back to article Too many bricks in the wall? Lego slashes inventory

Reassuringly expensive plastic brick maker Lego was forced to write down a load of stock in 2017 – a move that rocked its bottom line – as it produced blocks that some customers clearly didn't want to build with. The Danish-based toy maker reported an 8 per cent slide in revenue for the calendar year to DKK 35bn (£4.21bn) – …

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breakout irl with the excess blocks?

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Lego...

I grew up loving it but now, as a parent, I find that it is both eye-wateringly expensive, and obsessively niche. Why does my daughter need a pink set with ponies and flowers? But since it's on the shelf, that's what she will want.

Luckily we've still got 3 or 4 boxes of mid 90s lego railway in the attic, and a baby bath full of generic bricks.

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Re: Lego...

I enjoyed playing with Lego growing up and looked forward to my kids having a similar experience.

What I've found is that a lot of the modern Lego sets are quite fragile with lots of custom blocks per set or range compared to the brick based sets from my youth.

My kids still play with the large brick sets to create Minecraft-like buildings or vehicles, but the modern sets tend to be played with once, involve a lot of adult interaction to put the fiddly bits back together and remain untouched.

I still waste too much money on Technic stuff that's like a jigsaw puzzle...

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Re: Lego...

I am personally quite unhappy with what Lego has become.

I got a medieval castle when I was 13. All the walls and towers and even the secret door where made of basic Lego bricks, all reusable in thousands of ways.

Last XMas my godson got a Saturn V rocket. He spent two days putting it together, but all I could see was "and then what ?".

I do not see any reuseability in those specialized, much too complicated pieces. Okay, you get a nice-looking spaceship, but that's all you get.

It's a lie. All og Lego is now a lie. Once upon a time it was about imagination, now it's just about cashing in.

Sorry, Lego, looks like you're just nostalgia now. I won't be sorry to see you go if you don't change your ways.

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Re: Lego...

I built my Saturn V out of standard bricks. For realism I got an Airfix kit.

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Re: Lego...

My Lego Saturn V was one of the most satisfying 8 hours I spent last year. I'm also fairly certain that it's not intended to be broken up, mine has pride of place on the dining room table as an object I love.

It's the only lego I've bought in a decade but I think the big models like it have their place.

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Re: Lego...

"I built my Saturn V out of standard bricks."

I built a Saturn 1 using the cardboard tubes from Christmas wrapping paper. The tanks on the first stage of the Saturn 1 are visible from the outside, and it took somewhere around 8 tubes to recreate the look. I was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old.....

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Re: Lego...

I got the impression that the likes of the Saturn V, Mini Cooper sets etc. were more intended to be "grown up" model sets, rather than a "build it up, knock it down, build whatever you want" kids set.

When I grew up I had all sorts of sets, F1 pit/start line, a castle gate, a chalet house, a boat, a plane, loads of little cars. In the end everything ended up a garage.

Then I got Technic, the incredible black sports car with the suspension, steering, V8 engine, popup lights

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Devil

Re: Lego...

"My kids still play with the large brick sets to create Minecraft-like buildings or vehicles, but the modern sets tend to be played with once"

exactly. After a while, parents catch on and buy the kids the thing that lasts for a while, rather than paying for the overpriced "new, shiny" that only gets used one time.

Also Lego seems to be having a classic 'inventory control' problem. The solution to an inventory control problem is EXACTLY what their CEO appears to be doing. You have to eliminate the excess inventory, using the method that creates the least amount of pain, and then fix your forecasting methods and get the production schedule RIGHT this time, so you don't end up with another warehouse full of crap that won't sell.

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Devil

Re: Lego...

@AndyS

eye-wateringly expensive

Eye watering in other ways when you step on the damn things in the middle of the night

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At Pen-y-gors...

I tried building a Saturn V out of LEGO as well, but I ran out of money before I could build the second stage.

*Comical pout*

Damned shipping costs for bulk tonnage bricks!

