I remember watching the cute ad for Toys R Us on Singapore TV. You know that catchy one that goes “I don’t wanna grow up…” Showing adorable mat Salleh kids hugging the giraffe and caterpillar plush toys and assorted colourful and expensive looking toys. I remember going to Toys R Us in Marine Parade (i think?) in Singapore although I don’t think i have much memories of it.
Some years later Toys R Us came to Malaysia, in The then new Subang Parade. They ran the same series of ads on local TV, except with local (equally adorable) kids. I remember it giving me kind of a hallowed view of the place, where you can find cool and exquisite toys that you won’t find anywhere else. Back then the only place we bought toys was from the local supermarket, or the Chinese sundry shop, both places mostly selling cheap China or Taiwan made knock offs that impressed mostly the youngest (or most naivest) of kids. But then again as kids buying toys wasn’t a big thing. We made our playstuff from bottlecaps or old ice cream sticks, or those small toys that come with junk food packs. Remember the Mamee toys?
Anyway, years later as an adult i moved to PJ to work and i visited the Toys R Us. To say it was disappointing was an understatement. It was basically the same as any other locally owned small time toy shop. Except it was bigger and probably with better layout design. But they sold the same Mattel, Hasbro, Barbie toys and board games. I used to joke that Toys R Us was no different from ToyCity.
I understand the necessity. They need sales volume to survive. Malaysians can’t afford the expensive stuff. So they sell all the fast movers. If you have too many samples or play areas, ugly Malaysians will damage them or worse, steal them.
Cool toy stores only exist in American movies like Big or Home Alone.
But what we do have are some cool indie specialist toy shops around in KL. There are a few in midValley and one particular one i like in BSC.
So when i heard that Hamley’s of London was opening in 1Utama, i was mildly excited but understandably wary. How awesome can it be, right? But i did make it a point going today (it opened on 30/11/13). Well, it was quite impressive. Despite it being expensive (that would be a given) they had a lot of their own house brand which had lots of cool toys. I won’t give too much away, but you should go and let the kid in you have a blast.
I hope they keep their standards up. In their defence, Toys R Us probably kept their image up at first, before market realities made them change (in their new location in Subang Parade, they seem to not even bother with ID). The same happened with other foreign retailers like Debenhams, Borders (another rant for another day) or Harrod’s. Dedenhams local capitulation is almost a comical tragedy.