Lego's new girl series helps profits soar

Associated Press + More

By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Lego's new line of toys created specifically for girls helped first-half profits jump 35 percent, despite criticism for fueling gender stereotypes.

The family-owned Danish toy maker on Friday said net profit rose to 2 billion kroner ($336 million), from 1.48 billion kroner in the first six months of 2011. Sales rose 24 percent to 9.1 billion kroner.

The company said it sold twice as many Lego Friends sets as expected during the first six months of the year.

"It has been amazing to experience the enthusiastic welcome that consumers have given the new range," Chief Executive Joergen Vig Knudstorp said. "Sales have been quite astonishing."

When Lego Friends was launched earlier this year, it was met with protests from some consumer groups saying the toys were reinforcing gender stereotypes. The line includes a set for girls with mini-figures in pink, purple and green settings, a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty shop.

In the U.S., the SPARK movement against the sexualization of girls and young women, organized a petition with more than 50,000 signatures calling on Lego to change its marketing strategy.

Lego said the new line was developed amid requests from parents and girls for more realistic and detailed sets with brighter colors and role playing opportunities.

The company said the half-year result was achieved at a time when the global toy market is declining, and that it had increased its share of the global toy market to more than 8 percent, one percentage point higher than in first half of 2011.

The first half of 2012 "exceeds our expectations, and the financial result is exceptional, especially in view of general developments in the world toy market," Vig Knudstorp said. "However, it is still too early to provide estimates on the expected result for the full year because the closing months of the year are crucial for our business."

Lego said it has been expanding capacity in all areas of its business in 2012 to be able to meet growing demand, and plans to hire some 1,000 new employees globally this year.

The company, which employs some 10,000 people worldwide, is not publicly listed, but has published earning reports since 1997. It does not release quarterly figures.

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