – it could’ve been an old Woolworths. It’s still about promoting the brands, but it’s within the Hamleys umbrella.”
Despite the economic climate, Hamleys is growing exponentially. Operating in eight different territories, Hamleys will have 19 stores by summer next year, and the team behind this refurbishment will build all franchise stores.
“That’s attractive for a franchisee,” added Wheatley. “Although there are things in this store which we can’t do in other locations – the DNA of what we do here will run through all of our stores.
“The best way to get a reaction from a child is to play with them. We were doing that before, but now we’re doing it in a really professional way, a world class way.”