WELL-KNOWN store Hamleys has announced their Trafford Centre store will be closing this Christmas.

Closing down sale signs went up outside the shop earlier this week with everything on sale at half price.

The retailer, best known for its flagship store on Regent Street in London, said the Manchester shop was 'no longer a viable part of our operation'.

A spokesman for Hamleys said: "As a business, we are continually reviewing our stores, formats and locations across our growing international portfolio which now extends to over 19 countries.

"With a strategic focus on continuing to grow our business profitably, and to be in locations where our customers want us, we have concluded that our Manchester store is sadly no longer a viable part of our operation.

"This was not a decision we took lightly recognising the impact this has on our colleagues in store and our customers.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues for their fantastic contribution to our Hamleys brand and are endeavouring to find alternative roles where possible within our business.

"In the meantime, we are providing support and assistance to our Manchester team during this difficult time.

"We would also like to thank our customers who have been shopping with us in Hamleys since November 2013."

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has emerged as a prospective bidder for Hamleys as the toy store's Chinese owner looks for an exit.

The tracksuit tycoon is one of a number of parties, along with The Entertainer and Irish toy shop Smyths, interested in taking the 258-year-old chain over from C.banner, according to Sky News.

The billionaire has been in acquisitive mood of late, snapping up House of Fraser and Evans Cycles, both out of administration, in the past few months.

His appetite for a bargain has not been dampened by dire conditions on the high street, which prompted him to say only on Thursday that retailers will be "smashed to pieces" this Christmas.

Mr Ashley made the comments in reference to Debenhams, in which he holds a majority stake through Sports Direct.

Sports Direct and C.banner could not be reached for comment and The Entertainer said that it 'does not comment on speculation'.

Hamleys has been on the market since October and last year the toy chain swung to a £9.2 million loss.

C.banner acquired Hamleys for £100 million in 2015.