With revenue and profits down, Lego runs into digital headwinds


NEW YORK — Thirteen-year-old David Markferding, flanked by his 9-year-old brother Daniel and their 9-year-old pal Michael Elliot, are Lego fanatics.

“I have a huge Lego bin in my house,” Michael said. “Huge.”

It’s pretty simple: See it in your mind, build it with your hands.

“If you know what pieces to use, how to use them, and where to put them,” Daniel said, “then you’re good to go with whatever you can imagine,” said CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

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From left, Daniel Markferding, David Markferding and Michael Elliot

CBS News

“Yeah,” Daniel said.

It’s been that way since the Danish company began exporting Lego here in 1961. But with revenue down this year, and profits too, the company is running into some digital headwinds.

“Do you guys play video games?” Axelrod asked the boys.

“Oh, yeah, I do. A lot,” David said.

Parents report that more than 60 percent of kids 12 and under now use touchscreens in their play. Less than 50 percent use blocks.

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CBS News

“Well I like to say that the toy industry is a 19th-century industry struggling like hell to get into the 21st century,” said toy industry consultant Richard Gottlieb.

He says with its creative marketing, like the recent Lego movies, Lego is a model for old-school toymakers struggling to deal with the digital age.

“So don’t write any obituaries for Lego,” Axelrod said.

“Oh never. They’ll be playing with them in the 27th century,” Gottlieb said.

And Lego has an important advantage.

“Michael, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Axelrod asked the 9-year-old.

“Either an architect or a engineer,” Michael replied.

“Does this help you with that?” Axelrod asked.

“Yes,” Michael said.

After all, they are building blocks for the future.

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