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Hong Kong economy

Hamleys to open its largest store in Beijing – just in time for Christmas

257-year-old toy retailer was acquired by Hong Kong-listed footwear firm in 2015

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 9:15pm

Hamleys, the world’s largest and oldest toy retailer, has announced the opening of its biggest store in Beijing, just in time for Christmas.

Founded in 1760 by William Hamleys in London, the company has 127 branches worldwide, including the store in Beijing’s bustling Wangfujing shopping area.

“To bring Chinese children a happy Christmas in 2017, we came, with many childhood wishes,” the company said on its WeChat account.

It was acquired in 2015 by Hong Kong-listed Chinese footwear retailer C.banner International Holdings for £100 million (US$153 million), in a move described by C.banner International as “an important first step of the company’s global branding strategies and its business diversification development plan”.

Following the acquisition, Hamleys opened a branch in Nanjing in 2016 and another in Xuzhou this year, both cities in China’s affluent eastern province of Jiangsu.

The Beijing store is undergoing a trial run, which started towards the end of last month, and the company has set December 23 as its official opening date, which will feature a grand parade in the store. With a floor space of 10,700 square metres, it is double the size of Hamleys’ London flagship store and spans five floors in one of Beijing’s busiest shopping districts.

The store will feature a giant carousel on its first floor – as seen on its official WeChat channel – while large areas will be reserved for children’s classes and playing facilities on the second floor.

A household name in the UK, Hamleys, originally called “Noah’s Ark”, sells toys ranging from rag dolls to tin soldiers, iron hoops to hobby horses. Its Beijing store will sell the same range of toys sold in the company’s branches worldwide.

Although China does not have a tradition of celebrating Christmas, the holiday has emerged as an occasion for Chinese and international companies, especially retailers, to cash in on the rising incomes of Chinese citizens.