Profile: Hamleys’ FD Ian Parker

But, he also has to ensure Santa’s elves have stocked up the shelves of the huge West End shop to overflowing for the hordes of parents who are descending on the store in the rush before Christmas. Now with more than two years under his belt at Hamleys, Parker, 37, is still loving it. And not least because of his job. ‘Retail is exciting and more so with Hamleys. It’s a fantastic shop to go and play in. It’s a chance to delay growing up. And it’s actually more suited to adults than kids,’ he admits.

With his expanded role as FD – he now also deals with merchandising, warehouse and legal – he gets first dibs on playing with all the news toys hot off the conveyor belts. In the run-up to Christmas his main concern is ensuring all the stocks are in the right place. Given that the store makes most of its money at this time of year, too few Harry Potters, Barbies or mini micro radio control cars on the shelves and the tears won’t be just flowing from the kids.

Things haven’t always been this much fun in the run-up to Christmas, though.

This time last year Parker and his CEO Simon Burke, were grappling with the idea of a black Christmas. The famous Regent Street shop is a primary destination for tourists so when the full impact of 11 September hit home – plummeting international air travel resulting in a collapse in tourists heading to London – initial thoughts fell to the ‘ghost of Christmas past’.

So when domestic shoppers came out to push up sales relief was felt all round. The group reported a 12.1% rise in business in its Christmas trading figures. And this year things have only got better. The company made £0.2m in the six months to the end of September compared with a loss of nearly £1m last time. Its flagship store saw a 10% increase in sales over the six months. And since the end of September, sales have gone up by 23%.

Teddy bears are now a growing part of the company’s business and Hamleys said its Bear Factory had made a strong contribution to sales and profits.

With the significant new ranges introduced, the company has sounded an optimistic note about sales leading up to Christmas. ‘I’ll definitely stay in retail. There’s never a dull day here,’ quips Parker. Especially not when you get to play with Hamleys Express Train set before anyone else!

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