Yesterday, LEGO released their 2021 Financial Results, and the results were nothing short of remarkable, with total LEGO sales up by 22% and revenue crossing US$8 billion for the very first time which is absolutely huge.
Just to put into context how well LEGO have done, here’s a series demonstrating just how significant LEGO’s revenue and net profit was in 2021.
Buried in the 2021 Annual Report, one of my favourite parts is LEGO’s top-selling themes of the year, which gives an insight into what consumers are actually buying.
Being super immersed into the LEGO world (if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re a hardcore LEGO fan), we can be quite detached from reality as we focus and get excited for the latest and greatest sets, and there’s a tendency to think that adult-focused LEGO sets like Creator Expert, or cool pop culture-based sets like Super Heroes command a large share of the pie.
Fun fact: the word “adult” is mentioned only twice in the annual report, and “children” is mentioned 38 times.
Here’s a look at LEGO’s best selling themes in the last decade, beginning in 2012.
Best-selling LEGO themes 2012
LEGO Star Wars™ and LEGO City continue to be the best selling product lines, with LEGO Ninjago, launched in 2011, following closely. The new product line LEGO Friends that was launched at the beginning of 2012 has performed considerably above expectations.
From the 2012 LEGO Annual Report
It’s 2012, and we’ve all just survived the Mayan apocalypse, and LEGO are beginning to reap the rewards of 2 major themes that launched at the beginning of the decade – Friends and Ninjago.
Best-selling LEGO themes 2013
Among the top selling lines in 2013 were core themes like LEGO® City, LEGO® Star Wars™ and LEGO DUPLO. LEGO® Friends that was launched in 2012 and LEGO® Chima that was launched at the beginning of 2013 added the most to sales growth in 2013.
The pre-school products under the LEGO® DUPLO® brand as well as the LEGO® Technic and LEGO® Creator products also experienced high growth rates in 2013. The pre-school products under the LEGO® DUPLO® brand as well as the LEGO® Technic and LEGO® Creator products also experienced high growth rates in 2013.
During 2013 the LEGO Games product line of board games was phased out. Even though the product line received very positive feedback from consumers it did not succeed in becoming a long-term sustainable concept for the LEGO Group
Snippet from the 2013 LEGO Annual Report
Star Wars, City and Duplo take the top spots, and we also get honourable mentions Friends and Chima on the list. The mention here probably means that they were received well by retailers, and helped increase distribution/shelf space, although take-up by consumers wasn’t as great as traditional Core Theme stalwarts like City, Duplo and Star Wars.
Best-selling LEGO themes 2014
Among the top selling lines in 2014 were core themes like LEGO® City, LEGO® Star Wars™ and LEGO Friends. Another significant contributor to sales growth in 2014 was THE LEGO® MOVIE™ product line that launched in conjunction with the release of THE LEGO MOVIE feature film in early 2014.
LEGO Creator products as well as the LEGO Technic designed for an older age group also experienced high growth rates in 2014.
2014 is a transformative year for LEGO, as The LEGO Movie surprises everyone becoming a commercial success. We see Friends crack the top-selling list officially, for the first time, and honourable mentions going to The LEGO Movie, and Creator.
I’m unsure whether Creator includes Creator Expert, but it probably is. 2014 is a huge year for LEGO as The LEGO Movie’s success at the box office introduces many adults into the hobby for the first time.
Best-selling LEGO themes 2015
Among the top selling lines in 2015 were core themes like LEGO® City, LEGO® Star Wars™, LEGO NINJAGO, LEGO Friends and LEGO® DUPLO®.
Furthermore, the new fantasy theme LEGO Elves is off to a good start as is LEGO DIMENSIONS, a new play experience that merges physical LEGO brick building with interactive console gameplay. Like with LEGO video games, LEGO DIMENSIONS is developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
From the 2015 LEGO Annual Report
Off the back of the success and growth spurred on by The LEGO Movie, and home-grown themes like Ninjago and Friends, 2015 sees LEGO stretch further into the toys to life segment with LEGO Dimensions, and a Friends spinoff theme, Elves.
