Toys retailer The Entertainer is to steam ahead with expansion after recording its “strongest trading in the company’s history” in 2009.

Over the festive period in the eight weeks to January 3, sales were up 27%. This figure included only two new stores, and multichannel director Duncan Grant said like-for-like sales would be well above 20%. The Entertainer’s online sales growth was in excess of 27%.

Grant said that the retailer focused heavily on pricing last year but maintained or improved gross margin across categories and benefited from the closure of Woolworths. Grant added: “There was a trend towards traditional, quality toys such as Lego and Playmobil.”

Store openings were kept to just two in 2009 but Grant said the retailer “now feels more optimistic” and hopes to open 12 stores in 2010, starting from March.

Grant added: “Some sites have been identified but suitable locations remain a problem. Rent demands beyond landlord’s opening deals are often difficult to reconcile with longer term business viability.”

In March The Entertainer’s warehouse is moving from its Amersham headquarters to a site treble the size in Swindon. The online business is moving into the Amersham warehouse as it seeks to increase its ecommerce sales.

Fellow toy retailer Hamleys also recorded Christmas cheer, with like-for-like sales up 11.6% in the six weeks to January 2. For the nine months to the end of December 2009 like-for-like sales were up 7.2% on 2008 and EBITDA rocketed 42.8% following a restructuring, which completed last year.

Hamleys chief executive Gudjon Reynisson claimed Hamleys’ best ever Christmas on Regent Street and strong performance at its new St Enoch centre store in Glasgow.

Like-for-like sales at Hamleys’ franchise store in Dubai were up 54% and in February it will open its first Indian, and third international, store in Mumbai.