Last year LEGO discovered an untapped market…building sets for girls. While there was a great deal of controversy over such a gender specific category, girls across the country (and our testers) gave the LEGO FRIENDS line a huge thumbs up. Girls that had not been enticed to try existing “boy” sets, were embracing these new sets and asking for more. The themes: stables, vet, cafe, a house and my favorite, the inventor’s workshop. Our preference for gender-free toys still remains, but the benefit of having girls build (even if it means with pink bricks) far outweighs these concerns since we know that construction sets help develop important skills (math, visual perception, spatial relations). We want to encourage girls to consider engineering and architecture – this is where it begins.
Building sets for girls means big business. Most telling are the NPD Group statistics that while the overall US toy market suffered an overall downward slide of .6%, the construction category was up 20%. Of course, success invites competition and 2013 is stacking up for a building war showdown.
Mattel has licensed the Barbie brand to Mega Bloks for her own line of Barbie related builds. Sets include more Barbiesque construction, e.g., a Fashion Boutique and a Mansion. Today Mattel announced that Barbie has put her mansion on the market for $25 million dollars. If they were really clever, they’d have girls compete to “design” the next new house. We haven’t tried these kits yet with our testers. The success of LEGO as a brand has always been in the instructions and building experience – something most companies don’t spend enough time developing.
Also a new contender in the market is Lite Brix from Cra-Z-Art. An interesting new line of construction sets (with both boy and girl themes) that have LED-powered bricks along with translucent bricks. To be honest, this is a childhood dream come true. I always wanted my LEGO sets to light up. We’ll be taking a careful look at these new kits as well.
In my ideal world, boys and girls would not have separate toy aisles but that’s a bigger issue.