D2C Vice President talks LEGO Store London

The LEGO Store London, the largest in the world, opened its doors to great fanfare on November 17, 2016. Glenn Abell, Vice President of Direct to Consumer at the LEGO Group, explains what the store has to offer LEGO fans.

The day before the official opening on November 17, select members of the AFOL community attended a preview event to check out the LEGO Store London. Glenn Abell, Vice President of Direct to Consumer at the LEGO Group, was on hand to oversee the launch activity. Direct to Consumer (D2C) covers all of the channels that the LEGO Group use to sell directly to the public – the website and the physical LEGO Stores, making him the perfect person to explain to Brick Fanatics the thinking behind the new store and why AFOLs are key to his area within the LEGO Group.

How much work has gone in to making the LEGO Store London happen?

Luckily for me this hasn’t been a ton of work, because I just started with this part of the business about three months ago. The team has been working extremely hard over the last two years, from the concept to what you see today. We’ve been building this store for five months, so it was a lot of work by a lot of different areas of the company to bring this to life. It’s a very exciting time.

The underground car is built from around 640,000 bricks.

How has the change been, moving from Vice President Australia/New Zealand to Vice President of D2C?

It’s been a big one. When you work on the ‘other side’ of our business, we work with business customers a lot, it’s a very traditional set up. Working in the D2C universe I think is a really special place to be because you’re the first point of contact for all LEGO fans of all ages. We’ll get a ton of feedback from this group, tomorrow we’re going have the general public in here, we’ll get real time feedback from people in the store. Then online we get a lot of feedback there. So that’s what I find most unique, just how close we can be to the consumer of our product.

Is getting that feedback the most important reason for a strong D2C channel?

I think that’s part of it, but it’s also an opportunity for us to bring LEGO to life for a lot of people. If you look at what we’ve done here we’ve got some very unique, London specific activations – a tube car made out of 600,000 bricks, Big Ben over there made from 300,000 bricks. You don’t do that anywhere else. That’s very important, for people to come in and see these huge models and what you can do with just little tiny 2×4 bricks.

So there’s that and then there’s also the ability to have people engage with the product and actually build and play. We’ve got things in the store that allow people to do that, upstairs the LEGO Mosaic Maker is a world first and you can actually build yourself out of LEGO. It’s very important to bring LEGO to life for people, you can’t really do that in a lot of ways outside of a direct to consumer channel.

This London mosaic can be viewed from the store’s stairs.

Who is the LEGO Store London primarily targeted at?

That is a very broad answer. I’ve got 4 and 8 year old daughters, they were here the other day at a friends and family event and loved every bit of it. My wife enjoyed it, there were grandparents here that had a great time. There’s something for everyone here from the large scale models, to the building experiences, to the over 800 items that we’re selling here. So we’re welcoming everybody.

Why was the timing for a Central London location right?

We’re looking for locations all the time that will be a unique place to put a store. London of course is one of the most iconic cities in the world, an extremely international city, then Leicester Square within London is just a hive of energy. You’ve got the theatres, other branded stores out there, millions of people coming through Leicester Square every year.

This brick built Lester is the store’s mascot.

Why should LEGO fans make the trip to visit this store?

There’s the unique activations that are here like the Mosaic Maker that you can’t get anywhere else. This is where it feels like LEGO is living and breathing, people feel that passion here. I think one of the most important things for us is the staff, because staff really make the experience. They’re passionate, they’re knowledgeable, they know a ton about our product. If they’re giving people a good experience, they’re walking away with a positive feeling and I think that’s all we can ask for.

How important is the AFOL consumer base for the products that D2C channels sell?

For our channel it’s extremely important, it’s a higher mix of our sales than it would be in any other channel of the business. We try to offer unique items, we try to offer what fans are looking for, we try to take the input. We also try to make sure that we’re aligned to other things that are happening out in the LEGO universe, but for the most part, the main reason that people come to this channel of our business is the exclusivity that we offer.

(left to right) LEGO Beefeater, Glenn Abell and LEGO Shakespeare

Does what you have done in this store inform what you’ll do next time?

Everything we do informs us on what we may do next. In fact, things will inform us today on what we’re going to do tomorrow in this store. So there’s very practical things like traffic flow, there’s practical things about where we’re putting some of these fixtures, there’s things like how are people reacting to some of these things? I mean we’re not going to move the tube car anywhere, but we may say, ‘this is so popular that we’ll do something bigger and grander in the next store that we do’. So we are very much always trying to learn what’s working, what’s not, to make it the best experience.

For more coverage of the LEGO Store London, check out our feature on the preview here and find out about the Mosaic Maker here.


Graham was the BrickFanatics.com Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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