At around 10 a.m. on April 20th, eager customers formed a long queue at a store on the second floor of the Joy City shopping complex in Xidan commercial street, downtown Beijing. These customers were avid fans of the global toy brand LEGO, which had just opened a flagship store in the bustling mall. This marked the third of its kind in the country and the first in northern China.

The enthusiasm of these loyal LEGO customers piqued my curiosity, especially considering Beijing already had several LEGO retail stores. Upon entering the brand-new store, which happens to be the LEGO Group‘s largest certified store in China, I found not just a retail outlet, but also a cultural center offering an immersive experience in toy creativity and fun.

Spanning 621 square meters, the store showcased various unique Beijing cultural elements recreated with LEGO bricks. These included depictions of leisurely men holding bird cages reminiscent of Beijing’s past, as well as road signs representing well-known spots in the city. It felt as though consumers were being welcomed into a LEGO rendition of the capital city.

Jenny Xu, vice president of China offline branded retail at the LEGO Group and a Beijing native, expressed that the store’s design aimed to resonate with locals and impress visitors by blending old-day and present Beijing features.

One of the store’s most popular sections was the Minifigure Factory, where customers could personalize toy figures by choosing outfits and decorations, and even adding their own writings or paintings via digital printing. Surprisingly, the store wasn’t just bustling with kids and parents; many young adults also made substantial purchases.

“It’s so much fun to have a minifigure of my own design and my own name. You just feel like your creativity is bursting,” remarked Meng Wei, a 27-year-old LEGO enthusiast.

I also tried my hand at making a LEGO minifigure, and indeed, it was an exciting and worry-free experience.

China holds significant importance as a strategic growth market for the LEGO Group. Since entering the Chinese market with product exports just five years after China’s reform and opening up in 1978, LEGO has expanded to over 460 stores in more than 120 cities across China.

The beacon store concept represents a high-end retail outlet offering individualized and immersive LEGO play experiences through localized design and unique attractions like the Minifigure Factory.

Chinese parents increasingly value learning through play for their children and seek quality products as well as creative, immersive, and interactive shopping experiences, according to Jenny Xu.

Paul Huang, senior vice president of the LEGO Group and general manager of LEGO China, noted that compared to some developed markets, there’s still ample room for the toy market to grow in China, given the country’s large population of children and the strong purchasing power of the growing middle-income group.

With over 40 percent of LEGO Group’s retail stores located in third-tier cities and below, more children across China can access LEGO’s high-quality play experiences within their own communities.

Huang reiterated the company’s long-term commitment to investing in the Chinese market, revealing plans to soon open a fourth beacon store in southeast China.

“We want more people to share the fun of creative play and benefit from the process,” Huang emphasized.