Here at beijngkids we’ve never been afraid to tackle the big issues, so when news reached us that the first official Lego store in northeast China had opened in Beijing, we immediately dispatched one of our top reporters (oh, OK, me) to check it out.
Hang on, you may be thinking. I’ve been buying Lego in Beijing for years. What’s the big deal?
Well, for starters, Lego is one of the most pirated brands in the IP gray area which is China. You can’t go to any temple fair or park without seeing stalls offering superhero lookalikes featuring the iconic round studs. But legitimate Lego has long been on offer too, at stores like Toys’R’Us.
What’s different here is that this store is owned and run by Lego, and is not licensed or simply retailing its products. It’s situated on the fifth floor of Chaoyang Joy City, near Qingnianlu station on subway line 6. On the approach you’ll find some impressive Star Wars constructions:
And in the store itself there’s an even more impressive sight, a scale model of Beijing’s Zhengyangmen Gate built by Andy Heng, a Lego Certified Professional (had I known that such a career path was available, I might have made rather different life choices…)
Lego enthusiasts are divided into two tribes: hepcats who like to mix the bricks and get creative, and those weird, anally retentive types who follow the instructions and then leave the set in its finished state forever. (We at beijingkids are naturally impartial on this question.) Both will find much to delight them at this store. All Lego’s major ranges are featured, from play-focused worlds with tie-in cartoons like Ninjago and the new Nexo Knights, to pure building experiences such as Architect and Creator.
There’s also the much-maligned Friends range, so that your daughters don’t get any silly notions about being interested in anything other than pets, ponies and pampering.
For creatives the real attraction is what we learn is called a PAB-Wall – short for “Pick-a-Brick” wall. You can purchase the precise individual piece you need to complete your masterwork.
There’s also a “build your own mini-figure” station, where your budding Frankensteins can pick out heads, bodies and legs and create new life.
For the purposes of comparison, the Toys’R’Us nearby still stocks a substantial range of Lego. However it’s easy to see why the real fans prefer the official store, with its limited edition sets and custom pieces.
It’s not cheap, but then Lego never is. On the other hand, the quality is always high, and it has greater replay value than almost any other toy on the market. Unless you build the set then put it on a shelf to gather dust. In which case I can only pity you.
Photos: Andrew Killeen