BUSINESS Clas­sic Lon­don toy re­tailer de­lights chil­dren in Nan­jing

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - Dai Tian and Xue Bai in Lon­don con­trib­uted to this story. By CHRIS PETERSON in Lon­don chris@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

For decades, Ham­leys, on Lon­don’s Re­gent Street, did bat­tle with FAO Sch­warz, based on New York’s Fifth Av­enue, for the ti­tle of world’s most pres­ti­gious toy store.

Now, just a lit­tle more than a year after FAO Sch­warz closed its doors for good, a vic­tim of soar­ing rents, Ham­leys has gained a newlease on life un­der Chi­nese own­er­ship — the open­ing of a mas­sive new su­per­store in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, timed to co­in­cide with China’s Na­tional Day hol­i­day, which be­gan on Satur­day.

Plans were also an­nounced for more than 100 new stores through­out China in cities in­clud­ing Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

The Nan­jing store main­tains the same stan­dard for toys found in the Re­gent Street flag­ship. Shop­pers can visit four floors spread over 7,000 square me­ters at the Xin­jiekou San­power Plaza, a ver­i­ta­ble fairy-tale king­dom.

Ham­leys CEO Gud­john Reynis­son, clutch­ing one of Ham­leys’ iconic teddy bears, said at the Nan­jing open­ing: “We have been pre­par­ing to en­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket for the past 256 years in­Lon­don.”

An­a­lysts made it clear that Ham­leys was also look­ing to cash in on the lat­est shift in the Chi­nese fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy — al­low­ing two chil­dren.

Toy im­ports into China surged 38.27 per­cent in 2015, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua News Agency, cit­ing the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms.

“With the in­creased con­sump­tion level, the role of Chi­nese chil­dren in toy se­lec­tion be­comes crit­i­cal,” Zhou Qin, a pro­fes­sor at South­east Uni­ver­sity In­dus­trial Eco­nom­ics Re­search Cen­ter, told Xin­hua.

HongKong-listed re­tail­erC Ban­ner In­ter­na­tional Hold­ings ac­quired Ham­leys in Oc­to­ber last year from France’s Lu­dendo Groupe, which had owned it for two years. C Ban­ner is a strate­gic part­ner of San­power, which has a ma­jor stake in­House of Fraser, a Bri­tish depart­ment store chain.

C Ban­ner paid 100 mil­lion pounds ($127.5 mil­lion) in cash for the iconic Bri­tish toy store, which has been trad­ing for 256 years.

An­a­lysts say the key to Ham­leys’ con­tin­u­ing suc­cess has been its abil­ity to main­tain a pow­er­ful brand over the years. Tra­di­tional prod­ucts such as teddy bears, toy trains and model cars are still on the shelves, while at the same time the re­tailer hasn’t lost sight of the grow­ing ap­petite among con­sumers for more up-to-date elec­tronic and dig­i­tal items.

“My par­ents took me to Ham­leys. I took my chil­dren. And­nowthey are tak­ing their chil­dren,” said Richard Page, a fa­ther of two from Green­wich in South­east Lon­don.

“The key thing is that there’s al­ways a slightly won­der­ful at­mos­phere which kids love. It’s a treat for them, but there’s con­ti­nu­ity, too. The model elec­tric trains that I re­mem­ber as a kid are still there.”

Ham­leys traces its roots back to 1760, when Wil­liam Ham­ley founded a toy store in Lon­don’s High Hol­born. The shop moved to its Re­gent Street site in the heart of Lon­don’sWest End shop­ping dis­trict in 1881.

Ham­leys’ at­trac­tion for gen­er­a­tions of par­ents and chil­dren in Lon­don has been the hands-on as­pect of the shop, with kids al­lowed to try toys and han­dle them.

WANG LUXIAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

The newly opened Ham­leys in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, gives chil­dren a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence.

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