August 2023 LEGO News Roundup
More than just a toy company, let’s look at the business of LEGO through the lens of recent news and some great LEGO articles from around the web.
It is a pleasure to share some of the best articles from around the web every month alongside analysis of what’s happening in the broader LEGO community. As always, I hope you find these roundups interesting!
First of all, I am very excited for BrickCon 2023 which is just around the corner! After taking place the first weekend of October in downtown Seattle for the last 15+ years, it is moving to a new date and venue! The AFOL Convention is September 7-10 in nearby Bellevue, Washington.
While the in-person convention will be excellent, I strongly recommend that folks outside of the Pacific Northwest consider participating in the Virtual Convention which costs just $25 and includes a number of interesting talks (including an interactive session about LEGO connection types that I am leading for the first time this year.)
We also learned that several contestants in the upcoming Season 4 of LEGO Masters USA will be in attendance. Eagle-eyed AFOLs may recognize some of the talented builders featured in this teaser video for Season 4. They are doing a meet-and-greet with the general public at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:3, although you will likely get a better chance to meet them if you are attending the AFOL convention.
Learn more about BrickCon:
- BrickCon 2022 LEGO Convention
- BrickCon 2021 LEGO Convention
- A newcomers guide to BrickCon 2019
- BrickCon 2016 Wrap-up
- Behind the Scenes at BrickCon 2014 (tomalphin.com)
The Business of LEGO
A common theme this month was information related to the LEGO business itself. I wanted to touch on a few things that I noticed that help tell the story of how The LEGO Group is doing and where they may be going in the future.
1. Gaining marketshare in a shrinking industry
When a business finds themselves facing economic headwinds, they may choose a short-term approach to try and scrape together new markets or even industries to make up the loss, or they might focus on gaining marketshare in the downturn so they can ride subsequent upturns in a more dominant position. Based on the recently released business results for the first half of this year, The LEGO Group is trying to spin a rosy story about their success with the latter approach.
As The LEGO Group is not a publicly held company, they do not need to share a lot of details in their annual reports, and this unfortunately includes the lack of specific data supporting their claim that “Market share grew significantly as the LEGO Group outperformed a declining toy market.” While I suspect this is true, it is not clear how large that increase really is.
The LEGO Group broke ground on a new factory in Virginia, US, in April and continued construction of a new factory in Vietnam. Both sites are USD 1 billion (DKK 6.7 billion) investments and aim to be carbon-neutral run once completed in 2025 and 2024 respectively.
The LEGO Group, H1 2023 Results
Other parts of the report give us clearer answers. My eyes are immediately drawn to the massive increases in business spending Year-over-year, from 11.3 billion DKK in H1 2019 to 21.0 billion DKK in H1 2023. That is nearly a doubling of spending in just 4 years — what are they spending all of this money on? Lots of things, I suspect, but new factory capacity is a big part… totaling 2 billion USD (13.4 billion DKK) over 5 years to build two new factories!
They are also investing in a high-profile new office in Boston which will open in 2026. The mixed-use project includes 100,000 sqft of office space for The LEGO Group, and a lot of additional space for residential, office, and retail use. Combined with their new factory in Virgina, this will significantly increase their presence in North America.
2. Re-framing the LEGO VIP Program
The business world is packed with buzzwords such as customer acquisition, engagement, and retention – which is why it is no surprise that businesses like The LEGO Group go to great lengths to get better data about their customers. While many of us see the LEGO VIP Program as an easy way to get discounts on future LEGO purchases, the real winner is on The LEGO Group’s side…
The most obvious benefit to The LEGO Group is that customers are more likely to make future purchases through LEGO-branded retail outlets because they want to spend their VIP points for discounts (and to get more points to spend in the future). This is especially important since The LEGO Group makes more money when you purchase their products at a LEGO branded store than at Target or Walmart.
Perhaps more important is that The LEGO Group can use your VIP Account ID to keep track of your purchase history over time. You better believe that they are using this information to better understand which products are more desirable, which advertising campaigns are more effective, and how to increase sales to people like you!
Unfortunately, The LEGO Group has a blind spot when it comes to sales at other retailers. Sure, they introduced a program where you can get some VIP points for purchases at Target, but this is just one of the many places where customers can purchase LEGO sets. This is why I am not surprised to see the re-branding of the VIP program as LEGO Insiders, along with a new feature that allows you to scan unique barcodes printed on the instruction manuals of sets produced in the past 5 years. Each scan earns 20 additional VIP Points. (At 650 points for a $5 discount, those 20 points are worth just $0.15)
This additional data will be a treasure trove for data scientists at The LEGO Group who want to weave together people’s complex shopping habits across LEGO-branded and third party retailers. For example, it might help them better understand how many non-exclusive sets are being purchased by AFOLs instead of families, since these sets are often cheaper at mainstream outlets that offer frequent sales. They might discover that ‘army builders’ are drawn to certain sets which they rarely purchase at LEGO branded retailers, and it would make sense for The LEGO Group to offer discounted ‘bulk buy’ options to better compete with third party retailers. None of this is to say that you should avoid the LEGO VIP program (now LEGO Insiders), but rather to be mindful of the ways in which these programs shape our behavior.
