UK Toy Fair 2018 – bricks, but no LEGO

With no presence from the LEGO Group at London Toy Fair 2018, what do fans of the brick need to know?

The UK Toy Fair returned to the Olympia exhibition centre on January 23. Across three days, toy companies display new products that will be released over the next 12 months, allowing retailers and media to plan for the coming year. Unfortunately, the LEGO Group opted not to attend the event this year, much to the frustration of some retailers at the event.

A few new, official LEGO products were announced, but not the kind that tend to get the pulses of brick fans racing. The LEGO lights, best known for the upscaled minifigure key lights that make a perfect last minute Christmas gift, are produced under license. Brick Fanatics reported on the new LEGO light products that were on display.

Surprisingly, a number of companies producing imitation LEGO products or clone brick-based products had a presence at Toy Fair 2018, including Shantou Pengrui Electronic Technology Co., Ltd, who presented a number of Xingbao products that they are aiming to release in the UK. The Chinese company is adapting the minifigure design so as to differentiate from the LEGO Group’s trademark, but even as most of the products that were on display were not copies of LEGO sets, the catalogue being distributed included some familiar looking Minecraft models, whilst it remains unclear if other licenses being put into brick form by the company are yet official.

Hang Wing Plastic Industry Co., Ltd had clone products under the brand ‘sembo block’ on display, with smaller versions of the modular buildings using designs that belong to the LEGO Group. These products did not only include regular building blocks, but imitation pieces too, such as the dolphin introduced as part of the LEGO Friends theme. Other sets, such as those labelled Ninja, were clear copies of LEGO NINJAGO sets.

Construction brand Cobi also had a stand at the event marking their official UK launch. The main product range for the Polish company are military construction sets, with tanks and aircraft based on real life vehicles. This is a subject matter that the LEGO Group understandably avoids, but, as told to Brick Fanatics, the owner of Cobi is a big military buff, happy to produce brick built machines of war. Without prompt, Cobi representatives brought up comparisons with LEGO, pitching their product to Brick Fanatics as ‘more detailed builds’.

Although it is common to see alternative construction brands at Toy Fair, illegitimate clone brands are not usually present in the UK. To see such product being so openly displayed, at a toy industry event, is surprising. The legitimate – and illegitimate – construction brands felt all the more notable this year, with the absence of the company that spawned all of these imitators; the LEGO Group.

More news about the LEGO Group’s upcoming product ranges will hopefully arrive during the forthcoming toy fairs in Nuremberg and New York.

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Graham was the 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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