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World famous toy store to open in Mumbai

india Updated: Jan 21, 2010 15:59 IST
Naomi Canton
Naomi Canton
Hindustan Times
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One of the world’s largest toy shops Hamleys is set to open up inside High Street Phoenix. Hamleys, which is renowned not just for its wide range of branded toys, but providing a magical experience to children, is opening up in Mumbai in an exclusive franchise agreement with Reliance Lifestyle Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Reliance Retail Ltd.

The first flagship store will open up in the former bowling alley premises above Barista at the High Street Phoenix complex in March.
It will be a 21,000 square feet single storey store, with a mezzanine level, stocking the Hamleys own-brand range of toys, as well as imported brands such as Mattel, Hasbro, Disney, Fisher-Price and Lego.

“Many renowned international brands will launch in India for the first time at our store,” says Sudhir Pai, vice president and head of Hamleys Business (India).

Prices will range from Rs 30 for a tub of play dough to Rs 29,000 for a ride-on mini Mercedes, F1 or Porsche car.

The store will also sell everything from action figures to dolls, stuffed toys, books, DVDs, PlayStations, Xboxes, board games, puzzles, role-play kits, remote-controlled cars and licensed character paraphernalia, such as Thomas The Tank Engine and Barbie, targeting children aged two to 14.

“All the toys in the store will conform to EU safety standards, which is not the case currently with many of the unbranded toys from China that are sold in India.

“Toy shops here are nothing to write home about – most are just 200 to 300 square feet, barely in a position to offer a range, leave alone the experience” says Pai.

The Hamleys iconic Regent Street store in London, which celebrates its 250th anniversary, this year, is a major UK tourist attraction.
Staff flow bubbles at children, as they throng the seven-storey 54,000 square feet store. Each floor has sections dedicated to different categories of toys, and the experience is always far more than shopping.

Children can be found looking at the soft toys ranging from cheetahs to turtles. On other floors, remote-controlled helicopters whiz above them, operated by the store’s toy demonstrators, or they can be found watching trains chugging along a miniature railway track.
A similar unforgettable experience awaits shoppers in Mumbai, Pai promises.

An escalator has already been built to carry shoppers to the Mumbai flagship store.

Apart from shelves of toys, it will boast a racing track where children can race remote-controlled vehicles, a tree house packed with all shapes and sizes of teddy bears and a life-size Barbie dolls house that kids can walk into. There will also be a red London bus, a party room for themed parties which giant teddies can attend, a Sweet World selling confectionary, a Barbie salon where girls can have a makeover and nail art, and a Kodak shop allowing families to have pictures taken behind dramatic settings. There is every chance they will bump into a lifelike teddy bear, or magician too.

“Phoenix Mills already has a footfall of 35,000 to 40,000 on an average per day and if we can get just 10 per cent of that, we’ll be happy,” Pai adds.

He says they plan to open further Hamleys stores across India.

William Hamley opened the first Hamleys in High Holborn in 1760, named Noah’s Ark.

His dream was to create the world’s finest toy shop and to help reach his goal, he filled his cramped shop with every toy he could find from rag dolls to tin soldiers, and hoops to wooden horses.

Its continuing success led to Hamley’s grandsons opening a bigger branch in Regent Street a few decades later in 1881.

During World War II the Regent Street store was bombed five times. But staff continued selling toys wearing tin hats.

Outside the UK, Hamleys has three stores in Denmark, one in Ireland and a franchise store each in Jordan and Dubai. Mumbai will be its seventh global store.

The London store
The Regent Street store welcomes 50 lakh visitors every year.
Three trained magicians work in store at any given time.
Hamley London sells a teddy bear every two minutes and since its opening in 1760, has sold over 13 million.
Five crore bubbles are blown in the store every year.
A Hamleys toy helicopter spends six hours a day in the air at the London store