Breaking news: New Lego NYC store unveils groundbreaking retail innovation

Unique immersive digital and physical shopper experiences will debut in NYC and then roll out to Lego stores around the world.

The Lego Group has shared a glimpse into the future of experiential retail as it opens its doors on a new store in New York City. The 7,175 sq ft, two story store on Fifth Avenue is the first Lego flagship store to feature an innovative new retail format, elements of which will be introduced to more than 100 stores worldwide in the coming year.

The format is designed to create an immersive world of Lego bricks by blending unique digital and physical experiences. It has been developed as part of the Group’s strategy to innovate its stores as shoppers seek more personalised and interactive retail offerings.

Colette Burke, chief commercial officer said: “For a number of years, we’ve seen the trend towards people visiting stores for high-quality, entertaining brand experiences. Over the past year, our fans have missed personal and tactile interactions with the brand and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”

Lego believes that, despite the rapid growth in eCommerce, brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a critical role in strengthening consumers’ connections with a brand and in helping people to discover new products.

“While our existing store format has been very successful, we are evolving it to strengthen brand love and create memorable experiences people will talk about long after they leave,” explained Colette. “We want people to walk into our stores and feel immersed in a world of Lego bricks. We’ve designed the spaces to fire up creativity and imagination and encourage hands-on play. Our talented designers have developed entirely new experiences that blend the very best of ground-breaking customisation, technology and physical play allowing visitors to interact with the brand in exciting new ways.”

New features in the New York City store, which are set to appear as the new format is introduced to stores around the world, include:

Brick Lab, which immerses people and their Lego builds in an amazing virtual world. Technology brings walls, floors, and ceilings to life with light, sound, and music for a truly interactive build and play experience.

The interactive Tree of Discovery is the centrepiece of the store and an expression of the Group’s commitment to being inclusive and having a positive impact on society and the planet. Visitors are invited to explore a magical wonderland hidden inside the tree through windows in its rainbow trunk.

An interactive Storytelling Table designed for adult fans brings to life the stories behind sets available in store, showing early product designs and prototypes, the development process and allowing fans to virtually ‘meet’ the Lego designers.

The Personalisation Studio invites visitors to make a memento of their visit, reimagining themselves in Lego form, as a portrait from the Mosaic Maker or an iconic Minifigure.

With Lego Expression, visitors can have fun with Lego Minifigures who mimic their facial expressions.

The new 5th Ave store will include NYC icons such a taxicab you can sit in, a giant Empire State Building and One World Trade skyscraper, the lights and billboards of Broadway and Time Square, Lego Marvel Super Heroes Thor, Spiderman, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America and the Ghostbusters Firehouse and crew. Stores globally will feature larger-than-life builds celebrating local culture and landmarks.

The new store format has been designed to be modular and fully flexible so that it can work in Lego stores of all sizes, as well as in third-party retail partners’ stores. It will be introduced to over 100 Lego stores around the world during the coming year, as well as select global partner retailers.

The Lego Group currently has around 731 branded stores in 50 countries around the world and plans to open 120 new stores during 2021. The Group will also continue to invest in building its eCommerce capabilities.

Colette added: “We’re seeing significant growth across eCommerce channels, but we also understand the distinct and important role that each of our retail channels plays in building the brand. We will continue to invest in innovating across all our channels to create compelling experiences online, instore and with our retail partners.”

The new Lego Store will open at 11am ET on Friday 25th June at 636 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York 10020.  For further information, visit www.lego.com/5th-avenue.

 

University Games moves offices to Hertfordshire

University Games says the new offices will allow for further expansion as part of the company’s strategic growth plans.

This week, University Games will bid farewell to a building that has been the home and heart of the Paul Lamond Games part of the business for over 25 years. As the company prepares for the future, it will open the doors on a new chapter and move to new offices in Royston, Hertfordshire.

The new, more modern office will allow for further expansion as part of University Games strategic growth plans. With an impressive portfolio of over 700 games, puzzles and gifts, following the acquisition of The Lagoon Group last summer, the business says it is more than ready to move onto its next phase.

Richard Wells, managing director of University Games, is nostalgic about the time at the former offices in Islington. “The Newington Green office has been the hub of the Paul Lamond business for many years and the home of the combined University Games group for the last three years,” he said. “We have many great memories there and we are certainly a little sad to be leaving. As a business, we experienced some significant changes during our time there, especially over the last few years as both Paul Lamond Games and The Lagoon Group have come together under the University Games banner.”