=-)p

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Re: At Pen-y-gors...

Not to mention the number of ladders you need

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Re: Lego...

"specialized, much too complicated pieces."

After recently building the Saturn V kit, I can say there are few custom pieces involved. As far as I can see the only custom ones are the lettering (USA/United States) and American flag bricks.

It even uses some 4x2 pieces. However some of the bits are complicated!

And.., Castle! Luxury. All we had were standard 4x2, 2x2 etc, along with some doors and windows, and some roof pieces.

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Re: Lego...

"Eye watering in other ways when you step on the damn things in the middle of the night"

There are worse things to stand on. Australian power plugs for instance.

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Lego is now shit.

When I was a kid you had a big box of bricks that you could build whatever you wanted with. Now the ones I buy for my nephew give you a handful of bricks to make a specific thing.

K'Nex was good, don't know if that still is. Kind of like a mix between Lego and Meccano - you could build four foot high towers, with paths for balls to roll down and a mechanism to bring them back up to the top, things like that.

eg: https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--Me7sOVoU--/c_scale,f_auto,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/1384011189748034632.jpg

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TWB

Shit is a big strong

But I concur, too many specialist parts - I found my creativity was much better when there was a narrower range.

I get Lego sets for my son and he loves building the model(s) but does not create many of his own ideas yet - fingers crossed this will come - I want to share ideas!

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Re: Shit is a big strong

K'NEX to me were the vegan equivalent of Mechano.

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Anonymous Coward

"K'Nex was good, don't know if that still is."

I beg to differ. In my experience, K'Nex models fall to bits far more easily than lego models. My kids *play* with their lego models, but their K'nex models get built, played with briefly, and then returned to the box, never to see daylight again, because of their fragility.

I wish they'd play with their K'nex instead though, I got a huge lego technic bucket wheel excavator kit for christmas, and my daughter built most of it last week on the two days her school was closed for snow.

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Meh

Agreed...

"Now the ones I buy for my nephew give you a handful of bricks to make a specific thing."

Meccano went down the same route from a box of generic plates with a very few specialized bits and bobs to a box with few generalized plates plus a large quantity of specialized plates.

The only childhood toy that is remotely like the stuff I played with as a yoof is Scalextric.. that said the digital stuff is eyewateringly expensive and even a basic car costs between 50 and 60 quid a throw and it's also remarkably fragile for something that's marketed as a "toy". I won't even let my adult friends have a go once the beer has been opened... drink driving, just don't do it!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lego, KNex, Mechano

Since we're all in old-fart mode, does anyone remembers Hering Rasti?

No? Get off my lawn then.

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Devil

Re: Agreed...

Back in the 60's, when Lego was still "a box of bricks", the Erector Set went the "specialty" route.

I had a box o' generic parts that I had tons of fun with and plans to build a whole BUNCH of stuff [which I did, for several years in fact]. Only a few items needed 'specialty' parts. But I remember seeing the specialty kits in the toy isles. My parents wouldn't buy them, saying "you've already got a HUGE Erector Set". (they were smart)

Apparently the Erector sets nowadays are actually 'Meccano' sets.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erector_Set

So they repeated the same mistake.

At least they're still made of Steel. You gotta give a young kid something he could actually hurt himself with, then supervise how he uses the tools until he's safe with them. Getting the occasional cut from a semi-sharp steel edge is a good training tool on why you use safety precautions, learned at a young enough age where you can't really hurt yourself THAT bad, and it tends to stick in your mind better.

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Creator sets have pieces to build three different things, Classic sets are the big box of bricks you remember.

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Re: Agreed...

> Meccano went down the same route from a box of generic plates with a very few specialized bits and bobs

Meccano didn't start out that generic. I had Trix as a kid: that had far fewer different parts, but was just as versatile due to very thoughtful German/Jewish engineering. The aluminium alloy plates were more rigid, but surprisingly bendable if you needed a curve.

