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Lego sales up as parents seek cheaper toys

February 14, 2009|Bloomberg News

Lego, Europe's biggest toy maker, said U.S. consumer sales climbed a record 38% last year, as parents sought cheaper, more durable toys for their children in the sputtering economy.

Sales in 2009 may continue to grow, said Soren Torp Laursen, who heads the company's Americas unit. The Billund, Denmark-based company will offer a wider selection of lower- and medium-priced products to appeal to consumers struggling with falling home values and the highest unemployment rate in 16 years.

"Can we repeat a year of 38% growth?" Laursen said. "Probably not, but we will definitely grow and we will continue to take significant market share in a market we believe will probably not grow in 2009."

Building-set sales in the U.S. soared 26% in 2008 while total toy sales fell 3% to $21.6 billion, according to research firm NPD Group.

Lego said its U.S. market share in construction toys reached 73% in 2008, the highest level since 1992, compared with 66% in 2007.

As more generations of kids who played with Legos become parents, the company will benefit, Laursen said.

Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy-industry analyst and director of content at TimetoPlayMag.com, said that growth was likely to continue for the toy maker in 2009.

"Lego is something that parents look at as an investment," Byrne said. "They watch their kids play with it over several years."

Lego's "Star Wars" and Indiana Jones lines helped the company's growth in 2008, according to Byrne.

"They've had a nice diversity of product complemented by some really strong licenses and a lot of fans," he said.

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