In this video with LEGO stores reopening after corona virus, we look at some of the changes and their impacts on LEGO Branded Retail stores. What is the new experience like, can stores survive or are they going to have to close?!
Transcript from the Show
G’day Everyone, Matt Elder of Family Bricks and in this video we are going to talk about the whether LEGO branded retail stores can survive in a corona virus world. Our local Bluewater LEGO store reopened this week and I was in there today, it really was not the experience I was hoping for. The LEGO branded stores are all about experiences in an online shopping world and this wasn’t good.
For AFOLs’ (Adult Fans Of LEGO), generally the gateway drug is the Pick a Brick wall, affectionately known as a PaB wall. There are bins of loose LEGO pieces and you can fill up a cup and get charged per cup, regardless of weight or how many pieces are in there. This usually works out about 1/3 the price of buying parts online or other sources.
Naturally we get that you can’t have loose pieces that every man and his dog is handling, but it is now completely gone. For similar reasons, Build a Minifigure and any other interactive building and touch screens are gone – in there place, empty store space. People like to feel the LEGO minifigure blind bags to guess which mystery figure is in it, naturally that is gone too.
In addition to this, they can only have 12 people in the shop at a time so there was a queue outside. I was there on a quiet morning and had to queue, goodness knows how they will cope on a Saturday or other busy time. That is really going to limit any impulse buying and kids wanting to pop in for just a quick look and end up walking out with a bag of goodies. I hate queues at the best of times.
All staff are naturally kitted out in personal protective equipment (PPE) gear but feels like you are going to a dentist. I totally understand they have to protect themselves and maybe just not quite use to this yet when shopping.
With regards to pick a brick walls, other stores around the world have been trialing staff picking quarter cups of LEGO but that isn’t happening here and doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. I think this really needs to be done.
Without Pick a Brick for many AFOLs, there is no real reason to go into a store. From this flow all the other impulse purchases which now won’t happen, or trying to hit a certain spend to get the FREE Gift With Purchase (GWP). LEGO is generally cheaper online from other retailers, and better value when combined with cashback schemes (such as Quidco and Topcashback).
These are far more cost effective than the new VIP scheme which has introduced more friction and frustration into the transaction, with points becoming almost impossible to redeem – unless you want to just surrender them back to LEGO under their gambling sweepstakes nonsense – that’s a rant for another time.
Seems with the blind bags they have some pre felt ones by staff but appears you are limited 5 at a time.
New 18+ Layout… where?!
I was also curious to see the new layout as LEGO PR have been all about the new black boxes to appeal to adults and I thought they were meant to be in their own section. They are just dotted around the store in their usual theme categories.
I walked out of the store with nothing and a sense that I don’t want to go back any time soon. It just isn’t a good shopping experience trying to keep the social distancing, queuing and a sense you don’t even want to pick up a box to look at it or the back side. You can’t really chat about LEGO with staff from 2 meters away. It’s the opposite feeling of having a pleasant experience, a good chat with knowledgeable staff and a sense to come back some time soon, and do it all again.
Speaking with other AFOLs, there is much the same feeling, with Pick a Brick as the anchor incentive to go into a store now gone, there is no real reason to go into the store. I really do hope they are able to implement some sort of PaB cup filling system – something has got to be better than nothing, particularly when we’ve gone months without being able to get new pieces from a LEGO store – so there is going to be pent up demand.
I feel bad for the staff as they are good people but with only 12 customers in the store at a time, they won’t be needing many staff. Only time would tell but would imagine turnover in the store is going to be down as at peak times, you have 4 or 5 staff working the tils in this store. Now you can’t even get 3 times that many customers in the store at once. If the store isn’t getting the turnover, I just can’t see how they can remain open.
Bluewater Shopping Center Procedures
As for Bluewater shopping center itself, some of the carparks are closed, in particular the upper level near the LEGO store. There is security everywhere and feels like being in the wake of a terrorist attack with that many around. It may or may not be a matter of just adjusting to a new shopping norm.
Inside, there is a ‘keep left’ type system with lots of staff in pink high vis style vests to direct you around. There is hand sanitizer around the place. The use of lifts is discouraged in favour of escalators. Apparently, LEGO Bluewater has been opened for the last 4 days, despite the shopping center and Google websites showing it as closed.
We really do hope they can get some form of PaB back up again. If not, you’d have to think with less new pieces entering the system, that will put upward pressure on prices increasing on secondary markets like Bricklink as supply remains relatively the same.
So what do you think? Are the lack interactive elements of a LEGO branded store deal breakers for you or you aren’t really phased. Let us know in the comments below?
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That’s all from us here at Family Bricks. Thanks very much for watching. Until next time when we talk about all things LEGO and Lifestyle.
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