THE PLACE WHERE MAGIC HAPPENS
I hate shopping. Going around the city through thousands of people with bags, expensive coats and thick wallets isn’t really my thing. First because I don’t have a thick wallet. Second because it’s like being in a Heavy Metal concert but without music where elbowing and moshing are the key words for survival.
My niece has specifically asked Santa Claus for a girl teddy bear to keep company to her Teddy boy which she received few years ago. I have no choice but to conquer the streets of Oxford Circus to get her present. The weekend before Xmas.
I come out from the tube, waved by a beautiful sun. I wave back. Smell of hot waffles and biscuits reaches my nostrils. Instead of Heavy Metal all I can hear is the pumping music from Tezenis, H&M and Topshop. People queuing to get in and out, rushing through one shop to the other.
I know where to go to get her teddy. 7 floors of dreams and joy for kids, Hamleys.
In front of it, very well trained employees shout out magic words shooting soap bubbles all over regent’s street. People flowing inside. I am greeted by a Santa helper, which helpfully gives me a bag to fill up with very expensive toys. Such a nice helper.
Everything is magic, from the music to the blinking lights. The best thing about Hamleys is the staff. I’m sure they take drugs. Cocaine or Crack I don’t know. They are over the top all the time, with a great smile in their face and looooads of energy. Every floor is for a different age range and sex. The one for girls only with barbies and dolls, the one with video games or legos.
There are few desks where the staff on crack shows how some toys work. Planes, “spider man” cars climbing walls, fake plastic fishes that swim with you while bathing, all kind of crazy shit.
I finally manage to get the the 3rd floor where Build a Bear department is. It’s the place where you can make your own best friend. You can choose through a different variety of teddy bears. Once chosen, Santa little Helper will help you stuff it, either soft, medium or hard. Before closing the bear, you get an heart, close it into your hand make a wish and put it inside the teddy bear. After this, you can choose its clothes, shoes and accessories, obviously.
I have half an hour to wait before my teddy bear can be stuffed.
On the right there’s a man in very smart clothes. He’s been probably sent by his wife to get clothes for the teddy’s daughter. He’s on the phone with her, discussing which dress or shoes to get. He’s there since more than half an hour. He has 3 or 4 different teddy’s skirts and describes them to his wife. You can see how much he doesn’t have a clue. How can he choose teddy bear’s clothes?
In front of me there are 2 sisters with respectively 2 teddy bears waiting to be stuffed. You can see their eyes shining, they are happy to be there. They are giggling and smiling. The Santa helper calls them and asks them to take a heart each one of them. “Close you eyes and make a wish”. They do it and insert the heart in the teddy bear. Santa’s helpers know how to do their job. “would you like your teddy bear to have a voice?” The mum looks terrified as if she knew it would cost even more but she can’t say no now. They obviously say yes. Only £4.99 more. “Would you like your teddy bear to have a heart beat?” Only £4.99 more.
Around me lots of children with shining eyes waiting for the right moment to ask their parents, “please please please can you buy me this?”. Oh Hamleys, you just know how to make their parents spend their wage.
It’s my turn, I get my teddy stuffed, put the heart, choose its clothes and £50 later I’m finally out (the guy on the phone was still there choosing clothes by the way).
Hamleys is in my top chart for brand experience 2014. Know you target and make a whole world around them. From the moment you enter to the moment you go out, children and parents are immersed into a dream like experience. Hamleys isn’t selling toys, it’s selling happiness and childhood for all ages.
But I prefer to think it’s just a magical place where I love to go.