Hamleys boss Ralph Cunningham has abruptly departed the retailer and has been replaced by former House of Fraser finance chief Yong Shen.

Cunningham’s exit comes five months after Hamleys’ head of finance Alexander Jablonowski left the business and was replaced by Yong, reported The Telegraph.

The move raises further questions about the links between HoF and Hamleys. Former HoF owner Sanpower is chaired by Yuan Yafei, who is the brother-in-law of Hamleys owner C Banner chairman Chen Yixi.

Last year Hamleys made a loss after what Cunningham described as “one of the most challenging years in UK retail history”.

The retailer slipped into the red by £12m at a pre-tax level in the year to December 31, 2017, versus a profit of £2.6m the previous year.

As well as tough trading conditions, the performance was attributed to implementation of its transformation plan, hinging on expanding its travel and international franchise store network, refocusing its customer proposition and “significant cost reductions and productivity improvements in head office”.

Hamleys’ sales fell 2.5% in the year to £66.3m, exacerbated by the exit of loss-making stores and franchises in the UK and Ireland, and ceasing trading in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.