The new Office address is:

University Games UK Ltd
4 The Lanterns,
16 Melbourn Street,
Royston,
Hertfordshire,
SG8 7BX

“We now need to look to the future, and with the growth we have experienced over the past couple of years and our ambitious plans for the future, now is the right time to move to larger and more modern premises, added Richard. “The new offices have plenty of character and will offer us greater flexibility to develop and grow the business over the coming years.”

For more information on the University Games portfolio, visit www.university-games.co.uk.

 

New pre-school series Milo debuts on Milkshake! to great success

Planeta Junior is working with Lisle Licensing in the UK to build a strong brand presence and licensing programme for Milo.

Milo, the new pre-school series produced by Fourth Wall in association with Planeta Junior, had its UK premiere on Channel 5´s Milkshake! in mid-May and is already celebrating high ratings figures.

Within one month of launching on 10th May in the highly regarded primetime 8am weekday slot, Milo has achieved great ratings on Milkshake! and the expectation is that it will continue to go from strength to strength. The series is also available for viewers on the broadcaster’s on-demand platform, My5.

The series consists of 52 x 11’ episodes, is bright and colourful, and brings to the screen a contemporary graphic style. Milo is an adventurous 5-year-old cat who, together with his best friends Lofty and Lark, uses role-play to explore the world of vocations – from doctors and mechanics, through to hairdressers, chefs, and postal workers – introducing pre-schoolers to a variety of professions in a positive and entertaining way. The series’ underlining message, through the eyes of Milo and his friends, is that every job is amazing.

Milo is already a successful children’s book character with over 30 titles published and sold in more than 20 territories worldwide.

The production was supported by the UK government’s Young Audiences Content Fund. Managed by the BFI, the fund supports the creation of distinctive, quality content for young audiences. The fund is intended for providing content that informs our understanding of the world, stimulates knowledge and learning, as well as representing diversity and alternative viewpoints.

Planeta Junior holds and manages the series’ worldwide consumer products rights and is working with Lisle Licensing in the UK to build a strong brand presence and licensing programme.

Discover more about Milo here: www.miloseries.com.

Lisle Licensing has over 50 years of extensive market and category knowledge in multiple territories and possesses a unique combination of experience and youth, delivering first class programmes for its clients, managing all strategy development, product approvals and royalty reporting. For more information, visit the company website here.

PlayMonster expands creative portfolio with acquisition of Ann Williams Group

New brands including Craft-tastic, Loopdedoo, Loopdeloom, Craft Crush and Sticker & Chill will complement PlayMonster’s existing creative lineup.

PlayMonster LLC has announced the acquisition of Michigan-based Ann Williams Group, a leading manufacturer of award-winning, innovative craft and activity kits for all ages. With wide distribution across key mass retailers, including Target, Nordstrom, and Michaels, plus specialty and independent retail channels, the addition of the Ann Williams business further scales PlayMonster’s footprint in the growing craft and activity toy industry category, complementing current activity brands including Spirograph, Colorforms, Latchkits, Face Paintoos and more.

“The innovation, quality, and attention to detail of Ann Williams’ beautiful products are outstanding and best in class within the category,” said Bob Wann, CEO of PlayMonster. “They deliver a wonderful play experience that aligns perfectly with our vision at PlayMonster and demonstrate a nice synergy with our growth following the successful integration of Kahootz over the last year.”

Brands that will join the PlayMonster lineup as part of the acquisition include Craft-tastic, Loopdedoo, Craft Crush, Loopdeloom and Sticker & Chill. From learning to sew or creating room décor to making jewellery and much more, each line invites craft and activities fans of all ages to explore new creative possibilities, learn new skills and express themselves.

“We’ve been inspiring creativity with innovative craft and activity kits for more than 12 years, driven by the core belief that hands-on activities and creative play are one of the best gifts you can give a child,” commented Sheila Wright, founder and president of Ann Williams Group. “The joy of the experience is so much more than just an activity, and we see those same shared values in all that the PlayMonster team does. We are delighted to become part of the PlayMonster family, continuing to share the magic and possibility of our brands with people everywhere.”

For more information on either PlayMonster or Ann Williams Group, visit playmonster.com and annwilliamsgroup.com.

