The combination of traditional plastic toy bricks with big name computer games have boosted sales and profits at Lego. The Danish company said its tie-up with the games company Nintendo, which spawned the unlikely link between Lego and the mustachioed plumber Super Mario, was its most successful launch.
Business was also boosted by families spending more time together during the coronavirus pandemic, which sparked strong demand for Lego products.
Consumer sales climbed by more than a fifth in 2019, while Lego’s operating profit rose by 19% to almost 13bn Danish kroner (£1.5bn).
The family-owned business grew its market share globally, including in its 12 largest markets in 2020, outpacing growth recorded for toys in general, which was about 10%, according to the market research firm NPD.
Lego did not attribute its growth entirely to people spending more time at home during the pandemic and said investment in store openings and online were paying off.
Niels B Christiansen, Lego’s chief executive, said the company had made big investments over the previous two years.
The company said it intended to focus on bringing together physical and digital play, such as through its Nintendo collaboration and its Star Wars range, one of its most popular.
The Super Mario starter set was Lego’s top-selling product, despite only being launched halfway through 2020.
In January, Lego announced a new product launched jointly with the record label Universal Music. Vidiyo is a music video maker, aimed at children aged 7-10, which allows them to direct, produce and star in their own music videos, using tracks from Universal Music’s artists.
“Children are digital natives – they don’t care whether they play physically or digitally,” Christiansen said.
Social media has allowed Lego fans to show off what they have built to a wider audience. The company said a photo of a Lego creation was being uploaded every 2.7 seconds.
Despite the company’s focus on digitalisation, including e-commerce, Lego is still backing physical retail with a large-scale store opening programme.
The company opened 130 new shops in 2020, 91 of which were in China, and plans further openings this year, which will take its global store count from 678 to 800.