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28 June 201402:40AMeurope-2014travel


If I didn't already have the coolest job in the world, then I'd have to concede that working at Hamley's is probably the coolest job in the world.

(Hamley's, if you want some context for that statement, is "the finest toy store in the world", located on Regent Street, London.)

Hamley's is weird, because as a shop it's not really that successful. I mean, they have five floors, sure, but when you break it down they don't actually carry that wide a variety of stuff.

Where they excel is basically at being a tourist attraction, at being to fun what the Natural History Museum is is to science. It's brightly coloured, and brightly lit, and there's piped music and a sweet shop, and like anywhere with a lot of kids, is noisy and lively and a little bit manic.

Like, here's an example. Hamley's doesn't actually have all that much Lego, and what they do have is fairly limited and weirdly Simpsons-themed. But their Lego department is awesome. It's decorated with dozens of Lego palace guards made out of Lego, and a Lego replica of the Royal family looking out over the balcony. Same deal with the Nerf department - they only have about four different Nerf guns for sale, but they have unpackaged ones out for you to play with and targets all over the place.

They have these really fascinating sales staff who are basically demonstrators - essentially doing what I do for toys instead of science, and with the same sort of guide/babysitter/entertainer/educator duties that I get. I guess the idea is that playing with toys is the best way to sell them, and judging by the crowds, I think it might be working for them.

(I got into a bit of banter with one of them over exactly how his car that drove on walls worked. I guessed suction, and he took me to pieces, finishing with "Rocky, there is absolutely nothing about this car that sucks.")

Waterstones, on the other hand, is much more substantial in its five floors. It feels full, but never disorganised. And boy does it have the range.

Here's an example for you: Waterstones' scifi and fantasy section. It's as diverse, well-curated and about the same size as White Dwarf books, which I've always really admired for its selection.

Now extend that to five floors, on every topic conceivable.

I had to physically restrain myself from buying more books.

There's just something about the place that makes you want to buy all the books. It's accessible and easy to dive into, but at the same time perfectly captures the makes-you-feel-smart vibe that all good bookstores have. I don't know how they do it, but the effect is to make you wander around lusting after books as a physical object.

I wonder how Waterstones is doing? I wonder if this sort of veneration of books, and having books, and reading books in armchairs with lamps and cups of tea. Waterstones certainly seems to think so; I wonder if it's working for them?

Also we went to this clock thing. I guess that's worth mentioning, right?

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