A GIANT toy store is set to open at Rayleigh Weir.

A branch of Smyths will be created behind Homebase, in Stadium Way, selling everything from Dora the Explorer to computer games.

Mike Frost, a spokesman for Smyths, said they expected to open in mid-September and provide about 45 full-time and part-time jobs.

The company will then launch a 304-page Christmas brochure, which customers will be able to pick up at the store.

Mr Frost said: “Smyths is Ireland’s biggest toy retailer.

“It probably has at least 60 per cent of the toy market in Ireland. It has 19 stores in the Republic of Ireland and six in Northern Ireland.

“This will be the eighth store in this country, with more opening in quick succession between now and Christmas.”

However, bosses of independent toy shops hope the move won’t affect their future. Fiona Morgan, proprietor at Leigh Toy Fair, which stocks specialist wooden and educational toys, added: "Our shop has been here 40 years and we have held on so far, but it’s bound to make some difference.

“We will have to see when it opens, and see what kind of toys it is planning to stock."

However, Richard Turner, manager at Argosy Toys, in London Road, Westcliff, said the new store was far enough away not to be a worry.

He added: “We will always win out on our customer service and personal approach and our pricing is always very competitive.

“We do a lot of business by word of mouth, so we tend to rely more on localised trade.”

Meanwhile, Mr Frost said Smyths tended to stock up on the big brand names in the run-up to Christmas, and pre-ordered large numbers of Nintendo Wii’s before last year’s festive rush.

He added: “The advantage of Smyths is because it’s a family business, it can be flexible and follow its own hunches as to what’s going to be big. It’s not so reliant on own label products.”

News of the mega store’s imminent opening comes at a time when independent shops are increasingly struggling to compete with national chains.

Several local toy shops have closed in the past few years, among them Wings and Wheels, in London Road, Leigh, which shut in 2006.

At the time, proprietor Richard Oram admitted: “While I was always competitive, the big guys just kept getting bigger. There’s got to be a level playing field, but already most towns centre shop fronts look the same, so what will everything look like in a few years.”