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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 March 2019

Everything is awesome inside Dubai's brand new Lego office block

The toy brand has launched its first Middle East base to connect with devotees in the region

Toy brand Lego is laying down the building blocks for further success in the country.

The global company launched its first Middle East office on Thursday, in Dubai Design ­District, and some loyal Lego lovers were on hand to mark the occasion.

While there is a universal ­appreciation for Lego, the company’s Middle East chief said tastes vary in each market.

The sky-high sales of the Burj Khalifa Lego set are testament to how the brand can cater to different customer bases, said Jeroen Beijer, Lego general manager for the Middle East and Africa.

“While children are children all over the world, there are differences from region to ­region,” he said.

“You see different properties like Lego Star Wars or Ninjago being more popular in some ­areas than others.

“Dubai is a hugely international region. It’s vital to have a presence here with our local partners.”

The office itself is unmistakably Lego, with larger-than-life mascots, towers and jewellery made from blocks, creating an impressive sea of yellow.

Lego’s popularity in the UAE is such that Dubai is already home to a Legoland theme park, which opened in 2016.

It is not just younger people who get a kick out of the hobby, either. A number of adult Lego enthusiasts were invited to take part in the opening of the new Dubai office.

Philippe Gerard’s passion started when he bought the product to play with his young son. “I spend between Dh5,000 and Dh10,000 on Lego each month,” said Mr Gerard, 57, senior director at Jet Aviation Dubai.

“I am probably the best friend of the post office here because I am ordering so much Lego into the country.

“I didn’t start collecting Lego properly until I started to use it playing with my young son, who is now 32 years old.

“I had so much fun playing with him that it brought me back to collecting Lego ­properly.

“For me it’s about completing collections, which is why I buy two of everything – one to build and the other to keep in its original packaging.”

Mr Gerard described collecting Lego as a unique ­experience that never failed to bring a smile to his face.

He said his family were supportive of his hobby, despite the costs.

“I try to avoid questions with my wife about how much it costs,” he said.

Being a completist led to hours searching online for certain pieces and sets, he said.

“I am currently trying to get the Lego sets that the company gives to their employees, that you can’t buy in the stores,” Mr Gerard said.

Manohar Raju, 47, said that he often told his friends and family that Lego was a better investment than gold. “The Lego Mr Gold figure was ­available to buy in 2012 for about $3 (Dh11) in shops, now you would not expect to pay less than $1,000 for a figure,” he said.

“The original Star Wars ­Millennium Falcon set is also hugely valuable for collectors.”

The spaceship from Star Wars was the most expensive Lego set yet when it was released for $499 in 2007.

The set has increased in ­value with collectors paying up to $4,000 (Dh14,600) in today’s market.

“I started collecting Lego from the age of eight when my aunt bought me my first set,” said the HR consultant.

The cost of collecting Lego in the UAE is often more expensive than in other parts of the world.

“You pay on average about 40 per cent more because the Lego website doesn’t ship to here,” he said.

“You have to get it sent to friends, who then ship it to me. In some cases you have to go through other retailers as well, who charge a bit more.”

The company was created in Denmark in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen and was known as Automatic Binding Bricks, before it became Lego, Latin for “I put together”, in 1953.

The company sells more than 70 billion units each year across 130 countries.

Updated: February 15, 2019 09:52 AM

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