The empire of Lego has many dominions and protectorates, with every year, it seems, new territories to conquer. There are theme parks; there are films of excruciatingly ironic sophistication; there are competitions to make bizarre tableaux that grip nations; there are highly controlled TV documentaries about life at the heart of Lego in Denmark.
It is an astonishingly powerful brand and its growth has been extraordinary to watch. Many years ago, it was just one building toy among many, like Meccano or Fischer Technik. Now, it is supreme. Some tremors were, however, observed last week when a plunge in profits was reported. Operating profits from the first half of the year fell almost 20 per cent, the largest decline since 2004. Explanations were easy to come by – the steep rise in the cost of raw materials, for instance. Though sales were still rising, the sharp increase produced by lockdown was never going to continue at the same rate. The extraordinary run enjoyed by Lego must be slowing, if not coming to an end.
The massive expansion of Lego’s basic appeal means that there are parts of its range which even draw in people like me. I had it when I was a kid, of course. But it didn’t really come back into my life until about ten years ago. Somehow, I discovered that you could buy a model in Lego of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house. I was amused at the idea of building this great modernist villa in Lego – I was still thinking of Lego as a children’s toy – and bought it for myself as a Christmas treat.
The first set in Lego’s Architecture range was released in 2008 – a model of Sears Tower in Chicago.