Hamleys was forced to promote its head of finance to the top seat this weekend after former chief executive Ralph Cunningham abruptly parted ways with the toy retailer.
Cunningham’s split comes five months after Hamleys’ former finance chief Alexander Jablonowski exited the business.
Yong Shen, House of Fraser’s ex-finance chief, was brought in to replace Jablonowski, and now finds himself taking the reins.
Both high profile departures follow a loss-making spell for the historic toy retailer, which reported losses for year-end 31 December 2017.
The shock move has raised eyebrows and questions over links between House of Fraser and Hamleys – or, more specifically, their Chinese owners. House of Fraser’s former owner Sanpower is chaired by Yuan Yafei, the brother-in-law of Chen Yixi, chairman of Hamleys owner C.banner.
The two Chinese multi-nationals have a complicated relationship in the UK. This time last year, C.banner put forward a bid to buy a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser from Nanjing Xinjiekou, a Sanpower company, but withdrew the offer after value in its own stock plummeted.
Hamleys delivered a loss after tax of £8,642,000 for the full-year 2017, a year after delivering over £1m in profit. Bosses cited “the difficult retail environment which existed in the UK in 2017 resulting in higher costs such as rents, business rates and the adverse impact of foreign exchange rates”.
The toy retailer has recently turned to new markets to stimulate growth, including the roll out of a new fleet in Japan through a partnership with regional expert Bandai Namco Amusements.
The new locations will mix traditional toy retail with entertainment attractions, including virtual reality experiences.