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For Lego, Pink Is the New Black

Toy maker reports 40% operating profit increase in US during 2012, thanks in part to initially controversial sets for girls
For Lego, Pink Is the New Black
Photograph by Nick Ferrari for Bloomberg Businessweek

In December 2011 the Danish masters of toy bricks and minifigures launched Lego Friends, a new line of building sets aimed at girls, to much skepticism, reflection, and even, in some quarters, #LiberateLEGO opposition. None could argue that the company hadn’t skewed “boy” in recent years, with seemingly endless iterations of Star Wars, police, and ninja-themed sets. Still, the new pastel color palate and taller, slimmer lady minifigures (introduced on our cover), and scenarios—suburban home, beauty parlor, and “New Born Foal” horse stable—suggested to some that the company was retrograde, pandering, or even sexist. Maybe so. In any case, it’s working: Lego Friends is a huge hit, exceeding Lego’s own wildest expectations.

On Thursday the Lego Group reported that Lego Friends became the company’s fourth-bestselling line in only its first year (behind Star Wars, Ninjago, and Lego CITY, and surpassing superheroes), helping the company record the best financial results in its 81-year history, with a 25 percent increase in revenue globally (to $4.04 billion). Moreover, Lego Friends’ performance has silenced any remaining naysayers within Lego who doubted the brand could appeal equally to both genders. (In 2013, Lego Friends will have another wave of products grouped around a “School’s Out” theme. Sets will include a detailed school and various after-school activities for the friends, such as martial arts, soccer, magic, and dance.)