Top executive: LEGO explores Chinese culture and market

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 11, 2022
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Paul Huang, senior vice president of LEGO Group and general manager of LEGO China, speaks at a press conference held in the company's booth at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai on Nov. 5, 2020. [Photo courtesy of LEGO China]

A top executive at LEGO Group has told that the toy company will launch more sets with elements involving Chinese culture and traditions, with the company expressing great confidence and expectation in the market's potential.

This year, LEGO Group marks its 90th anniversary and attends the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE) with a 396-square-meter LEGO Playground, the largest-ever LEGO booth at CIIE. The booth showcases the latest LEGO toys and educational products, celebrating the importance of play. The LEGO Playground even includes a stunning carousel made of 78,752 bricks built by 10 LEGO master model builders, taking them 366 hours to construct in total.

As a five-year exhibitor at CIIE, the company has also launched its largest line-up of novelties inspired by Chinese culture, including five new LEGO sets representing elements from Lunar New Year celebrations and a parade, Monkey King, and a money tree. This represents the fifth consecutive year that the company has debuted novelties with rich Chinese elements at the expo. All five sets will be available in China and other markets from Dec. 25. 

"The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) mentioned promoting high-standard opening up, which impressed me," said Paul Huang, senior vice president of the LEGO Group and general manager of LEGO China. "This demonstrates China's determination to accelerate the building of a new development pattern and strive to promote high-quality development. This strengthens our confidence and expectation in China, a market full of resilience, vitality, and potential."

Huang also noted that the high-quality development of China's society and economy had provided more opportunities for foreign enterprises to develop their businesses in the country. China's past achievements in deepening opening-up and continuously optimizing its business environment have made them confident in the prospects of the Chinese market. 

"In recent years, we have continuously increased our investments in the Chinese market and achieved strong double-digit growth, making great progress in building the brand, expanding our retail presence, innovating our portfolio, driving sustainability progress, increasing manufacturing capacity, and digitalizing globally and in China," Huang said. "For example, our retail footprint has expanded to more than 100 cities in the Chinese mainland. In 2018, the number was just 18. This reflects the increasingly optimized business environment in China, which makes us more determined to invest in the Chinese market, from first-tier cities to more fourth- and fifth-tier cities, continuing our strategic initiatives to bring LEGO Play to even more Chinese children and their families."

"We believe that LEGO Group is still young in the Chinese market and has a lot of room for growth and development," Huang added.

The company has opened over 380 LEGO brand retail stores in 105 cities across China, compared with 60 stores in 18 cities in 2018. It also announced expansions of its manufacturing capacity in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, in January 2022 to support long-term growth in the region. Next year, according to the executive, LEGO Group will open 80 new brand retail stores. Meanwhile, they will also focus on digital platforms to open two different themed online flagship stores next month on Douyin after launching their first e-commerce store on Alibaba's Tmall. 

In terms of sustainable development, LEGO also brought toy bricks made from recycled PET plastic bottles to the CIIE – their first public debut of prototype building blocks in China. This reflects their achievements in working toward using sustainable materials to produce LEGO products.

A photo shows LEGO Group's booth marking "90 years of play" at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai from Nov. 5-10, 2022. [Photo courtesy of LEGO China]

"CIIE is a great place for brands and enterprises all over the world to introduce their new products, technologies, and experiences to Chinese consumers, and it also provides opportunities for multinational companies to communicate with local partners and governments," Huang described. "In the past five years, we actively explored the market opportunities on the expo platform while debuting 20 new sets of products, 16 among which were with Chinese cultural elements. Through CIIE's influence, more Chinese consumers know about our innovative products and play experiences. This is a great promotion for our business. So, with COVID-19 continuing its impacts on the globe, the fact that CIIE is held as scheduled has sent a reassuring message to foreign-invested enterprises, including us."

The company also announced a new strategic partnership with China Development Research Foundation at CIIE to roll out a "Prescription for Play" program. The program aims to support the development of parental and caregiver behaviors toward learning through play in the home. For example, by distributing play materials at local healthcare centers and providing caregivers with one-on-one guidance and instructions on parent-child play, it is expected that 250,000 children aged 18 to 48 months will benefit from the program in 2023.

"We believe in one simple mission: inspiring and developing the builders of tomorrow. We believe that play is crucial to the wellbeing and happiness of the whole family in a rapidly changing world," Huang stressed.

The LEGO Play Well Study 2022 showed that there is an increasing affinity toward learning through play among Chinese parents and children, with 93% of parents in Chinese mainland seeing play as key in helping kids learn new things. Meanwhile, 96% of children said play helps them try new ideas and do new things. Research has also found that play's benefits extend beyond children to the whole family, with 95% of Chinese parents saying play builds strong family bonds. All findings from the report were gathered from a total of 32,781 parents and 24,593 children aged 5-12 through a 20-minute online quantitative survey conducted across 35 markets in early 2022. A total of 1,004 parents and 770 children from the Chinese mainland participated in the survey.

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