The Lego Group will continue to develop new products that resonate with distinct and different consumer tastes in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China as people in the three markets tend to prefer different products.
“In Hong Kong, brands are a big part of our everyday life… superhero and Disney-themed Lego products are quite popular,” Troy Taylor, the general manager of Lego (Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), said in an interview with Asia Times.
“Taiwan’s buyers have a deep interest in Japanese brands. Lego Super Mario did very well. NASA Space Shuttle and Ninjago are also very popular there.”
“Mainland tourists would purchase different things, such as Lego City and Lego Friends. The mix is a little different,” Taylor said, adding that the company launched the Monkie Kid products for the Chinese market last year.
“We are a Danish company. Predominately our brand has been very strong in western Europe, United States, Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “Over the past five to six years, we’ve developed products for the local consumers in Asia. Monkie Kid is one of them. It’s a classic tale of the Journey to the West.”
Taylor said Monkie Kid had become one of the top-selling themes in China and across the Asia-Pacific. At every Chinese New Year, the company launches two new festival specials – Dragon Dance and Spring Lantern Festival – for customers in the Greater China region.
“To launch some Hong Kong-style products? We will never say never. There are a lot of things in Hong Kong which have a broader appeal, not only in Asia but also in western markets,” he said. “We are always going to look at something which can connect with shoppers in a different way.”
He said the company’s designers were based in Billund but they did research all around the world in order to understand what children want in different countries and regions. People can also submit their designs to Lego Ideas, a crowdsourcing platform.
Established in 1932, the Lego Group said last month that its revenue rose 13% to US$7.04 billion for 2020, with double-digit growth in all major markets as people stayed home and played more with toys during lockdowns. Net profit surged 19.4% year on year.
“We had double digit growth in Hong Kong last year,” Taylor said. “We grew at an even higher rate in early 2021. The growth trend continues this year.”
Taylor said Lego’s sales in Hong Kong were hurt more by the first three waves of the pandemic in February, April and July last year than the fourth wave between Christmas and Lunar New Year as people had “Covid-fatigue.” He said sales rebounded whenever social-distancing rules were loosened.
In February 2021, the company opened its first Legoland Discovery Center in K11 Musea, a luxury shopping mall in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui. However, the debut was disrupted by a virus outbreak at a restaurant in the mall.
“The Legoland Discovery Center had a tough start because of the situation in K11. But since then it has been booked out everyday…Apart from the Disneyland and Ocean Park, Legoland is a different attraction for families to have a great day out.”
The company has been in Hong Kong for about 30 years, with five certified stores now operating in the territory. During the pandemic, it has benefited from strong online sales by partnering with Hong Kong’s HKTVMall and Taiwan’s Momoshop.
“Our online sales tripled last year. We started the journey in 2019,” Taylor said. “When the social unrest hit Hong Kong 2019, our physical stores were being closed on weekends. We looked for opportunities to build our brand online…it’s all before the pandemic. We’ve already got the experience of dealing with some upheavals.”
“During the pandemic, we also shifted our focus from tourist locations such as the Times Square and Harbour City to local residential areas such as Tuen Mun Plaza. We are planning to add more stores in other residential areas,” he said.
He said the company entered Taiwan’s market 10 years ago, currently with one store in Taipei and another in Taichung, and would open a third in Hsinchu later this year. He said the island was one of the highest growth markets in Asia for Lego in the last two years.
In 2020, the company opened 134 new Lego branded stores worldwide including 91 in China with two new flagship stores. That growth took the total number of Lego stores worldwide to 678.
In recent years, China’s Lepin, which has a logo similar to Lego, has produced many toy brick kits that look identical to Lego’s products. This month, a group of Lepin’s manufacturers were fined 30 million yuan (US$4.6 million) by the Guangdong High People’s Court for making and selling copycat Lego products.
Some Lepin products can still now be seen in shops in Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok despite the strong efforts of Hong Kong Customs and Lego’s intellectual property protection team to crack down on counterfeit products.
“Lepin has been a challenge for our brand for a while. It’s misleading the consumers that they were Lego,” Taylor said. “We only have one brand. We protect it not only because of financial reasons but also we want children to have a safe and high-quality play experience.”
He said although counterfeits would never be completely eradicated that Lego’s legal team would continue to fight against them.