LEGO beacon store opening sheds light on China's retail trends, potential


LEGO beacon store at Joy City shopping complex in Xidan Commercial Street, Beijing, April 21, 2024. [Photo/VCG]

BEIJING - At about 10 am on April 20, when most stores within the Joy City shopping complex in Xidan Commercial Street in downtown Beijing just opened, a store on the building's second floor already had customers waiting in a long queue that stretched for about 100 meters.

They are avid fans of global toy brand LEGO, which opened a beacon store in the bustling shopping mall on Saturday morning, the third of its kind across the country and the first one in north China.

I was struck by the enthusiasm of these loyal LEGO customers, as the LEGO Group already has several retail stores in the Chinese capital. My curiosity was well answered when walking into the brand-new store, the LEGO Group's largest certified store in China.

With an area of 621 square meters, it is not only a retail outlet, but also a cultural center that offers an immersive experience of toy creativity and fun.

A lot of unique Beijing cultural elements made with LEGO bricks could be seen around the store, including a leisurely man holding a bird cage that is reminiscent of Beijing in the past. Several road signs of well-known spots in Beijing stand along a corridor, as if it was welcoming consumers into a city made with LEGO bricks.

"The store's design will welcome the Beijing locals and impress visitors with both the old-day and present Beijing features," said Jenny Xu, vice-president of China offline branded retail of the LEGO Group, who grew up in Beijing.

The most eye-catching and popular section in the store is the Minifigure Factory, which offers personalized toy figure services by allowing consumers to choose the minifigure's outfit and decorations and leave their own writings or paintings via digital printing.

To my surprise, the new store was not only crowded with kids with parents, many young people also made hefty purchases.

"It's so much fun to have a minifigure of my own design and my own name. You just feel like that your creativity is bursting," said Meng Wei, a 27-year-old LEGO fan.

I also tried making my own LEGO minifigure. It was indeed quite an exciting, interesting and worry-free period of time.

China is an important strategic growth market for the LEGO Group. Just five years after China opened its doors to the world through reform and opening up in 1978, the LEGO Group entered the Chinese market with exports of products. So far LEGO has opened over 460 stores in over 120 cities across China.

Beacon store is a high-end form of retail outlet that seeks to offer more individualized and immersive LEGO play experience via localized design and unique attractions such as the Minifigure Factory.

Chinese parents are attaching growing importance to learning through play for their kids and are looking for more quality products and more creative, immersive and interactive shopping experience, Xu said.

Compared with some developed markets, there is still much space for the toy market to grow in China, said Paul Huang, senior vice-president of LEGO Group and general manager of LEGO China, citing the country's huge community of children and the strong purchasing power of the vast middle-income group.

Over 40 percent of the LEGO Group's retail stores are located in third-tier cities and below, which allows more children to experience LEGO's high-quality play experiences within their cities.

Huang reiterated the company's commitment to long-term investment in the Chinese market, and said that its fourth beacon store will soon be opened in southeast China.

"We want more people to share the fun of creative play and gain from the process," Huang said.