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How Lego is using digital and physical retail to reimagine the toy store

immersive format

The Lego Group today opens its doors on a New York flagship store that it says represents the future of experiential retail. Lego says the new store represents its latest thinking on the importance of both digital and physical experiences in play. 

The new 7,175 sq ft two-storey Fifth Avenue store has been two years in the planning. In it, the toy brand has worked with its shoppers of all ages to find out how they want to buy. The result is an immersive world that is designed to blend digital and physical experiences and innovations. Lego has 731 shops in 50 countries and says its stores remain at the heart of its business despite the growth of ecommerce. That has been particularly pronounced over the last year, when shoppers turned online to buy its products in repeated lockdowns. Web traffic doubled to a quarter of a billion in 2020 alone. 

But Colette Burke, Lego chief commercial officer says: “For a number of years we’ve seen the trend towards people visiting stores for high-quality, entertaining brand experiences. Over the past year our fans have missed personal and tactile interactions with the brand and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”

Simone Sweeney, vice president global retail development at Lego Group, says: “One of the things we’re trying to introduce with the new retail concept is that you have that opportunity of the physical and the digital. And that is mirrored in the great premise of modern retail, which is offering the shopper what they want, when they need it, and having that that dynamic approach.”

Experiential retail

The new store is the result of two years of research that found shoppers – both children and adults – keen to play with bricks and to take part in activities that also incorporate digital. 

New features include the Brick Lab, where customers can book to play and build within a virtual world, taking on challenges and meeting characters on screen. They can also scan their own build and watch it become part of the Brick Lab.

Shoppers can design their own mini-figures and other mementos in the Personalisation Studio, interacting with them both online and offline. A Storytelling Table is designed for adult fans and brings to life stories behind the sets available in store, including how they were designed, from early designs and prototypes onwards. Using Lego Expression, visitors can see how interactive Lego mini figures imitate their facial expressions. 

The store is dominated by large-scale builds including a taxicab that visitors can sit in, a giant Empire State Building and a One World Trade skyscraper, as well as Broadways sights and MarvelSuper Heroes characters including Thor, Spiderman and Captain America. 

A Tree of Discovery, made of more than 880,000 Lego bricks, has a rainbow trunk with hidden details and secrets including mini-scenes, kaleidoscopes and picture viewers. And shoppers waiting to pay can now wave to the Lady Liberty minifigure on the screen – and see her react. 

Burke says: “While our existing store format has been very successful, we are evolving it to strengthen brand love and create memorable experiences people will talk about long after they leave. We want people to walk into our stores and feel immersed in a world of Lego bricks. We’ve designed the spaces to fire up creativity and imagination and encourage hands-on play. Our talented designers have developed entirely new experiences that blend the very best of ground-breaking customisation, technology and physical play allowing visitors to interact with the brand in exciting new ways.”

Multichannel strategy

Features from this store format will be aded to more than 100 Lego shops around the world over the coming year, as to shops run by a number of partner retailers around the world. The retail brand plans to open more than 120 new shops in 2021, while expanding its online capabilities. In 2020, its online shop saw visitor numbers double to a quarter of a billion – and that growth has continued in 2021. 

Sweeney says:  “As people shift more towards ecommerce, the Lego Group is continuing to invest both in the the physical store as well as ecommerce, knowing that they serve different needs, and a different purpose for different people at different times.”

Lego, a Top150 retailer in RXEU Top1000 research, was founded in Billund, Denmark in 1932 and the first Lego retail shop opened on April 2 1992 in Bloomington, Minnesota. Today it sells online, through 731 shops and through wholesale retail partners, reaching customers in more than 140 countries around the world.

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