Utku Tansel
Utku Tansel LLB, MBA is Mintel’s Retail Analyst and is responsible for our research and reports covering European retail markets.

Following the opening of LEGO’s new retail outlet in Barcelona, we explore why the high street is still an important part of shopping and how retailers could differentiate their in-store shopping experiences to respond to changing consumer needs. 

Online and physical are complementary to each other

LEGO’s first ‘Retailtainment’ flagship store in Europe was recently opened in Spain’s Barcelona. The innovative store celebrates the architectural icon Antoni Gaudí offering engaging new play and product experiences with many unique local features, including the 3D LEGO model of the Sagrada Família as well as Park Güell. The move is part of LEGO’s global store expansion strategy which debuted at its New York store, called ‘Retailtainment Center’ back in June. The company’s new shop format is being hailed as groundbreaking retail innovation offering unique immersive digital and physical shopper experiences. 

LEGO’s ‘Retailtainment’ store roll out worldwide as well as its enviable financial results for 2021 confirm that the high street is far from dead and as channels, online and physical are complementary to each other. 

A shift in shopping habits

Consumers are starting to visit bricks-and-mortar locations again while continuing to embrace the convenience of online shopping. This shift in shopping habits is posing unprecedented challenges to retailers to diversify their in-store shopping experiences from what they offer online, engaging consumers in physical locations with social and playful activities to build an in-depth brand/customer relationship. 

As highlighted in Mintel Trend Experience Is Allmost consumers still value the advantages of shopping in-store, which includes the ability to try products in person and to be helped by customer service associates that are also among the key USPs of LEGO. 

LEGO Leicester Square Store, London

Source: Mintel

Mintel’s Traditional Toys and Games, US, 2020 report showcases that consumers need toys and games to bring more than just fun, and brands can connect with adults by appealing to their need for wellness. As explored on the Mintel blog in March, it is clear that LEGO definitely got that right during the rather stressful (and gloomy) pandemic period and should continue to recoup the benefits in the short to medium term. 

What we think

COVID-19 and confinement measures have accentuated many consumers’ cravings for experiences and entertainment. In an era where the price can often seem like the deciding factor, a return to experiences may be more welcome than ever. To combat the stay-at-home-or-stay-online mentality, retailers must all pay heed. They must extend their offer beyond mere retail, and act as a venue, not just a shop. Investments in human resources need to deliver the differentiation of a ‘human touch’ and stores need to avoid ‘showrooming’ through initiatives like redeemable in-store credits and in-store exclusives.