March 31, 2015 / 7:14 PM / 2 years ago

Hamleys opens its largest toy store in Moscow despite economic crisis

MOSCOW (Reuters) - British toy store Hamleys opened its largest shop in the world on Tuesday in central Moscow despite an economic downturn in Russia that is forcing buyers to cut back on spending.

Launched amid fanfare after seven years of renovation work in what was the Soviet-era department store Detsky Mir (Children's World), the new shop covers 6.750 square meters and features a rocket made of nearly two million Lego bricks.

"We want to open much more in Russia. We consider it a fantastic market for children's toys retail sales, a growing market," Hamley's chief executive Gudjon Reynisson told Reuters at the opening ceremony attended by officials including Moscow mayor and close Kremlin ally, Sergei Sobyanin.

Reynisson's upbeat comments contrast with growing economic hardship in Russia because of low prices for oil, its main export, as well as a slide in its rouble currency and Western economic sanctions imposed over the turmoil in Ukraine.

A spike in food prices also followed Moscow's ban on imports of many groceries in response to the sanctions slapped by the European Union and the United States.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the Russian economy to contract by 4.3 percent in 2015 and see inflation coming in at 13 percent at year-end.

A Hamleys representative in Russia, Yevgeni Butman, said the toy store was now the second-largest in the world after a Toys R Us shop in New York.

Reporting by Olga Sichkar; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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