 

All UK Disney Stores except flagship rumoured to be closing

Disney has begun a store closure programme in the US and several stores in the UK have also already closed this year.

Disney had previously hinted that UK physical store closures were forthcoming. The group announced in March that it planned to close at least 60 Disney retail stores in North America, about 20% of its worldwide total, as it revamped its digital shopping platforms to focus more on online sales.

The company also said it was evaluating a significant reduction of stores in Europe, out of its approximately 300 Disney stores around the globe.

Reports now indicate that many more stores beyond these original projections are closing worldwide, although this has yet to be publicly confirmed by Disney. Locations in Watford, Warrington and Aberdeen closed earlier this year, while branches  in Bromley and Westfield Stratford have closed this month. Staff at other UK outlets have taken to social media to share that they have been given notice and told that their stores will soon be closing. It is believed that the closure programme will be complete by 21st September this year, leaving just the flagship London store on Oxford Street.

Some local media outlets have also picked up on the news, with YorkMix reporting that the city’s branch will close by September; the shop unit is already being marketed for rent on commercial property sites. The website states that management have known about the York store closure for some weeks.

The Daily Echo has also confirmed that the Southampton store has closed for good. A spokesperson for Marlands Shopping said: “After 26 years of serving shoppers in The Marlands, we are disappointed to see the Disney Store cease trading at the end of its lease in June of this year. One of the longest serving stores in the centre, we understand this closure is part of planned review by Disney of the number of its physical stores across Europe, following a similar review in North America, acknowledging the shift in their shopper behaviour for certain types of purchases to its online platforms.”

Meanwhile, the Sunderland Echo reports that a further store closed its doors on Sunday, June 20th after more than a decade in the Bridges Shopping Centre and having moved to bigger premises in 2012. Karen Eve, centre director at the Bridges, said: “The Disney Store in the Bridges has reached a natural lease end date. The store is closing in line with Disney’s strategy to reduce its store footprint to focus on the growth of its digital platform.”

A notice put up in the window of the Sunderland shop says: “Thank you for being our guest. You’ll still be able to find our amazing items from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic plus lots more magic at shopdisney.co.uk.”

Speaking of the North American store closures earlier this year, Stephanie Young, president of Disney’s consumer products, games and publishing, said: “The global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer. We now plan to create a more flexible, interconnected eCommerce experience that gives consumers easy access to unique, high-quality products across all our franchises.”

Although there has been no official statement on the UK store estate, the Disney Store website has responded to inquiries about the closures and suggested that it may be moving towards partnerships with existing and third party retailers in the future, rather than running standalone stores. “We constantly evaluate our Disney Stores to ensure we’re in the right sites to be able to provide magical experiences for our guests,” reads a comment on the website.  ”As a result, we are creating new Disney destinations with various retail partners, but we may close some existing stores. You’ll still be able to shop in our other Disney Stores and online.”

 

UK retail supply chain needs more drivers and warehouses

ParcelHero warns that the shortage of drivers has become critical, while the online shopping boom has created an urgent need for extra warehouse space.

Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal.

The national shortage of truck drivers has escalated to the point that there have been calls for the army to mobilise to protect the UK’s food supplies. ParcelHero says the UK has a shortfall of around 70,000 drivers that could lead to delays, empty shelves and higher prices – not just in food retail, but right across the board.

Last October, ParcelHero warned of an inevitable driver shortage as around a quarter of a million EU workers left the UK in response to new Brexit employment rules. There is now a shortfall of up to 70,000 HGV drivers. ParcelHero’s head of Consumer Research, David Jinks, commented: “Home deliveries of food and goods are already being impacted by the driver shortage, with some stores also running low on stock. The mass exodus of EU drivers and warehouse operatives has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19, which brought the training of new lorry drivers to a standstill.”

David believes that UK retailers and their supply chain partners now face a perfect storm. Ken Murphy, the chief executive of Tesco, has admitted his company is having to work hard to keep up with the shortfall, while some wholesalers say they have already reached crisis point.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) and other organisations and retailers held a crisis meeting with the government, and were disappointed with the lack of progress made in addressing the problem. “The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents freight transport companies, says the government must temporarily suspend drivers’ working hours restrictions and place the role of delivery driver on the UK’s Shortage Occupation list,” explained David. “Other organisations are calling for the government to temporarily suspend limits on the number of non-UK workers entering the UK because of the unfolding crisis.”