3. The Business of Inclusivity
The LEGO Group has a long history of supporting educators through LEGO Education products, and has doubled-down on inclusivity in recent years. This has included highlighting LGBTQIA+ fans in 2022’s A-to-Z of Awesome campaign and 2021’s #40516 Everyone is Awesome set.
LEGO also introduced Braille Bricks in 2019, but up to this point they were only available at legobraillebricks.com through the their charitable branch: The LEGO Foundation. This month, they announced widespread availability of these Braille Bricks in English and French to anyone willing to pay. #40656 Play with Braille – English costs $89.99 for 287 pieces and is available now.
The LEGO Group is not alone in advocating for a more inclusive LEGO hobby. I also wanted to highlight two related articles highlighting the unique challenges and joys that neurodiverse LEGO builders experience.
New at Brick Architect
While we have a lot of projects underway, I was only able to publish one article this month. It is fun to step outside of the core LEGO product line from time-to-time to review something that stands apart. (pun intended).
- Review: Adidas Ultraboost DNA × LEGO Plates Shoes
Let’s take a closer look at the closest thing we’re likely to get to a ‘buildable’ LEGO shoe that you can actually wear. This is a lighthearted ‘review’ that focuses more on the LEGO brand than the shoes themselves.
Exciting new sets for AFOLs
September brings a handful of interesting sets for Adult builders, especially if you like planes and spaceships. The 2023 Advent Calendars were also released this month, but we will take a closer look at them in the future.
- #40656 Play with Braille – English (and #40655 Découvrir le braille – Alphabet français)
Anyone can now buy LEGO Braille Bricks, although it’s a pretty expensive set.
287 pieces, ages 6+, $90, available now at LEGO.com
- #43230 Walt Disney Tribute Camera
This is a fairly unusual set featuring a brick-built old-fasioned camera, with a roll of translucent film featuring classic Disney scenes re-interpreted using LEGO minifigures. It also includes a second module featuring three miniufigures, Bambi, and Dumbo.
811 pieces, ages 18+, $100. Coming Soon at LEGO.com
- #10318 Concorde (LEGO Icons)
While you can no longer ride this supersonic commuter jet, you can build one using LEGO bricks.
2083 pieces, ages 18+, $200. available September 4 at LEGO.com
- #31209 The Amazing Spider-Man (Mosaic)
I do not love LEGO mosaics, but I really appreciate how this one pushes the envelope using interesting parts which leap out of the frame.
2099 pieces, ages 18+, $200, available now at LEGO.com
- #21342 The Insect Collection (LEGO Ideas)
While it did not capture my attention right away, a closer look reveals three very well designed insects in this competitively-priced set for Adults.
1111 pieces, ages 18+, $80, available September 4 at LEGO.com.
- #71039 LEGO Minifigures Marvel Series 2
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will enjoy another batch of unique figs. This is the first time LEGO minifigures come in small boxes instead of bags, making it impossible to ‘feel’ for the figure you want without opening the package.
12 unique minifigures, ages 5+, $5, available now at LEGO.com.
We also have a selection of new Star Wars sets released on September 1. Many of them are based on the new Ahsoka series on Disney+. I have enjoyed the show so far, but find this first wave of sets a bit lacking in detail for my taste. (Maybe one day we will see an UCS-scale Ghost or T-6 Jedi Shuttle.)
- #75357 Ghost & Phantom II
This is a small model with some compelling minifigs and a high price tag. I wish it was 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray instead of 1White (although the retired Very Light Gray color would be even better).
1394 pieces, ages 10+, $160, available now at LEGO.com
- #75362 Ahsoka Tano’s T-6 Jedi Shuttle
As you can see, it is difficult to capture the shape of a complex spaceship in a $80 set. On the upside, this set includes 4 nice-looking minifigures.
601 pieces, ages 9+, $80, available now at LEGO.com
- #75371 Chewbacca (Buildable Figure)
Chewbacca is one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe, but this model misses the mark in my book. What do you think about buildable figures like this one?
2319 pieces, ages 18+, $200, available now at LEGO.com
To see all of the other new sets this month, visit the lego.com store. (Making a purchase using our referral link helps support this website.)
Best articles from around the web
It is always a pleasure to highlight some of the best LEGO articles every month. I hope you enjoy this month’s best content from around the web.
Constraction is a shortening of CONSTRuctable ACTION figures, and in short are action figures that are made out of loose LEGO parts.
TobyMac / Rebrickable