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 Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Fri 23 Oct 2015, 09:31

Not quite dead, but what does life have in store for Hamley's now that it is being bought by a Chinese shoe manufacturer?

William Hamley, a Cornishman destined for the tin mines but who left for London at 20 years of age in 1760 instead and fulfilled his dream of opening a toy shop, would be aghast, I think, at this latest twist in his once beloved legacy. There are some things which, without being nationalistic or smug about it, Britons could both point to as evidence of their civilised status and assume would always shine as beacons of solidity and steadfastness in turbulent times. Not least amongst these, for over 250 years, has been Hamley's.



Hamley's first shop was situated in High Holborn and until its demise in a fire in 1901 was known affectionately by generations of Londoners as "Noah's Ark", Hamley's original name for his "emporium of frivolity", as the rather starchy Times once described it in an editorial criticising a Victorian trend towards pandering to children's annoying tendency to non-utilitarian superficiality (ie. toys). The picture above depicts a typical pre-Christmas assault on the boutique in the 1800s, a scene that anyone who has visited their Regent Street branch (now the recognised mothership of the brand) in recent generations would readily recognise.

The Nazis did their best to deprive the world of such a jewel - the Regent Street shop was bombed no less than five times through the war - and in latter years a succession of takeovers and its evolution into a holding company responsible for several other retail brands associated with "non-utilitarian superficiality" has transformed William's old toy shop into a world-wide franchise.

But at least throughout all its turbulent years two things remained constant - its stores ran under an ethos in which employees were taught from day one that the most important customers through the door should never be looked down upon merely because of their lack of height, and of course Hamley's "Britishness" (there is really no other word that can best apply) even though many may not realise that its actual ownership the last few years has been in the hands of a French consortium.

Now the giant Chinese footwear retailer, C.banner International Holdings, is poised to take over. And if the rumours are to be believed a "deep and revolutionary review" of the franchise by the new owners will see much sold off. Even the Regent Street outlet is not immune from this possibility, it has been rather dryly and harshly noted by CBIH when addressing potential investors on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

When William Hamley dreamed in Bodmin of once owning "the Finest Toy Store in the World" he had only one real ambition - to establish a career fueled by the happiness of children. I wonder how much of that simple aim remains to be found within the boardrooms, landscape offices and corridors of C.Banner International Holdings Ltd.?

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Fri 23 Oct 2015, 15:13

Awful affair and not just for small fry, I bought my first roulette wheel there. But toys 'ain't wot they uster be' as far as I can tell. It is small quirky shops that I have found the best away from the mass produced gunk. The best of these  became big sellers eventually, of course. Sad to lose it, yet I wonder if it will be as much missed now as it would have been 40 years ago.
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Fri 23 Oct 2015, 15:34

Never heard of them.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Fri 23 Oct 2015, 16:36

Never been to the London store but a Glasgow branch opened a few years ago. It didn't appear to be any different really from any other emporium selling vast quantities of garish plastic rubbish and seemed often to be quite a lot more expensive.
I liked the life-sized giraffe at the entrance though.
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Fri 23 Oct 2015, 17:46

In the good ol' days, it used to sell wonderous toys of quality that only the rich could afford- but still a joy to visit - I mean crafted rocking horse, dolls houses, beautiful soft toys and dolls with layers of clothes and models  and kits  and Pelham puppets - a treasure house. By the time I cold afford anything there I was too old - but they did have roulette wheels and grand gaming sets. But then I inever quite grew up. Any following remark on that aspect and its back to the Padded cell.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Sat 24 Oct 2015, 09:10

The closing of this shop in Oxford was sadder:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/7879055/Englands-oldest-ironmongers-shutting-after-nearly-500-years.html


Gill & Co in Oxford, which first opened in 1530, had survived the reigns of 20 monarchs, 76 Prime Ministers, the English Civil War and two World Wars .


However, it has fallen foul of the financial crisis and the rise of out-of-town superstores such as B&Q and Homebase.


Gill & Co originally opened its doors during the reign of Henry VIII but is the latest in a long line of independent stores in Oxford to have fallen victim to the economic slowdown.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Some Things Just Should Not Be Allowed Happen - Hamley's RIP   Sat 24 Oct 2015, 11:22

That was interesting Temp, about Gill & Co.

A quick google around seems to indicate that the oldest continually trading family business in the UK is RL Balson & Son (butchers) of Bridport, Dorset, that has been in the Balson family since 1515 when Robert Balson rented a market stall on Bridport Shambles. Today their premises are in West Allington, still in Bridport and not far from the location of the original meat market.



Japan seems to be the country with the most really long-lived companies, with about 20 businesses that were founded prior to 1300 ... one, Kongo Gumi Co. Ltd, a construction firm, was founded in 578, and was the world's oldest continuously operated independent company, until it was absorbed as a subsidiary of Takamatsu Construction Group in 2006 (though it still operates under the original name).

As regards the Chinese take-over of Hamleys ... I think I'd be more concerned by foreign ownership of the UK's railway network; water, sewerage and electricity companies; ports, airports and powerstations; schools, universities and museums; steelworks and car manufacturers etc ... than about a toy shop.
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