He continued: “Few UK citizens are keen to train as new drivers and many existing professionals are leaving their jobs. Once abroad, drivers face huge delays at customs and intrusive Covid testing. In the UK, there’s a reduction in truck stops where they can rest safely and the introduction of IR35 tax changes that have driven up their costs considerably.”

ParcelHero is among the organisations calling for UK drivers to be more widely recognised and compensated for the essential role they play in supporting industry and retailers. David also believes that the UK government must work with the EU to clear up issues around customs delays and charges, Northern Ireland deliveries and increased transport costs, saying that the UK-EU Brexit agreement, “is clearly not fit for purpose.” ParcelHero has provided more on the ongoing UK-EU trade problems here.

Meanwhile, the recent online shopping boom has driven a rush for warehouse space. Robin Woodbridge, head of capital deployment at warehouse logistics company Prologis, said: “I’ve been working in logistics for 30 years and I’ve never seen demand like this.” The company has been building new warehouses as fast as it can, but is struggling to keep pace with demand.

New research from Savills, commissioned by the UK Warehousing Association, confirms a dramatic increase in warehouse space in the last six years; an increase of 32%, or the equivalent of an extra 2,396 football pitches. High Street retailers used to be the dominant occupiers, but have now been overtaken by third party logistics providers which fulfil and deliver online shopping.

Prologis’s biggest park, just off the M1 near Northampton, is a vast site with three rail freight terminals, but is still undergoing expansion. A super-sized warehouse will be Royal Mail’s biggest parcel hub, processing more than a million packages a day. When the vast logistics park is eventually filled, it expects to employ 15,000 people, with a new training academy to help attract and train people for a career in logistics.

“As online retail has grown, the type of people required in warehousing has changed as well,” commented Kevin Mofid, head of industrials and logistics research at Savills. “Now it’s robotics engineers and data scientists. Warehouses have become huge centres of technical excellence to gain efficiencies.”

Kidicraft welcomes Katy Greenwood as company expands

Keeping it in the family, Katy will work alongside her father Roy Greenwood and the team, as Kidicraft moves to new premises.

Katy Greenwood

Kidicraft has strengthened its team with the appointment of Katy Greenwood, who will fulfil the role of sales administrator. Katy’s appointment will serve to support the increased demand that the company is experiencing and ensure that it maintains its excellent levels of customer service.

Katy is joining at a critical and exciting time as the business moves to new premises this week. Kidicraft says the move is necessary to keep up with the continued expansion of the business and its ever-expanding range of new products.

The new address, from 28th June, will be:

Kidicraft Ltd

26 – 28 Churchill Way

Lomeshaye Industrial Estate

Nelson

BB9 6RT

Roy Greenwood, director at Kidicraft told Toy World he is delighted to have Katy on board. Katy has joined after completing her university degree, and Roy says he is excited to see his experience and knowledge being passed down for the future.

Katy added: “I am really excited to have joined the team. Everyone has been very helpful and supportive in introducing me into the toy industry. I cannot wait for restrictions to ease, so that I can get more involved in the trade shows and see the business progress. It has been lovely to start working with my dad – and to learn from him.”

Kidicraft has recently expanded its product offering considerably. The company increased its puzzles ranges throughout 2020, including a move into traditional 1000pc puzzles, and the development continues in 2021. Toy World recently reported on the introduction of the new Plush and 3D Puzzle range, which is available now and includes Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Batman and Superman options at launch.

Katy can be reached on 01282 505988 or sales@kidicraft.com.

Details of all of the ranges on offer from Kidicraft, can be found on the company’s website.

Plum Play welcomes Lesley Whitehouse as product manager

With over 20 years’ experience in the toy industry, Lesley will be responsible for facilitating the introduction of new items into the Plum Play portfolio.

Lesley Whitehouse

Plum Play has announced the appointment of Lesley Whitehouse as product manager. In her new role, Lesley will be responsible for introducing new items to the Plum portfolio, making sure that brand guidelines and ethics are maintained. She will also be working with other departments on new processes.

Lesley brings a wealth of experience to Plum Play, having spent over 16 years working for Toys R Us as lead buyer for Europe. Most recently, Lesley worked for Mothercare and the Entertainer as a senior buyer.

