Last fall, not long after FAO Schwarz returned to New York City with a new flagship store, the toy industry was buzzing with news that another icon might be plotting an outpost in the Big Apple — Hamleys.
A UK staple with a lineage that dates back to 1760 when William Hamley opened “Noah’s Ark” — the retailer was said to be nearing a deal to open a two-story U.S. flagship at 2 Herald Square. At the time, sources said that the deal was expected to close early this year, with a target opening in 2020. Now, Hamleys has a new owner.
Earlier this month, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Brands Ltd. acquired Hamleys Global Holdings Ltd., which operates 167 stores across 18 countries. In India, Reliance has held the master franchise license for the retailer, operating 88 stores in 29 cities.
“Over the last few years, we have built a very significant and profitable business in toy retailing under the Hamleys brand in India,” says Darshan Mehta, president and CEO of Reliance Brands. “The 250-year-old English toy retailer pioneered the concept of experimental retailing, decades before the concept of creating unique experiences in brick and mortar retailing became the new norm. The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail. Personally, it is a long-cherished dream come true.”
As Reliance takes charge with ambitions of becoming a global player in toy retailing, it remains to be seen if Hamleys’ Herald Square project will move forward. The company already has a North American presence with several stores in Mexico. Will the U.S. and Canada be next?