[LONDON] The ending of China's one-child policy presents an opportunity for toy stores, and under its new Chinese owners London's Hamleys is determined to capitalise.
The retailer, famed for its 135-year-old flagship store on London's Regent Street, plans a rapid expansion in the world's most-populous nation, where it sees potential for more than 100 shops, according to chief executive officer Gudjon Reynisson.
After starting with an outlet in Nanjing this year, it will target more high-density cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Xuzhou and Hangzhou in 2017.
Hamleys' owner, Hong Kong-based C banner International Holdings Ltd, sees an opportunity because of "the children policy and growth that they're seeing in the toy market," the retailer's marketing head Mark Drummond said in a joint interview with Mr Reynisson in London.
After replacing its decades-old one-child policy with a two-child limit in January, China has become more attractive to sellers of toys, diapers and baby food.
Under its fourth owner since being taken private in 2003, Hamleys isn't the only business looking to the Asian country for growth.
Toys R Us Inc plans to double its number of stores there to 200 within three years, while UK fashion label Cath Kidston is eyeing more than 100 Chinese branches after being bought by private equity firm Baring Asia.
The Chinese push is part of a wider international expansion for Hamleys, which was bought by footwear seller C banner for 100 million pounds (S$174.06 million) earlier this year.
After opening its first store outside Europe in 2008, the retailer is approaching 100 outlets across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Last week, it opened the 7,000 square-metre Nanjing shop, along with outlets in South Africa and India.
Next year, the retailer's international stores will leave its London flagship "in the dust," Mr Reynisson said in the interview.