Lesley commented: “I am looking forward to working with the Plum family and team, which I have known for many years. It is an exciting time to join the business, with the new global expansion program we have in our sights. My experience and knowledge from the outdoor industry will be extremely valuable for further ventures”

Plum continues to grow the business both domestically and internationally through strong innovation in products and expansion into new and existing international markets.

Director of Product Development, Dave Woodman, added: “I am delighted to have Lesley on board as part of the team. With over 20 years of experience in the toy trade she is going to be a great asset to the business as we continue our growth in both the UK and international markets.”

For more information, visit plumplay.co.uk or email sales@plumproducts.com.

 

L.O.L. Surprise! to celebrate July birthday with global party

MGA Entertainment is hosting the birthday event with a free, fully immersive virtual concert for L.O.L. Surprise! fans around the world.

The global celebration will be hosted by TikTok sensation Pressley Hosbach featuring That Girl Lay Lay, the 13-year-old hip-hop and rap artist, singing her biggest hits.

Taking place on 7th July, MGA says the  L.O.L. Surprise! fans’ virtual concert will be a fully immersive experience with dancing, trivia and huge surprises throughout,  including the naming of the biggest L.O.L. Surprise! fans.

The global celebration will be hosted by TikTok sensation Pressley Hosbach featuring That Girl Lay Lay, with the 13-year-old hip-hop and rap artist singing her biggest hits. Other special guests include; Big Will and his crew, launching the world premiere of the “Somewhere in Between” dance video, exclusively for L.O.L. fans. The birthday show promises to be full of surprises, featuring  immersive technology, trivia, and a reveal of the biggest, most fierce and fabulous global L.O.L. Surprise! fans. Plus, 100 Superfans will be given $500 to support causes of their choice.

The event takes place as the L.O.L brand continues to go from strength to strength; the launch of latest addition to the range, the all-new L.O.L. Surprise! Tweens, was announced this month.

“707 is L.O.L. Surprise! Day, a momentous occasion that everyone at L.O.L. Surprise looks forward to all year round,” said MGA CEO and founder Isaac Larian. “This is the day we take time to really celebrate our fans, our individuality, our inclusiveness and of course the fierce fun that L.O.L. inspires. We have gone above and beyond to make the concert an immersive unique experience because we all know L.O.L. is great, but it’s better with all of our fans together,”

The brand has partnered with Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring inclusive, culturally responsive music programmes to kids across the US, to celebrate the big day.

Parents can register for free tickets at LOLSurprise.com/LOLDay, and will receive a one-use link to watch live on the Looped platform on 7th July.

 

Obituary: Michael Nunn

Michael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield and chairman of White Rose Toys buying group.

Toy World is sad to report that Michael Nunn has passed away peacefully, aged 93 . Michael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield. Edwin Redgate opened the first store in Fargate in 1857, selling furs and sewing machines. From 1890 onwards ,Redgates sold fur pram covers and around this time, the first wheeled toys were introduced. The reputation of Redgates grew rapidly in the 1960s, when it became known in the trade as one of the best toy shops outside of London, often referred to as “the Hamleys of the North.”

Michael worked in the business from 1948 to 1986, and was a key figure in the store’s move to its most-remembered location at Furnival Gate in the mid-1970s. In 1975, Redgates reached a milestone £1m turnover, which was a significant achievement at the time.

Having celebrated the company’s 125th birthday in 1982, Michael sold the business several years later to Zodiac Toys, which continued to run it for two years before it finally closed.

During his career, Michael travelled frequently to Nuremberg, where he originally met doll manufacturer Hans Gotz and started the agency agreement which still lasts to this day. The business has been run for many years by Michael’s son Antony, who married Hans’ daughter Silke Gotz. Michael’s grandson Patrick also works in the toy business, carrying on the family tradition.

Michael was chairman of White Rose Toys, a buying group consisting of 19 retailers which eventually became one of the founding cornerstones of Toymaster. He was also an active member of the Fence Club.

Speaking to Toy World, Michael’s son Antony commented: “Redgates was his life. Unfortunately, when Sheffield Council put the rates up by 150%, that signed the warrant for Sheffield business to close. In the end, selling the business was the best thing dad ever did – everyone got paid, we didn’t owe a penny.”

Our thoughts are with Michael’s family and the many friends and colleagues he made in the toy community over his long, illustrious career.