Three packed retail units in central London prove that physical stores still have a unique attraction for paying customers. What can fashion retailers learn from Hamleys, The Lego Store and M&M’s World?
On a drab February morning in Leicester Square, London, smiling security staff chat to the queue of people waiting in the cold to enter the Lego Store. Just 30m away, straight across the pedestrianised plaza of this tourist heartland, M&M’s World is packed with families wanting to get a chocolate fix and more. A short 15 minutes’ walk past Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street, the seven floors of the imposing Hamleys toy store are, as usual, crowded with excited children and attentive adults. Welcome to London’s kids-focused stores that are big, bold and very busy.
Hamleys – The Finest Toy Shop in The World is its slogan – is the veteran here, having been established in 1760 by William Hamley and located at its current site since 1881. Its foreign neighbours are newcomers, with M&M’s World having opened in 2011 and Lego arriving in November 2016. The footfall is impressive; in 2016 the M&M’s store welcomed 5.3 million “guests”, aka “customers”. Hamleys attracts around 5.5m a year. Lego is yet to reveal the footfall at what is, at 914sq m (9840sq ft), the largest Lego Store in the world.
So, what can fashion retailers take from this trio? Sportswear International examines some lessons to be learned.
Brand Identity & Authority
While it sells some own-label products, Hamleys primarily sells brands, while the other two stores sell exclusively their own-label lines. For the Danish building brick firm and the American chocolate drop producer, their respective corporate colours and logos are prominent, meaning that you can recognise the shop without seeing the name over the door. This is a powerful communication tool to any target audience.
Hamleys enthusiastically promotes its red-and-white logo, not least on the large flags that can spotted from a long way down Regent Street. The toy store asserts its authority by stocking a bewildering selection of toy brands, from internationally well-known such as Steiff, Playmobil, Fisher-Price and yes, even Lego, to more specialist lines and to cheaper suppliers.
Lego and M&M’s state their authority with a huge array of products. You can buy, among other things, M&M’s pyjamas, back-packs, plastic crockery and mini-basketball hoops. Among the esoteric Lego goods are trays for ice cubes shaped like bricks, jelly moulds, and salt-and-pepper sets.
There are clever collaborations too. Hamleys devotes almost its entire lower ground floor to Star Wars merchandise and also has a “club” for collectors of Steiff stuffed animals (at £4,000, a Steiff lion is the most expensive single item in Hamleys at the time of writing). Lego also makes shrewd strategic alliances, with Star Wars co-branded kits, along with those for DC Comics and Marvel Super Heroes, Batman, Ghostbusters and The Angry Birds Movie.
There is a seductive confidence in the packed shelves and display units – the overt message is “We are the experts in building bricks / chocolate drops / toys”.
Read the whole story in our latest magazine issue #279 here.