In a significant leadership transition, Lego Group recently announced the appointment of Claus Kristensen as the new senior VP for the Asia Pacific (Apac) region. We sat down with Claus Kristensen to delve deeper into his vision, strategy, and goals for Lego’s future in the region. “My ambition is naturally to continue the success paved by Eric Maugein (his predecessor) and further build on the phenomenal growth we have achieved together. We have a stronger brand than ever in Asia, i
sia, in both mature and emerging markets like Indonesia and India where the Lego brand already has a special place in the hearts of kids and families,” he told Inside Retail. Kristensen believes that there is a massive opportunity to further build the brand in Asia and drive growth so that they can reach more customers across the region. “We will open more Lego stores, focus on exciting partnerships and be present across all platforms where our consumers are looking for us. I am committed to building our legacy further, fostering creativity and making a positive impact on the lives of children and communities,” he added. New beginnings According to him, the company has recently introduced two new business units – India & Emerging Asia (IEA) and Singapore, Malaysia, and Travel Retail (SMTR) – to serve high-growth markets and place better focus on Apac travel retail. “We recognise that emerging markets are key to our growth strategy, presenting a huge potential for the Apac region,” he noted. As economies develop, he believes more families are focusing on education and how creative play is a powerful and fun way to develop crucial life skills that benefit children both now and into the future. “The new organisational structure will help unlock and accelerate growth with dedicated resources, synergies in tackling similar challenges and continuous innovation to enhance our ongoing relationships with partners,” he explained. Kristensen said that Lego established its own office in India, and opened Lego stores across Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. “Today, we have almost 200 Lego stores across Apac and aim to expand our retail footprint even further to reach more children in the region,” he stressed. In addition, the company identified a gap in the travel retail industry for toys due to the high barrier of entry. This means that there is a role for them to play in being part of the travellers’ journey. “We opened our first-ever Lego Airport Stores in Singapore as we recognize Changi Airport as a world-class airport in one of the region’s key leisure and business hubs for travellers. The stores marked our eighth and ninth travel retail stores in Asia, alongside existing ones in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia,” he added. The challenges The toy industry, according to Kristensen, is traditionally highly competitive due to low barriers to entry and consumers’ interests rapidly changing. Furthermore, he pointed out that the company is currently operating in a challenging macroeconomic environment with high volatility impacting consumer demand. “Despite these factors, we have managed to hold our ground in a declining toy market. Retail expansion and innovation is the core of our business strategy. Last year, we opened the world’s largest Lego store in Sydney and we are making significant investments to build a large new factory in Vietnam, which both signals confidence in our trajectory,” he opined. While the group continues to introduce new IP partnerships – like the recently launched Lego Fortnite metaverse – its basic offering remains timeless. “The Lego brick – which was launched in 1958 – remains our foundation and the way we champion creativity and imagination hasn’t changed over the past 90 years. That is what makes the Lego brand continue to stay relevant and resonate with kids who have very high expectations – by staying true to our mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow,” he said. Onwards and upwards There is a host of strategic investments that underlines the focus, intent and importance of this Apac region within the larger Lego Group context. Kristensen said the latest US$1 billion factory in the Binh Duong province in Vietnam – its sixth factory globally – is a testament to that. Interestingly, Lego has also kept a tab on Asian popular culture which has gained an increasingly huge influence globally, evidently from the spread of K-pop and anime. “The fan-submitted idea of BTS’ ‘Dynamite’ reimagined as a Lego brick set very quickly gained over 10,000 views in the Lego Ideas voting, thus enabling it to be approved for production,” Kristensen said. The Group also comes up with collections that reflect the rich tapestry of traditions, cultural nuances and values of Asia – such as the annual Lego Spring Festival sets, Lego Architecture Himeji Castle and Lego Art Hokusai The Great Wave which launched just last year. Keeping it fresh “These collections stem from an understanding of cultural representation and authenticity, a commitment to celebrate the diversity of our customers and a dedication to evolving our offerings to better reflect the richness of the Asian experience,” he explained. Furthermore, the company’s research shows that physical retail remains one of the most important platforms for discovering new products. “By blending physical and digital play, we aim to reimagine the Lego retail experience and offer a more immersive and entertaining physical store experience for our consumers to have fun and build meaningful connections with the Lego brand,” he pointed out. Last but not least, kids around the world and in Asia are also passionate about gaming. “Our newly announced Lego Animal Crossing theme has received much enthusiasm from consumers, and Lego Fortnite – a new survival crafting game developed in partnership with Epic Games – which peaked at 2.45 million concurrent players shortly after launch. We hope to excite our fans and further inspire the imaginations of young builders with our thrilling gaming collaborations,” he concluded.