I no longer have the Trix construction parts. However I still have a lot of Trix OO gauge railway parts, beautifully made, but with the horrid three rail system. Unfortunately, I don't have any of their beautiful stations, because my dad was a skilled woodworker:)

In my first proper job, the lab I worked in had a grown-up engineer's construction set made by FAC (FAC-System). Very useful for making rapid prototype machines. I'm rather pleased to discover that FAC is still in business. Hmm, I have a very tempting idea...

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MLGA

"Now the ones I buy for my nephew give you a handful of bricks to make a specific thing."

Buy different kits then. There's still plenty of kits which have little-to-no custom pieces.

Here's the first kit that come up for me on Amazon, and I can only spot a few "non-brick" pieces. There's the moped which looks like a modern version of x81c01 from thirty years ago, the parasol, and the weird chip/fries thing. All the other pieces are the sort of bricks Lego have always been making.

Just be a bit more selective when you're looking for Lego, rather than buying the first one on the shelf.

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K'Nex and a couple of the others started out as addons to Lego to do things lego couldn't do.

Those kits are worth having, but the specialist ones are very much a case of "build once" and that's it - which has been annoying me since the 1980s.

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"K'nex models get built, played with briefly, and then returned to the box, never to see daylight again, because of their fragility."

_ALL_ of these kinds of models should be broken up. Leaving built ones sitting around too long stifles creativity.

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LEGO isn't what it used to be...

The '70s and '80s where probably the haydays of LEGO in Europe.

Back then, it was possible to build large, sturdy structures. Since, however, the company changed the bricks so they don't stick together as well. Not as many broken fingernails, but it's no longer possible to build the same large structures that used to be popular back in the day.

In addition, LEGO tends to look more and more like Playmobil in that the pre-formed pieces are getting larger and larger. I don't much care for the popular themed stuff either. I guess that's what people want these days, though.

On the other hand, the Creator sets are quite fantastic.

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Re: LEGO isn't what it used to be...

The '70s and '80s where probably the haydays of LEGO in Europe.

Agreed. The Lego castle/knights sets were my favourites growing up. Also really liked the space sets but I think that was where the rot started to really set in, as these introduced a lot of fairly specialist parts, IIRC

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TRT
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Re: LEGO isn't what it used to be...

A lot of people are saying that the film & tv tie-in sets have ruined the product, but so long as they retain the original, plain, bricks alongside these more lucrative toys, I don't see a problem. One tie-in that I'd love to see would be the new Thunderbirds series. The pod vehicles are now modular, you see, and if there's one thing that's going to lend itself to Lego-isation, it's going to be that!

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Re: LEGO isn't what it used to be...

I guess you didn't see the Lego Masters TV competition. This was a lot of standard brick stuff mixed with some of the specialist blocks/pieces. Some truly inspired designs and builds.

From my perspective, I agree with the comments about creativity - my youngest loves Lego, but only for building the models as sold. My experience was totally different, creating buildings, vehicles, spaceships and landscapes from my own imagination - much more rewarding IMHO.

Final point, to the tune of Frozen's Let it go:

"Lego go, Lego go, Logo sell those bricks to me

Lego go, Lego go, even better make them f-ree-ee

I don't care what your profits are;

Let the bricks go cheap

The prices really bothered me every time"

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Devil

Re: LEGO isn't what it used to be...

I played with Lego back in the mid 60's. It was pretty simple then, a nice compliment to Tinker Toy, Lincoln Logs, and the Erector Set. A box of Lego could be played with for HOURS. With all 4 of those things, plus a model train set and road racing set, you could build an entire model city. More or less.

I guess the Legoland parks have already done that with just Lego, though.

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My son is a big lego fan. But I find that a specific build for Minecraft for example, won't appeal to as wide an audience. Same with his Star Wars Lego sets, If you're not a fan of a targeted tie in, then it's destined to under perform...

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Anonymous Coward

Hope El Reg can still get hold of enough Playmobil?

