Philippine Daily Inquirer / 02:35 AM December 20, 2014
Just in time for Christmas, SSI Group Inc., a top specialty retailer in the Philippines, brings the iconic toy brand Hamleys to the Philippines.
The first store opens Saturday, Dec. 20, 12 p.m. at Central Square, Bonifacio High Street in BGC, Taguig.
For over 250 years, Hamleys has been associated with children’s smiles and laughter.
Growing up in Cornwall, England, William Hamley could have become a tin miner or a fisherman. But he had other ideas.
He dreamed of opening the best toy shop in the world. In 1760, he opened a shop, cramming “Noah’s Ark” with every kind of toy, from rag dolls to tin soldiers. Above the din of the street-sellers’ calls and horses’ hooves ringing on the cobbles, one could hear the delighted cries of children as they were drawn to the store window.
By the time Victoria became Queen of England in 1837, Hamleys was already a London landmark. Families flocked to William’s “Joy Emporium.”
So successful was the shop that in 1881 a new branch opened on Regent Street. To cope with the public’s growing appetite for playthings, Hamleys added five floors of toys. Toy theaters, puppets, pedal cars and miniature railway trains jostled for space in the largest toy shop in the world.
Hamleys faced hard times in the late 1920s, as with the rest of the world. In 1931, the picture looked bleak and the shop was forced to close, its fleet of horse-drawn delivery vans stopped.
But the story has a happy ending. Walter Lines, chairman of the Tri-Ang company, bought Hamleys and worked hard to bring the customers back.
In 1938, his efforts were rewarded. Queen Mary gave Hamleys the Royal Warrant. Even the bombings during World War II—the store was bombed five times—did not put an end to Hamleys. Wearing tin hats, the staff served at the shop entrance, rushing in to collect the toys, then handing them over at the door.
The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought a Grand Doll’s Salon as well as a vast model railway to amaze children, as well as their mothers and fathers.
Ascending to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II showed she still remembered the toys her grandmother had given her. She in turn gave Hamleys toys to her own children.
In 1955, the Queen honored Walter Lines with a second Royal Warrant as a “Toys and Sports Merchant.”
Today, Hamleys is in its famous location at 188-196 Regent Street, London.
In the Philippines, Hamleys is exclusively distributed by Stores Specialists Inc. (SSI), a member of the SSI Group.