Saturday, 24 December 2011

Another LEGO Christmas!

As Christmas Day itself arrives, what is virtually a Christmas miracle has occurred in the UK for a second year running… LEGO sets are actually available for sale right up to the big day. As LEGO has struggled with distribution for so long, this can only be a good thing for both company and consumer. There have been festive products to enjoy and now the promise of unwrapping rattling boxes draws close…

LEGO has been available virtually everywhere this year, with supermarkets and value stores selling sets as toy shops dedicate more shelf space to a larger range. This has meant there have been some competitive deals – Toys R Us offered their usual 3 for 2 and free gift card deals, Argos offered some brief 3 for 2 deals and John Lewis lost their minds and half priced a few sets. Sainsbury’s perhaps caused the biggest stir when they offered all toys at half price back in November, seeing collectors and parents do battle to get the best pickings. 

Clearly, however, LEGO have finally managed to get production up to a level that comes close to demand. Year after year, getting the Police or Fire Station past mid-November was an impossibility. Now, almost the entire range is available right up until Christmas Day (as long as you’re willing to shop around). This really is a great change for LEGO fans.

The Star Wars Advent Calendar (7958) was this year’s experiment for LEGO. AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) have long thought that this product would be a huge success, but there were likely a few licensing matters to sort out as it’s not a straight building product. It turns out that LEGO may have been wise to time it now, as here in the UK LEGO has overtaken Hasbro as the best selling Star Wars toy line. LEGO Star Wars is becoming a brand in its own right, and this calendar has shown how profitable that brand can be.

The calendar was in abundance back in October, with stacks in many different shops. I took the na├»ve view that after last year’s advent calendar was still available into December (another change from years past), this year would be no different and with so many of the Star Wars Advent Calendar everywhere there would be no trouble tracking it down. Once it got to December, however, it was nowhere to be found! I phoned round everywhere that I knew stocked it, and virtually no shop in the country had any left. By pure chance and the help of a friend I was able to get mine, but even at a third more expensive than its City counterpart (7553), this thing sold in huge numbers. 

As to my actual take on the calendars, I found the Star Wars one fine but underwhelming. I don’t get that excited by mini/micro vehicles anymore, I have plenty. The Star Wars calendar was very reminiscent of last year’s City Advent Calendar (2824), which I wasn’t the biggest fan of. Thankfully this year’s City version was a big improvement, with models built over multiple days and a nice Christmas theme. Perhaps a little too Police orientated for my preference, but at least it was a wintery slant on LEGO Police. And thank goodness the price went back down a bit after last year. 

The Winter Village had a great new addition with the Post Office (10222). This lovely set had all the neat details we are used to, and managed to bring some changes and newness to make you say “ah, cool!” whilst building. The melty rook rather than snow covered makes for a nice change, icicles are a great touch, and the old style post car fits in beautifully. I just managed to get all three of these sets together for a nice display this year, but I think next year it will have to be a two shelf job if we get another Winter Village set. 

A new trial by LEGO this year was offering a nice little Christmas set – in two parts – free when customers spent enough money through LEGO direct shopping (either online or in person). This was frustrating as the window to get the sets was very limited, but pushed me to spend money I would have ended up spending on LEGO anyway. The sets (3300020+330002) make a neat little scene but aren’t anywhere near as cool as the Winter Village. It looks like this could be an annual thing though, as there is a “2011 edition” on the boxes.

Christmas has been great for LEGO this year, and it’s always a nice time to reconnect with those long ago days unwrapping a big Police Station, Pirate ship or Castle and spending the afternoon building it. So as another LEGO Christmas is about to wind down, let’s hope we all get some nice sets wrapped up under the tree. Or if not for us, perhaps we are giving some to people smaller than us. Merry Christmas everyone!

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