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Tue 16 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Toy story to capture Dubai’s festive fever

Hamleys' GCC franchise owner is "looking towards expanding the brand into Singapore" and UAE openings.

Retail Arabia's managing director and CEO Nabil Daud has revealed to Retail News it will open a 22,000ft² Hamleys store at Dubai's Mirdiff City Centre next year and "we are also looking for premises in Abu Dhabi".

"We hold the exclusive franchise for the GCC and we are also looking towards expanding the brand into Singapore," he said.

The 32,000ft² concept, flagship store at the Dubai Mall, which opened last month, has differentiated itself from rivals in the market by offering "more than a toy store; it's a toy emporium where children can play with their favourite toys and be marvelled by the live and interactive demonstrations of more than 100,000 toys which are on display," he said.

Staff training has been critical to the "phenomenal success" achieved at the store since its opening.

"We brought key members of the London Hamleys team to help train the team to the same standard as the original Hamleys. Toy demonstrations are very important too, they add an element of theatre to the experience, making it so much more than a store," he said.

"It has been very important for us to capture the magical atmosphere of the Hamleys brand so we have introduced exciting elements into the store like the giant-sized dollhouses, the bike racing track, the car dome and the mini replica of Regent Street to help create this," he added.

To keep the store experience "fresh and new", the company will roll out regular events, combined with the magic shows and performers within the "fun environment," he revealed.

The store's location at the Dubai Mall was influenced by "prestige. It's the most exclusive mall in the world and it's sure to become ‘the' destination in Dubai," he said.

Daud said that "no other toy store in Dubai, or even the world can claim the sort of pedigree" achieved by Hamleys' main store, located on London's Regent Street and ranking in the top 10 places for tourists in the UK with six million visitors annually.

The store has adapted Hamleys' stringent attitude towards safety, by only selling products that have EN71 or ASTM certificates, while the range has been adapted to suit the region such as the greater emphasis on outdoor toys and the introduction of the Fulla lines, the Arabic version of Barbie, which offers toys targeted at girls including prayer mats and abaya sets.

The big sellers so far have included pre-school, education and wooden toys, he said, and the company plans to extend Hamleys' own range, as "this is the only place you can find these toys outside the UK".

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