For those that are celebrating, Happy Chinese New Year! Hope you had a great time ushering in the Year of the Pig.
Fun fact, I have a thing for collecting LEGO pigs, as you can see in the photo above, so I figured, why not grab as many pigs that I could from my collection, including my prized army of Series 12’s Piggy Guy as well as my drove of pig livestock.
The Piggy Guy is my second favourite Collectible Minifigure of all time, and I’ve actually been waiting all this time to get a massive family photo together – because what better time to hog the limelight than the start of the Year of the Pig!
Warning, that there’s a huge word dump below, so feel free to skip all the way to the end of the post for a special giveaway 🙂
Thoughts on the LEGO Chinese New Year Set Availability
First up, I have to acknowledge and commend LEGO for going above and beyond to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Going beyond the Zodiac Animal Year of the Pig Set, LEGO (now infamously) also released 2 (soon to be 3) sets exclusive to the Chinese and Asian Pacific markets – Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner and the Dragon Dance.
When they were first announced, the reception from fans was fantastic, but little did we know how limited the sets were going to be. If you read my Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner review, you’ll understand why demand for these sets quickly exceeded supply – because these were amazingly designed sets, with tons of new exclusive prints and elements.
For what it’s worth, I still think it was a huge error not making these sets more accessibly, especially to the North American and European markets, both regions which have significant Chinese, Vietnamese and other pan-Asian communities.
It was a huge missed opportunity to educate and spread awareness of Chinese New Year to these countries by way of these excellently designed LEGO sets.
My theory is that LEGO deliberately limited the release of these sets to hype up the desirability of the sets, in a way to make these Asian markets feel special.
LEGO’s CEO, Niels B. Christiansen explains it in plain English here: “These sets are special. They are the first sets we’ve created to celebrate Lunar New Year and the first time we’ve made sets for a specific country or region. We hope they bring a lot of joy to children and the young at heart during new year.”
I’m not knocking the practice, it’s a deliberate business tactic to release items in low quantities or limit release to geographic regions and if you go into the “why” of these sets, it does make logical sense that it was only released in Asia.
Now I don’t agree that it was the right move, but I can see why from a business point of view. China is LEGO’s most important market, so literally kowtow-ing to them and courting the Chinese consumer is undoubtedly very high on Niels’ priority list.
Availability in Asia Pacific
If you’re in the Australian LEGO community, you’d probably have known how difficult these sets were to come by, and there’s a lot of (understandably) angry fans in the community who missed out because of the limited release and distribution centres, especially with the change of heart with the sets not being available on LEGO.com.
There’s been a lot of debate surrounding this issue in Australia, exarcebated by the fact that these sets were brilliantly designed.
I’m going to go out on the limb here and defend LEGO Australia for this. Wait, what?! Yes, you read that right. You may or may not agree with me, but here’s why I feel this way.
This is what LEGO had to say about the sets, bolded parts are mine for emphasis.
Originally the set was going to strictly be China and the production was planned for that market. Additional markets, within the region, requested these sets but since production was already finalized this did not increase the number of sets produced and only spread out the sets amongst additional markets.
Basically, what I think happened behind the scenes was that LEGO originally were planning to only sell these sets in China, however the Asian Pacific LEGO offices (based out of Singapore), successfully made a case for sets being allocated for this market, because understandably, there’s a huge Chinese diaspora in the region (mostly in Malaysia, Singapore + Australia).
So what had happened was that they managed to convince the mothership to divert some stock that was originally intended for China our way, hence the very limited numbers here in Australia.
Over in my home country of Malaysia, and neighbouring Singapore, these sets weren’t that hard to come by and I believe that they did get a larger stock allocation due to the affinity of Chinese New Year in those countries. I think these sets were even ranged at Tesco, a massive supermarket chain in Malaysia?
Anyway, here in Australia, while there is understandably anger in the limited numbers of sets and the limited distribution, I still have to give kudos to LEGO Australia for fighting to get some of these sets over.
It’s not ideal, and I would’ve loved them to have been more readily available, but after considering the alternative where these sets would not have been made available at all, I’d gladly take the limited availability than having to pay out of my nose on the secondary market and importing these sets in.
In the anger swirling around the availability of these sets Down Under, this fact that the sets were not originally intended for this market, yet we got a small allocation has escaped most people.
Sure, you did have to put in effort to get them, but I think the retailers like some Toyworlds, David Jones and the Legoland Discovery Centre and Dreamworld Stores did pretty okay, limiting purchases to try and prevent mass-scalping.
Apparently Myer didn’t really care and allowed multiple purchases which was dumb, but on the most part, limiting the number of sets sold, and things like waitlists introduced by David Jones/Toyworld meant that if you put in some effort, you could actually get a fair shot at the sets.
As to why these sets didn’t go up on LEGO.com, which was a major point of contention, my guess is that LEGO Australia didn’t get as many as they had wished, and chose to instead distribute these via their retail channels, which is still their most important sales channel.
Don’t underestimate the importance of retail channels to LEGO – they have to keep their retail partners happy as that’s where most of their sales still occur, you know, being a toy brand and all.
So yeah, as I wrote about in my review, I’m still overjoyed that LEGO did something to celebrate and acknowledge my culture in such a profound way.
At the end of the day, I still think the Chinese community in the US and Europe were the ones who ultimately drew the short end of the stick, and I really hope that LEGO does something to make it right.
I doubt they’ll re-release these sets this year, as the occasion of Chinese New Year will have been long gone, but maybe, hopefully they’ll do a re-release for next year. It’s really the least they could do, and they won’t really need to change much in the set, except for say the pig illustration in the bookshelf.
A Special Chinese New Year Giveaway
So because it’s Chinese New Year and I love all my readers, I’ve been thinking of how I can give back, so here it is – a giveaway where you can win a 80102 Dragon Dance set!
Yes, you read that right, you have the chance to win one of the most coveted sets of the year!
To be in the running:
- Create a scene using LEGO depicting something that you love from your own culture (it could be anything – Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, your town’s annual Puppy Parade etc)
- Take a photo of it and send it in to email@example.com with the subject title CNY 2019, and include your name, country of origin, age (optional) and Instagram handle
- I’ll select my favourite photo for the winner, and other prizes!
- Make sure you’re following me on Instagram (@jayong28)
- Entries close at 11:59pm AEDT, Sunday 10 February (check this link for a countdown)
- One entry per person, however if you have multiple people in your household your partner/kids can also join
The prize will be one 80102 Dragon Dance set, which I’ll ship worldwide as long as you can receive mail (sorry North Korean readers). I’ll cover postage for it.
The runner’s up prize is a Piggy Set which will include a Piggy Guy minifigure and a LEGO pig.
There’ll also be a special prize for Under-12s which will consist of a Piggy Guy and a LEGO pig.
Good luck and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries! Happy Chinese New Year to all!