Hamleys CEO set to step down after just seven months

Published on: 18th August 2020

David Smith was appointed in January this year. 

Hamleys CEOThe chief executive of Hamleys is set to leave his role at the end of August, a mere seven months after Reliance Brands, the retailer’s Indian owner, appointed him. Reports indicate that no reason for his sudden departure has been given, and that neither David Smith – a former executive at Debenhams and The Body Shop – nor Hamleys could be reached for comment. It is not yet known who will take over the role.

Reliance Brands bought Hamleys in May 2019 from C.banner International, a Chinese company which had owned the business for more than three years. The £70m sale was Hamleys’ fourth change of ownership in 15 years; a number of previous international shareholders had tried and failed to expand the brand globally before C.banner acquired it.

The toy retailer has suffered badly during the pandemic; its London flagship store was forced to temporarily shutter during lockdown, and the lack of tourism and lower footfall has continued to impact sales. Street performers are one way in which Hamleys is attempting to lure shoppers off the pavement and into its Regent Street store, but shoppers are slow to return.

The same is true of London’s West End retail scene in general. Figures from the New West End Company (NWEC), which represents 600 businesses in Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Mayfair, indicates that consumer footfall in this area is -63% down on this time last year. The group has warned that London’s prime shopping area will miss out on £5b of sales this year – a 50% drop on 2019 – which could lead to 50,000 job losses.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of NWEC, commented: “It’s the worst that I have ever seen. In every boardroom decisions are being made. It’s weeks, not months away as to which stores they’ll close, how many redundancies they will make, and that’s why it is so fragile and precarious right now.”


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