That’s according to Cindy Chiu, Head of Retail for the LEGO Group’s China and Asia-Pacific regions. She told Bloomberg News earlier this week that physical shopping destinations are needed to ‘address the particular challenges of China’.
Those challenges essentially boil down to the company’s lack of history in the country. It’s still relatively new to China’s nearly 1.4 billion-strong population, so not many parents have fond memories of playing with LEGO as kids. That means the interlocking brick system is more alien to families in China than in the LEGO Group’s more traditional markets.
It’s now working hard to establish those roots, however, beginning with the rapid (and seemingly unlimited) expansion of its brick-and-mortar retail outlets in China. By December 2021, the company is planning to bring the total number of LEGO Stores in the country up to 300, spread across 85 different cities.
While the LEGO Group never reveals precise per-country sales figures, it hasn’t shied away from proclaiming its consistent double-digit growth in China over the past few years. As well as saturating Chinese streets and shopping centres with LEGO Stores, the company has begun selling through Tmall, a shopping website owned by Alibiba Group Holding Ltd.
According to Bloomberg, in the year ending November 2020 the LEGO Group’s Tmall sales reached 4.6 billion yuan – roughly £518 million. That figure apparently far outstrips rivals like Mattel and Hasbro, and research company WPIC’s CEO Jacob Booke says it’s down to the LEGO Group’s retail presence. “People with the most retail stores do better online,” he told Bloomberg. “I don’t think anybody has the reach offline that LEGO has.”
You don’t need to know the ins and outs of the sales data to know that the LEGO Group is firmly focused on China at the moment, though. In fact, you only need to walk into a LEGO Store, where you’ll be greeted by Chinese New Year sets – available around the world by popular demand – and the Monkie Kid theme, which is based on the Chinese fable of the Monkey King.
Construction is also currently underway on the country’s first LEGOLAND theme park in Sichuan province, while a second will open in Shanghai in 2024. Slowly but surely, the LEGO Group’s brand recognition in China is beginning to take shape.