Nursery Today magazine

Hamleys’ new owner plans two-year overhaul

An ambitious revamp under Reliance Industries aims to transform the ailing Regent Street location into the “finest toy shop in the world”

Ambitious plans for a major overhaul will make Hamleys’ iconic Regent Street store “the finest toy shop in the world”, according to its new owner, Reliance Industries.

Reliance chief executive Darshan Mehta told the Guardian that within the next two years, the historic London store will become the “toy retailing reference point in the world”.

The Indian conglomerate, already the world’s biggest Hamleys franchisee, acquired the toy retailer from its former Chinese owner C.banner earlier this year in a deal worth nearly £70m. Now, it says it “will do whatever it takes” to return the ailing store to the upper echelons of toy retail.

But don’t expected crystal chandeliers or gilded steam trains. “That’s not required,” Darshan says. Instead the focus will be placed on creating a environment that welcomes all.

“You have to be careful not to create something that is intimidating because one of the Hamleys’ secret ingredients has been that it welcomes all and sundry, from the super-rich – someone recently bought a £5,000 reindeer – to someone buying a £5 soft toy,” Darshan says.

Current success with licensed zones for Harry Potter and Disney will be a key component of the revamp, alongside a more dynamic layout that promises to shift and offer visitors a new experience each time they visit – “magically” changing every three months.

The aim is to offer something so radically different from online shopping that consumers will look beyond convenience. It’s a phenomenon all too familiar to Darshan and the Reliance team: “My own parent company has 360 million 4G subscribers.”

But he is confident the crowds will once again flock to Regent Street.

“They go out for experiences,” he says. “A visit to a Hamleys store is an experience.”

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