Hamleys' profit fall `arrested'

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THE NEW chief executive of Hamleys, the toy shop chain, promised yesterday his company's profit warning would be "the end of the bad news and the beginning of the recovery" for the troubled chain.

Simon Burke's comments came as the market digested Hamley's announcement that its profits would be "materially below last year's and market expectations" following an 8 per cent drop in sales at the flagship Regent Street store and a 7 per cent drop in sales at its satellite stores. Hamleys shares fell 25p to 136.5p. Analysts attributed most of the sales reverses in the Regent Street store could be attributed to refurbishment work which has reduced selling space. Profits will also be depressed from the abandonment of a joint venture in Singapore airport.

Losses in the six months to August are now expected to widen from the pounds 300,000 to pounds 400,000 previously predicted by analysts. Mr Burke, who took the job following the departure of Chris Ash in May, blamed the company's "misguided" strategy over the past two years for its current woes.

He added: `Some of the things we have done recently have not been executed well. It is important to remember that Hamleys Regent Street is a robust brand, but that you cannot slap the Hamleys name on everything and expect it to work. I am putting my cards on the table. This company will not hype the market up and then deliver bad figures. There will be no more profit warnings from me."

His remarks were welcomed by analysts, who have grown impatient with the company's serial underperformance.