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CASE STUDY How implementing a new digital solution for iconic toy retailer Hamleys proved child’s play

Hamley's Regents Street (Image: Hamley's)

The oldest and largest toy shop in the world, Hamley’s was named after toy-enthusiast William Hamley who founded Noah’s Ark toy shop in London in 1760. After a name change, Hamleys quickly became a famous landmark, with families flocking from all over the country to visit the ‘joy emporium.’

Another store – bombed five times during the Second World War – opened in London’s Regent Street in 1881, before the company moved to its current premises a few doors away in 1981, now greeting around five million visitors each year. 

Bought by Indian retail company, Reliance Retail in 2019 it operates more than 90 international franchises, with stores in the UK, India, Russia, South Africa and Mexico.

In 2020, Hamleys teamed up with Redbox to create a new digital ecommerce experience that would support a new chapter of its story.

“We needed a true partner, not just a solution provider. Redbox were the right choice and their accelerate framework allowed us to get up-and-running quickly on a new Adobe Commerce platform, as timelines were tight,” explains Deval Shah, Group Vice President, Reliance Brands Ltd

When Reliance Industries acquired Hamleys in 2019, it set out three priorities: redefine the Regent Street flagship store; overhaul merchandising and planning and invest in the company’s digital operations.

The existing website was a home-grown platform unable to meet the company’s goals.  Adobe Commerce was a popular platform choice due to the ability to manage, customise and create scalability. It was seen as the most robust of the platforms that were looked at, and from a cost, implementation and maintenance point of view, met their requirements.

The company met three Adobe partners, and Redbox was by far the most experienced and knowledgeable. Redbox Accelerate programme was also a deciding factor.

Deval Shah, Group Vice President, Reliance Brands Ltd said: “A key criteria, along with the developer skill-set and knowledge, was the chemistry. We needed to know whether we could work with the agency and development team. Our first meeting with Redbox was great – we found them easy to work with, open to suggestions and learning,” he says.

Shah adds: “Timelines were tight and the accelerate programme offered ‘out-of-the-box’ pre-developed modules, plug-and-play.  There are lots of aspects of the programme that are ‘ready-made,’ enabling a quicker time-to-market. This squeezes time-lines, and cost.”

Hamleys’ ERP system, Microsoft Dynamics 365, was integrated, along with other partner solutions included payment provider Adyen.

Deval says: “Our conversations were productive and honest.  We appreciated the valuable feedback from Redbox on how we should approach various challenges such as the right payment gateway to use, the security features and the way we should manage content.”

The website development and development of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solution were carried out at the same time, presenting some minor challenges that were overcome.

Deval says: “The two developments were implemented together and in hindsight I would have phased it. The sequencing in large technology developments is not easy. To bring everyone and all work streams together, was a challenge.”

Another issue involved our existing site being compromised with teams needing to work together to stop any further leakage and prevent GDPR issues.

Deval adds: “It was a challenging but productive two days.  There were no compliance issues in the end, but it made you realise that you had a partner that would stand by you and do everything possible to resolve the issue.”

Results since launch

The site was launched on the 11 December 2020 and feedback has been positive. Customers say the site is ‘fresh,’ ‘intuitive,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘interactive.’

Deval says: “We’ve been living in unusual times.  The store re-opened in April, but we’ve had fulfilment and merchandising challenges as our partners grappled with Covid. From a numbers perspective there has been a marginal improvement on last year, which is incredible given the climate.  This data is skewed due to the pandemic and lockdown in the UK.”

“One of our briefs was that the site had to talk to two separate audiences and provide for customer journeys accordingly. It had to be more discovery-led for children and more functional for the parent or gift-giver. We feel we have got this balance perfectly.”

Deval concludes: “We are looking at extending the project to all the worldwide franchise partners of the brand in the next year and will integrate some digital solutions in the brick and mortar stores. We have had great support from Redbox and have just finished an add-on project for various Phase 1 CRs. Communication has been excellent throughout and I’m looking forward to continuing this relationship into the future.”

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