Best-selling themes 2016
Among the top selling lines in 2016 were core themes like LEGO® City, LEGO® Star Wars™, LEGO® NINJAGO®, LEGO Friends, LEGO Creator and LEGO® DUPLO®.
The new theme LEGO® NEXO KNIGHTS™, that combines physical and digital play through building sets, digital gaming and inspirational storytelling, was also a contributor to growth
This is the most annoying year, as LEGO choose to include 6 best-selling themes. All the usual suspects are here, and this is also the birth of Nexo Knights.
Despite all the innovation from LEGO trying to mimic the success of Friends, 2016 was a year that we started to see LEGO stagnate, following the lack of runway success of new themes such as LEGO Dimensions, and Chima being phased out.
Sales for The LEGO Group continued to grow in other regions, but declined in the US, LEGO’s largest and most important market.
Best-selling themes 2017
Core product lines continue to do well, and among the top selling lines in 2017 were themes like LEGO® City, LEGO® NINJAGO®, LEGO Creator and LEGO® DUPLO®. LEGO® Star Wars performed in line with expectations.
From the 2017 LEGO Annual Report
2017 was LEGO’s first blip, with revenue declining due to actions LEGO took to clean up inventories. This was the first year on year decline since 2004 and marked a tumultuous period for The LEGO Group.
In 2017, long-serving CEO and person credited for turning LEGO around and saving them from disaster, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, stepped down at the beginning of the year, with Bali Padda stepping into CEO role. Bali didn’t last long in the role before being replaced by current CEO Niels B. Christiansen.
To sustain the business, LEGO also restructured the business, resulting in a 8% reduction in the workforce, which equated to about 1,400 jobs.
It was also quite a miss for LEGO, as The LEGO Batman Movie, and The LEGO Ninjago Movie failed to meet the success of The LEGO Movie at the box office. Interestingly, looking at best selling themes, this is the first time that LEGO Star Wars isn’t part of the list, although looking at the sets released, there were some incredibly memorable models like Ninjago City and the UCS Millennium Falcon.
Here’s an editorial I wrote back in 2017 about LEGO’s less than ideal financial results.
Best-selling themes 2018
The top selling themes in 2018 were LEGO® City, LEGO® Technic™, LEGO® Star Wars™, LEGO® Friends and LEGO® NINJAGO®. LEGO® Harry Potter™, LEGO® Jurassic World™ and LEGO® Creator also performed strongly. We are pleased with the performance of our homegrown themes which continue to delight builders year after year.
From the 2018 LEGO Annual Report.
2018 saw LEGO stabilise the business, post a troubling year for the business, with a return to core themes, and less complexity in the business.
We also saw the return of LEGO Harry Potter, more Jurassic World, and LEGO begin ramping up their AFOL-focus with more sets aimed at adults, pushing up the price point. The top 5 actually looks like a top 5 that you’d expect, with Star Wars back in the list!
Best-selling themes 2019
Like LEGO builders everywhere, our talented designers are driven by creativity and innovation. Each year, approximately 60% of our portfolio is new. During 2019, this included new sets for top-selling core themes such as LEGO® City, LEGO® Technic, LEGO® Friends and LEGO® Creator.
We also created entirely new ways to play, such as LEGO® Hidden Side. This new theme blends augmented reality with building. We also integrated LEGO play into a wide range of digital experiences including digital games, apps, and voice-based intelligent home assistants. Investing in fluid play – the intersection between digital and physical play – will continue to be a priority.
From the 2019 LEGO Annual Report
Getting to the point where this feels like recent history, but 2019 saw LEGO’s sale continue to climb upwards, notching LEGO’s highest revenue result since 2016. At this stage, Friends’ dominance and importance to the overall LEGO portfolio is set in stone, and we see Creator and Ninjago rotate in and out of the Top 5, with City, Star Wars, Technic and Friends having permanent spots.
