Hamleys, ‘the finest toy shop in the world’, has been sold to French retailer Groupe Ludendo in a deal worth around £60 million. Groupe Ludendo plans to use the brand to spearhead a global expansion focusing on the Middle East and Asia, with a particular emphasis on the growing Chinese market.
The company was founded in 1760 by William Hamley and moved to Regent Street in 1881. In 1938 Hamleys was granted the first of its two Royal Warrants by Queen Mary. The second was issued by the present Queen in 1955. Today Hamleys flagship store occupies a seven storey commercial property covering 54,000 square feet, attracting around five million visitors per year. It also has outlets in other UK locations and branches overseas including Copenhagen, Moscow and Mumbai.
Prior to the sale, Hamleys was controlled by nationalised Icelandic bank Landsbanki which owned 65 per cent of the company. Other shareholders include private equity firms which will also benefit from the sale. Rudolph Hidalgo, general manager of Ludendo, has ambitious plans for the Hamleys brand. He said he hoped that in the future there would be branches in “big capital cities all over the world.” At the same time he promised that Ludendo would retain the famous store’s ‘magical spirit.’
M. Hidalgo went on to say; “For people who are working in the toys world, it’s really a dream. Hamleys is such a wonderful brand and Regent Street is such a wonderful shop.”
However, at least one analyst is sceptical about the potential of using Hamleys as a vehicle for global expansion.
Neil Saunders, of retail consultancy Conlumino, told the FT; “A lot of tourists are aware of the brand but it doesn’t have as much resonance outside the UK.”
Ludendo began as a toy store in a suburb of Paris in 1977. Today it has over 300 stores in France, Belgium and elsewhere. Among its portfolio of retailers are the historic brands of La Grande Récré and Franz Carl Weber.