Toys, no child's play for Hamleys

R. RAVIKUMAR VINAY KAMATH | Updated on February 02, 2011

Mr Gudjon Reynisson, Global CEO, Hamleys. Photo : Bijoy Ghosh   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Gudjon Reynisson, CEO of Hamleys, is a happy man at the opening of the Hamleys store in Chennai, second after the one in Mumbai.

With a fairly low per capita consumption of toys in the country as compared to the US and China, Reynisson, a burly Icelander, expects the Indian market to grow by leaps and bounds.

He says the timing of the legendary toy retailer's foray into the country is just right and along with its franchise partner, Reliance Retail, expects to open 20 stores over the next six to seven years at an investment of Rs 125 crore.

Hamleys, which is owned by an Icelandic and a British bank, earned £75 million in sales last year, 20 per cent of which comes from its international stores.

Post launch of the Chennai store, Reynisson spoke briefly to BrandLine. Excerpts:

The way children play with toys has changed dramatically. How has Hamleys adapted to that change?

Children are more alike than different, wherever in the world. Computers have no doubt become more and more interesting for the children of today. This actually poses a challenge to toy brands such as Hamleys. But what we have decided is to stay loyal to the actual core of toys and certainly not to follow the trends that lead to the world of computer games.

But, in these changing times do children like to play with these toys?

Yes. Of course! Though they spend more and more time in front of the computer than we did at their age, once introduced to actual toys they surely like to play with them.

Children are children and they like what we did when we were young. It's only a question of exposure. Once they are introduced to the excitement of actual toys, they do enjoy. Exposure will certainly stimulate their interest.

How many stores does Hamleys have in all?

We have eight stores internationally and in the UK alone we have nine stores, of which four are small airport stores and five are regular stores.

Are you not in the US market or China?

No, we are not in the US market or China. We are now focusing on the Indian and West Asian markets. We are not in any rush to spread our footprint. We are more particular about delivering the Hamleys promise to children.

I have an eight-year-old son myself and he spends far too much time in front of the computer. But every time I bring him to a Hamleys store, he forgets about his computer.

What about airport stores here?

Yes. I would really like to open an airport store here. I have just seen the new airport terminal in Delhi. Airport stores actually do very well. A lot of impulse purchases for gifts and so on.

Will you invest in your venture with Reliance Retail? How large is the market for toys in India now?

It's a franchisee relationship with Hamleys (and Reliance) for a period of 20 years ... and all investments in these stores are from Reliance. Currently, the market is growing at 10-15 per cent on a size of Rs 1,500 crore.

Published on February 02, 2011

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