LEGO also begins to seriously explore digital play and apps with Hidden Side launching… although we know how that ends up.
Best-selling themes 2020
In 2020, we saw early benefits of these investments. A strong, diverse portfolio attracted builders of all ages. The launch of LEGO® Super Mario™ introduced an entirely new way to play and was one of our most successful new themes
We launched LEGO® Monkie Kid™, a new theme inspired by the Chinese legend, Journey to the West, which became one of the top-selling themes in China and across Asia Pacific. We also launched a LEGO Brand store on the popular e-commerce platform T-Mall, where we have attracted more than one million followers.
From the 2020 LEGO Annual Report
2020 was a pretty awful year for most, marked by a worldwide pandemic that caught the entire world off guard. We all quarantined at home, which turned out to be a boost for LEGO as adults, parents and kids began looking for activities to entertain and keep busy avoiding the plague.
The top-selling themes are again, typical, but one interesting entrant was LEGO Classic, which made its first ever appearance on the list – likely due to parents buying toys for their kids, and a big box of bricks would be a great option to express creativity.
Best-selling LEGO themes 2021
The progress we made in advancing strategic investments will fuel growth now, and for generations to come. Investments in product innovation, retail experiences, digitalisation, and sustainability will keep our brand relevant and create opportunities for more children to benefit from play.
Our 2021 portfolio was the largest and most diverse ever. We saw strong performances from our homegrown themes such as LEGO NINJAGO which celebrated its 10th anniversary, and licensed themes such as LEGO Super Mario™ and LEGO Star Wars™. We also welcomed adults with a range of challenging builds which brought families together and inspired fans of all ages.
From the 2021 LEGO Annual Report
And here we are in 2021 – LEGO has posted its strongest annual financial reports in its 90-year history, and the Top 5 themes are (in no particular order) – City, Star Wars, Technic, and 2 new entrants – Harry Potter and Creator Expert.
2021 was the 20th anniversary of LEGO Harry Potter, and fans (new and returning millennials) were treated to a massive portfolio of Harry Potter sets, and the continuing pandemic and lockdowns also meant that people were still looking to fill their time (and homes) with LEGO.
Creator Expert also makes it debut, signalling that LEGO’s focus adults is already beginning to pay dividends – late last year as LEGO released their 1st half of 2021 results, I wrote a piece on how LEGO’s incredible first-half performance was off the back of adults and their direct-to-consumer model, and with Creator Expert (the umbrella theme for adult-targeted sets) making an appearance in the Top 5, signals that the strategy is working really well.
It’s interesting that that 2021 also saw Friends drop out the Top 5 for the very first time, and I wonder if this could be an intentional move by LEGO to throttle the theme, in their efforts to remove gender bias and stereotypes from toys – which is a shame because Friends is, and will always be one of LEGO’s best themes.
Often, the sets with the most rabid fanbases online (Ninjago, Super Heroes) aren’t always reflected in the list of best-sellers – and it’s evergreen, or core themes like City, Friends, Duplo and Classic that contribute primarily to LEGO’s astronomical growth.
It’s also interesting that as you look back at this large time frame, LEGO’s recent innovations have not been as commercially successful as Friends, or Ninjago – themes like Nexo Knights, Hidden Side, Dimensions have had a lot of fanfare behind them, but have never cracked the Top 5, and instead get some throwaway line about being successful.
It demonstrates that LEGO can continue to experiment and “fail” as long as evergreen moneymakers like City, Duplo and Friends continue to do their thing and capture the imagination of kids (and their parents).
One can also make a conclusion that LEGO’s foray into adults, certainly from 2018 onwards have been heavily subsidised by kids and parents who show up time and time again to buy those City Police and Fire Stations..
I wonder what 2022’s Top 5 will look like!
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