Monday, December 14, 2009

Hamley's to open store by February

Famed British toy retailer Hamleys will make its India debut with a 22,000-square-feet store at the popular Phoenix Mills in Mumbai, by February next year.

Reliance Retail, which has a 20-year-franchise agreement with the retailer, will set up 20 stores in the first seven years of the agreement.

Besides Mumbai, other cities on the retailer's list include Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai in the first phase of the launch. The second store, says Bijou Kurien, president & chief executive, lifestyle division, Reliance Retail, will be launched in Chennai by June next year. This will be a smaller store, roughly 12,000-square-feet in size. “Stores in Delhi and Bangalore will come up next, but we will first monitor the performance of the first two stores,” says Kurien.

Hamleys’ flagship store in Regent Street, London, is a five-storey-structure, over 54,000-square-feet in size. Other Hamleys stores in the UK and rest of the world are slightly smaller. The franchise agreement with the 248-year-old retailer will allow Reliance Retail to use the latter's branding, store design and best practices when setting up outlets in the country. “They will also provide training to staff in soft skills etc,” says Kurien.

Hamleys was acquired by Baugur, the Icelandic investor that also owns Oasis and House of Fraser, for £47 million in 2003 and has since set its sights on international expansion. However, so far, the group only has a small presence in Denmark but has opened a few stores in West Asia.

Brand experts said as a British institution that may possibly be as well known overseas as at home, Hamleys is likely to enjoy a head-start in many of its planned new markets. The Regent Street shop is in fact one of London's 10 most popular tourist destinations and is visited by four million people a year. Moreover, Hamleys prides itself on a history of breaking down cultural barriers. In 1909, for instance, it became the first store in Britain to sell a novelty from China called ping pong.

Reliance Retail will not only stock Hamleys merchandise, but also products that are exclusively available to the UK retailer.

Besides, allied national brands from manufacturers such as Mattel, Funschool etc will also be available at the outlets. “The overarching branding will be Hamleys. But there will be space available in the store for allied brands,” says Kurien.

Some of the 20 stores will be located in tier-two cities as well.

The toy retail market in India is roughly Rs 2,500-3,000-crore in size. Of this, about 25 per cent comprises the branded market. The balance 75 per cent is made up of imported toys and products manufactured locally. The total toy retail market, say experts, is growing at 10-12 per cent per annum in the country. But the branded portion has the potential to grow even faster at 25 per cent, they add.

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