Utku has 18 years of success in driving global thought leadership, project and content management, delivering strategic business intelligence and insight to major international companies. Throughout his career, he has led many global research programs across a wide range of diverse and dynamic industries including Toys & Games, Licensed Consumer Products, Consumer Electronics, Apparel & Footwear, Homewares & Home Furnishings, and Personal Accessories & Eyewear. With solid market research background, Utku regularly writes for leading industry publications including Global Toy News, where he is a permanent author, focusing on the most recent trends and developments. A sought-after speaker, he also presented at world-renowned industry events including PlayCon, Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, World Congress of Play, Walmart Global Toy Summit, and Licensing International Mind Mix Executive Conference highlighting key findings from the latest global research studies.
Utku Tansel LLB, MBA
Following the opening of LEGO’s new retail outlet in Barcelona, we explore why the bricks and mortar is still an important part of shopping and how retailers could differentiate their in-store shopping experiences to respond to changing consumer needs.
Online and physical are complementary to each other
LEGO’s first ‘Retailtainment‘ flagship store in Europe was recently opened in Spain’s Barcelona. The innovative store celebrates the architectural icon Antoni Gaudí offering engaging new play and product experiences with many unique local features, including the 3D LEGO model of the Sagrada Família as well as Park Güell. The move is part of LEGO’s global store expansion strategy which debuted at its New York store, called ‘Retailtainment Center’ back in June. The company’s new shop format is being hailed as groundbreaking retail innovation offering unique immersive digital and physical shopper experiences.
LEGO’s ‘Retailtainment’ store roll out worldwide as well as its enviable financial results for 2021 confirm that the bricks and mortar is far from dead and as channels, online and physical are complementary to each other.
A shift in shopping habits
Consumers are starting to visit bricks-and-mortar locations again while continuing to embrace the convenience of online shopping. This shift in shopping habits is posing unprecedented challenges to retailers to diversify their in-store shopping experiences from what they offer online, engaging consumers in physical locations with social and playful activities to build an in-depth brand/customer relationship.
As highlighted in Mintel Trend Experience Is All, most consumers still value the advantages of shopping in-store, which includes the ability to try products in person and to be helped by customer service associates that are also among the key USPs of LEGO.
Mintel’s Traditional Toys and Games, US, 2020 report showcases that consumers need toys and games to bring more than just fun, and brands can connect with adults by appealing to their need for wellness. As I also investigated in my “LEGO sales and profit reach record highs cementing its position as one of the winners of the COVID-19 pandemic” Opinion piece in my Global Toy News column previously, it is clear that LEGO definitely got that right during the rather stressful (and gloomy) pandemic period and should continue to recoup the benefits in the short to medium term.
COVID-19 and confinement measures have accentuated many consumers’ cravings for experiences and entertainment. In an era where the price can often seem like the deciding factor, a return to experiences may be more welcome than ever. To combat the stay-at-home-or-stay-online mentality, retailers must all pay heed. They must extend their offer beyond mere retail, and act as a venue, not just a shop. Investments in human resources need to deliver the differentiation of a ‘human touch’ and stores need to avoid ‘showrooming’ through initiatives like redeemable in-store credits and in-store exclusives.