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Lego Bets on China’s Children With Hundreds of New Stores

The toymaker’s strategy hinges on hundreds of retail shops to boost sales online.

Inside the Lego flagship store in Beijing.

Inside the Lego flagship store in Beijing.

Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

On Beijing’s typically bustling Wangfujing street, the luxury boutiques selling handbags, shoes, and clothing are mostly deserted on a Saturday afternoon. But wedged between Prada and Tiffany, one shop is packed: Lego. The 6,700-square-foot outlet of the Danish toymaker is crowded with parents watching their children snap together plastic bricks to a soundtrack of Christmas songs, while store employees explain the basics of Lego construction to shoppers unfamiliar with the toys. “Legos can keep him away from the TV and the iPad,” Emily Fang says as her 5-year-old marvels at Chinese-themed plastic-brick models of dragons and pandas. “It undoubtedly has enhanced his patience and creativity and makes him feel more confident.”

While the double threat of the coronavirus pandemic and online competition has slammed sales at toy stores elsewhere, Lego Group is betting big on brick-and-mortar retailing in China. With more than two-thirds of the world’s 2 billion children expected to be living in East Asia by 2032, the company says it must be physically present in the region. Over the two years ending in December 2021, Lego plans to more than double the number of stores it has in China, to 300 in 85 cities. Although Lego doesn’t disclose sales by country, it says China is already one of its best markets, clocking double-digit growth as the company’s global sales last year rose 6%, to a record $6.3 billion.