EXCLUSIVE! Sneak peek: Hamleys Cape Town
Parent24 chats to Hamleys' V&A store owner (and a bonus interview with a famous shopper!)

As everyone anticipates the grand-opening of the biggest toy store today in Cape Town, Parent24 was invited to join Cindy Nell with her husband and children on their first trip to Hamleys at the V&A Waterfront. 

We also chatted the owner, Philip Paphitis about his love and passion for children's toys and found out more about what Hamley's Cape Town has to offer leading up to today's Grand Opening. 

Here’s a brief look at Cindy’s take on her family’s excitement about the new Hamleys, Cape Town before she rushed off in excitement to shop with her kids:

How is motherhood and parenting going for you?

You know, I don’t think there’s any big secret or any specific way of doing it. You just take it one day at a time and go with the flow. You figure it out. That’s actually the best advice I ever got. It’s much easier to swim with the river, because swimming upstream is exhausting! Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve just finished reading the book, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ and that taught me to not get caught up in the difficulties of parenting.

I also find that a lot of the time you have to put your pride in your pocket and get on with it and don’t let screaming and shouting at your kids take-over every situation. Let your kids do what they want to do, but within boundaries.

(I’m an Afrikaans girl so we can be strict when we need to be).

What do think your kids feel about the new Hamleys?

They’re so excited! We often visited the one in London and they’re always asking for toys specifically from Hamleys. It’s a massive Toy-land for them and it’s such a joy to see them get excited about it. They’re going to love it!

What are their favourite toys?

Ethan loves Lego and my daughter is Barbie besotted! She also loves baby-dolls with their cute little bottles so she can give her ‘milk’ and pretend to be mommy. It’s funny how they get that maternal instinct so young. These days they even have bottles that drain the milk! Never in my life, it’s insane. They both love teddy-bears.  

You’re about to head off and shop here with your kids before anyone else does. How exciting? Anything in particular you think your kids will be after here today?

Everything! I’m banking on spending at least R5000 here today. You always say ‘I’m not going to spoil my kids with toys’ but you know what; sometimes it’s allowed. You’re only a child once. In the beginning I was very anti spoiling them but for today, which I think is a special occasion, a bit of spoiling is okay.

What characters are you looking forward to seeing live tomorrow at the opening?

Barbie! My daughter is going to go bananas for that! I haven’t told my kids yet about the other exciting characters that will be here tomorrow.

They’ve really done up the store so well with the clouds and the flowers and moving objects. It feels like we’re in Santa’s toy factory!

Quickly, before your kids drag you off; what are your boundaries for your kids regarding behaviour? Specifically tantrums which often happen in big toy shops?

Manners is hugely important to me. Greeting people, being polite, respect for older people and not hurting anybody all form part of our boundaries. My kids aren’t allowed to behave like brats. I understand that as children they’ll want to run around and be excited about something like this, that’s one thing, but there’s a difference between that and brat behaviour.  

Cindy and her family ran off for an exclusive look at all the things the store had to offer, before tomorrow’s opening.

Philip Paphitis, the store owner, gave us a great look into the world of toys and chatted to us about the store and what people of all ages can look forward to from tomorrow:

What can first-time Hamleys' shoppers expect from the store?

An out-of-this-world experience! The diversity and range of products is massive with products from as low as R10 and up. The sky's the limit and as you can see, the store has some pretty exciting visual-aspects alone, among other things.

Hamleys is about bringing toys to life. It's about the character appearances (which customers will see a lot of at tomorrow's opening), it's about theatre in store, the demonstrations, which is iconic to Hamleys. If you've ever been to Regent Street London, it's basically replicating that on a smaller scale. All our stores in South Africa will be flagship stores (this store is over 1000 meters). 

We opened up the Hamleys store in Johannesburg last week Thursday, and with the Cape Town opening happening tomorrow, this will be the first time in history that Hamleys have opened up two stores within the space of the week. So this is all pretty exciting. 

We had a massive turn-out last week Thursday with around 8000 people coming to visit the store.  

Any opening sales or specials?

Yes, there definitely are and across a number of different brands. We represent all the major brands here at Hamleys.

Is the Hamleys' experience something that parents can do with their kids? Is there any supervision for kids if parents need to shop alone for a few minutes?

There's a combination of both. If you're looking to surprise your child and don't want them to see what you're getting them (I mean there are birthday's every week) then there's no reason why parents can't come here on their own. Often parents or family relatives will come without their child. Ideally the opportunity is an experience for the whole family to do together. It's a dual-purpose thing. 

In terms of babysitting; there are a lot of activities that take place in store and most parents are happy to leave there children in the company of some of the demonstrators and staff at promotion tables etc. Obviously, it can get quite crazy in store so we don't recommend abandoning your child and walking away if it's manic here. 

Let's talk about toys: what's going on in the toy industry at the moment? What's popular and what has changed over the years?

The changes in terms of trends over the last few years have revolved around the rise and fall of electronic toys. People are trying to get their kids away from the TV environment and to a place where interaction over board games like Monopoly, Scrabble etc, which have been around forever, happens. It seems people are now leaning more towards these sorts of means for entertainment. People want to interact as a family. That's what they're looking for. Outdoor activities and toys are becoming more and more popular. 

The traditional teddy-bear, which has been around forever, is always going to be a fundamental part of children’s toys. Whenever I come back from the fair and people ask me "What's the latest and greatest electronic toy?" it's really not always about that. It's also about traditional toys; the yo-yo, the hoola-hoop, the Teddy Bear, play dough, these are all really basic but they've been around for a long time and they're always in demand. 

And then a lot of the new ideas for toys are influenced by movies and trends. The new Star Wars movie will be released in December so Star wars is going to be a great trend for toys here. 'Frozen' took everyone by surprise. Globally, they ran out of stock. But for this year, Star Wars is one of the major trends. May the Forth be with you!

What do you think your number 1, top-selling toy will be for the Cape Town store in the first few week?

Sho! Well Lego is currently the biggest brand in the world, but just based on a week’s worth of data; since opening the JHB store, the Hamleys' Teddy-bear with its heritage etc, has been a massive hit!

What is your advice to parents for managing temper-tantrums in big stores like this?

I think the amount of kids who come running into the store with big happy, smiley faces is very much equal to the number of kids who you’ll find coming out of the store screaming because the parent is saying “Listen we’ve been here for almost two hours, it’s time to move on and go do something else”. That’s just part of the reality of shopping with children. Distracting kids with something else and moving on to the next activity is a good way to deflect tantrums.

But mostly, this is a playground for children. They love it in here. 

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