Overseas boom sees Hamleys toy with further expansion

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Hamleys eyed further overseas expansion yesterday after strong demand for toys based on Harry Potter and other films over Christmas left it on track for a record year.

The 250-year-old store chain said its eight outlets in the UK and Ireland saw sales growth of 3.6 per cent in the four weeks to Christmas Day.

And its overseas boom continued after its stores in Dubai, India, Denmark, India and Cyprus, notched up a 22.4 per cent rise.

Last month it also opened a new store in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh and said more overseas openings are planned for this year.

The group said traditional toys, such as teddies, sold well and other best sellers included spin-offs from the Harry Potter films such as the magician’s wand and glasses.

Hamleys is a traditional British brand but is mainly owned by nationalised Icelandic bank Landsbanki, which took over Baugur’s stake when the investment group collapsed in the recession.

Bracken, a private equity group run by financier David Rowland, who is one of Britain’s richest men, owns a minority stake.

The sales over Christmas were slightly slower than in the previous 35 weeks, but chief executive Gudjon Reynisson said he was “very pleased” with the performance in light of the “difficult economic environment”.

He added: “We are particularly encouraged by the success of our growing international business and with further store openings planned for this year, we anticipate 2012 being another record performance for the group as a whole.”

Hamleys has two stores in London, and others at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports, Glasgow and a designer outlet in York.

Christmas was difficult for toy retailers in the UK as consumers cut back on luxury items.