x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hamleys playing for keeps with Dubai

Hamleys, one of the oldest toy companies in the world, will open a second store in Dubai after posting a 52 per cent surge in like-for-like sales in the emirate this Christmas.

Hamleys opened its first store in Dubai Mall in 2008 and will shortly open another one in the city's Mirdiff area.
Hamleys opened its first store in Dubai Mall in 2008 and will shortly open another one in the city's Mirdiff area.

Hamleys, one of the oldest toy companies in the world at 250 years, will open a second store in Dubai after posting a 52 per cent surge in like-for-like sales in the emirate this Christmas. The expansion plan marks the first time the UK toy retailer, which dates back to 1760, will have two stores in one city outside of Europe. The new branch will be in Mirdiff City Centre.

The toy store has attributed the surge in sales to its exclusive merchandise rights to Ben 10, the American cartoon character who uses a watch-like device to fight aliens. Hamleys Dubai, which opened in Dubai Mall in November 2008, is a franchise partnership with Retail Arabia International, which has the licensing rights to Oscar de la Renta and the jeweller David Morris. "Here in the Middle East, we have a very young population and consumers with high spending power, which makes us a top market for the toy trade," said Nabil Daoud, the managing director and chief executive of Retail Arabia International.

"The impressive sales at Hamleys Dubai - provide a solid basis for further expansion in the region." Consumers have restricted their spending since the start of the economic slowdown, but toy and grocery sales have defied the trend. The toy industry in the Middle East is growing by almost 12 per cent a year and is worth an estimated $1.5 billion (Dh5.51bn), data from the market intelligence firm Euromonitor showed.

Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst at Shuaa Capital, said toy sales were unlikely to be affected by the financial climate as toy companies had aimed for middle-income families with budget-friendly toys, and arranged products by price and special offers. "Two things that are critical to the success of the toy industry in this climate are value products and customer service," Mr Gally said. "Customers are now value-driven and more sensitive to prices. Gone are the times when you can go crazy with prices.

"Parents want to make sure their kids have the right toys. Companies that are very specialised and come to the region and establish their footprints get the first-move advantage. "[Toy retailers] see these models, with lots of potential for them, even in difficult times." The original Hamleys store is on Regent Street in London and attracts up to 5 million visitors a year. Celebrating its 250th birthday next month, the store houses seven floors of toys and games.

In the UK, the company posted an 11.6 per cent increase in Christmas like-for-like sales last year. "We are delighted with the performance of the business during this important trading period and for the whole financial year," said Gudjon Reynisson, the chief executive of Hamleys. "The festive season sales figures were very strong, with our flagship store in Regent Street having its best season on record."

Hamleys opened a branch in Amman, Jordan in 2008, and is exploring possibilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and India. @Email:halsayegh@thenational.ae