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Worse to come

I have to wonder what Lego's strategy is to cope with the time in the not too distant future when everyone has access to a 3D printer and can print their own bricks from downloadable designs. They need a plan to convert into a company that supplies said digital plans...

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Re: Worse to come

I guess they'd play the copyright card, and come down hard on anyone selling plans based on the designs for interlocking bricks that they hold rights to. They didn't just patent the pattern which is used on the bricks that they sell, but also patented lots of other patterns which would achieve similar results so as to deter copyists.

[here I have used the word patent, because I think it's the right term, but intellectual property law is not my strong point. Hopefully I've conveyed the general point, and please feel to correct my terminology if I'm got it wrong]

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Re: Worse to come

I doubt self-printed bricks would be cheaper than the mass produced injection-moulded ones. Not to mention looks (polishing) and strength

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Re: Worse to come

@ Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

Lego has already lost the battle to prevent copy-cat compatible bricks. They just don't have the lego logo imprinted on them. That said, the cheap copycat ones are, in my limited experience, not worth the money.

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Re: Worse to come

'Copyright card'? The patent on Lego expired already, and other manufacturers are already eating Lego's lunch. UK chain Wilkinson have their own brand 'Blox' which is a complete Lego rip off, same sizes, and connects with pukka Lego blocks.

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Re: Worse to come

"That said, the cheap copycat ones are, in my limited experience, not worth the money."

Not so sure Jim, the likes of Lepin and Sluban bricks have progressed leaps and bounds and are now surprisingly good quality for the price.

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Re: Worse to come

That's how Mega Bloks got started, used to be the cheap alternative to lego

Now they produce a lot of licenced sets - Call of Duty, Halo, NASCAR, Turtles etc.

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Re: Worse to come

Anyone who sings the praises of those Wilko bricks has never seen them in action.

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Re: Worse to come

A fight of the plastic bricks based on quality alone, with all parts interchangeable?

Let it begin!

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Thumb Up

Re: Worse to come

Lego wins. Flawless victory.

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Re: Worse to come

"in the not too distant future when everyone has access to a 3D printer and can print their own bricks from downloadable designs."

Simple. Sell cheaper than you can print them.

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Re: Worse to come

"Wilkinson have their own brand 'Blox' "

Other countries had their own versions too - NZ Had "Torro", which interconnected and had more interesting shapes but was made of _much_ softer plastic. (It was kind of a cross between meccano and lego, interconnecting with both) - it also pops up in other countries as "LITA Nouvea"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB0JrzvLubg

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At this moment, at home, my office floor is covered in Lego Technic (and assorted other blocks) in the process of being sorted. My collection consists mostly of long beams, plates, axles, gears and a few other more fiddly pieces. In my youth, with these very bricks, I have built room-high marble runs, working and reasonably accurate clocks, a three foot long, seven feet high automatic rolling crane, elastic band powered guns that quite frankly got far beyond being safe...

My brother got Lego City style sets during those same years. He built... the Lego city sets.

Don't get me wrong, I will likely still buy Lego Technic sets. But I treat the model I buy as something nice to build once, for the interest, then disassemble to fuel my next project. I regard the themed sets as largely a waste of time.

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I treat the model I buy as something nice to build once, for the interest, then disassemble to fuel my next project

Probably the most succinct description of the spirit of Lego that anyone could come up with - have an upvote

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2x4 blocks are what Lego is all about

My son got the Saturn V set (target age 14+) for his 6th birthday recently, which I was banned from 'helping' with. It took him a while, but he was able to build it. He now refuses to consider any sets which are not intended for at least age 8. He has an enormous lego collection, plus occasional access to my old Lego Technic sets, but he still likes building things out of standard 2x4 blocks. The specialised pieces are too specialised these day and no good for anything beyond that one function. Ebay comes in very handy for 'vintage' lego.

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"Lego", derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well". Not "slavishly follow instructions that take all the creativity out of it"

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They plan...

to break the company down, restructure and rebuild.

Should be a doddle.

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