2022: the year LEGO realised its prices were beyond the pale
With an unprecedented early discount on 21337 Table Football, will 2022 be remembered as the year the LEGO Group realised its prices were beyond the pale?
Available now at LEGO.com for just £150.49 / $174.99 / €174.99 – a full 30% off its RRP – the level of discount on 21337 Table Football this early into its shelf life is absolutely unheard of. (The latest LEGO Ideas set only arrived on shelves on November 1.) But it’s also arguably just another symptom of the problems the LEGO Group is facing right now, which can be traced back through 2022 as a whole.
Throughout years of success and unparalleled growth in the late 2010s and (very) early 2020s – particularly during the pandemic, when sales skyrocketed – discounts of any kind at LEGO.com were incredibly rare. At most, you could hope to see 20% off BrickHeadz or unwanted exclusive sets, or a deeper discount on unpopular themes like VIDIYO. But more expensive sets, and particularly those under the 18+ banner (and the precursors to it), were almost never discounted.
Likewise, while gifts-with-purchase remained a steady incentive to shop through direct channels throughout that period, they were typically staggered so you’d earn one at a time, or two at a push, encouraging multiple purchases spread across the year. But in 2022, everything has changed – for better and worse.
Amid ‘increased raw material and operating costs’, the LEGO Group maddeningly chose to raise prices on around a quarter of its portfolio earlier this year, with up to 141 different sets in the UK (and at least 116 sets in the US) experiencing bumps of up to 25%. The worst of those increases were felt across products targeted at adults buying for themselves, a demographic the LEGO Group presumably thought was best positioned to bear the brunt.
But not a month later, dozens of sets came back down in price at LEGO.com in a rare sale, which extended beyond the usual forgettable products to new-for-2022 headliners like 21332 The Globe and 10302 Optimus Prime. Both of those sets had jumped up in price in August/September, and by October were back down again. Was this a reactive move to combat a downturn in sales, or was the increase/decrease simply a sales tactic to make its products look even more attractively priced?
It’s impossible to know for sure, but if it was the latter, the company’s bean counters may have underestimated its target audience: it’s hard to fool savvy shoppers with strategies like that, and LEGO fans definitely fall into that category. (See our LEGO Sales & Deals page, for one.)
At the same time, it’s hard not to notice the uptick in free gifts at LEGO.com, particularly in the second half of 2022. We’re talking multiple gifts-with-purchase all available concurrently – you can score up to five right now by buying 10307 Eiffel Tower – which suggests the LEGO Group is trying really very hard to entice shoppers to spend through direct channels, especially in the face of increasingly tempting discounts through third-party retailers.
Pair that with recent potential misfires in the likes of 76210 Hulkbuster, 76215 Black Panther and 21337 Table Football – sets for which the reception has been underwhelming, to put it very mildly, but which retail for incredible amounts of money – and it’s not painting a very positive picture for the LEGO Group. This perfect storm has culminated now in that deep 30% discount on 21337 Table Football, a set not six weeks out from release, which leaves us with just one conclusion: it’s not selling at all at full price.
Given how dramatically different it is from Donát Fehérvári’s original concept, and how much the LEGO Group struggled to bring it to life in a way that was stable and playable – to the point it almost threw in the towel altogether – it’s perhaps no surprise that 21337 Table Football has struggled to establish a fanbase. But is it a one-off, or – considering other discounts and the increase in gifts-with-purchase – is it symptomatic of changing spending habits among the LEGO Group’s adult market?
The size of its sets (and the frequency with which it releases them) has accelerated rapidly over the past couple of years, as the company shifts its focus to new adult consumers. But with costs of living still on the rise all over the globe, LEGO sets and bricks may have fallen down the priority list for many consumers, shrinking the market for these massive products.
That drop in spending may ironically also have been concentrated around the Black Friday period, as the Bank of England predicted just before the annual shopping event that the UK is heading for its longest recession since records began. Similar stories were emerging around the world, leading analysts to predict the public would be ‘cautious’, ‘price sensitive’ and ‘strategic’ with their Black Friday shopping in 2022 – potentially stunting sales compared to previous years.
Fears of a shrinking economy have not necessarily passed yet, and indeed the climate of reduced customer spending may not shift again any time soon, so the question now is: will the LEGO Group continue to pursue a potentially smaller number of high spenders, or will it readjust its strategy for 2024 and beyond? (Its 2023 products are likely locked in by now, or at least those for the first half of the year.)
Perhaps it’s not a question of too many expensive sets, though. Maybe it’s actually just a lack of sets that present good value, at least in the eyes of adults with that kind of purchasing power. Criticism of the likes of 75331 The Razor Crest and 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle has been far less widespread than for 76210 Hulkbuster and 21337 Table Football, simply because those former sets are genuinely very appealing, and feel far more worth the money the LEGO Group is asking for them.
We’ll have to wait and see how the next few years play out, but the completely unprecedented early discount on 21337 Table Football could yet prove to be a turning point for the LEGO Group. Either way, the timing of this deal suggests the company has realised it can’t get away with charging whatever it likes for all its products…
21337 Table Football is available now for 30% off, and also qualifies for double VIP points and up to three free gifts. You can stay ahead of all the latest LEGO discounts using our price comparison tool.
Double VIP points are now available across the board at LEGO.com. Head over using one of our affiliate links to earn twice as many points on every purchase through December 13.
2 thoughts on “2022: the year LEGO realised its prices were beyond the pale”
it’s remarkable that someone at Lego is not reading the news, it’s not feeling the fans and does not listen at all.
the release spree and the huge price of Lego will create Lego own recession.
less releases, more quality and the most important, listen to the fans, got lost somewhere in Lego HQ.
Fantastic article Chris. I’m an AFOL and city builder, and I’ve been very disappointed at LEGO’s huge jumps in prices this year.
I think your fourth-from-last para is particularly poignant: I think LEGO have brought out some real lame sets this year, but they’ve also brought out some lovely ones that are just still too expensive. I bought Sanctum Santorum this year, but not at full price; I got for around £145 in one of the many sales. Same for ECTO-1. I’d love Motorised Lighthouse, but I wouldn’t pay £260 for it; that set should be around £100 cheaper.
I think there’s also another factor in all this though: LEGO are very aware of the investing/reselling market. They know than an AFOL city builder will pay £300-£400+ for a modular building like Brick Bank that cost £150 new, and I think they thought they could try and get in on that action too.