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Lego’s turnaround : Picking up the pieces : The venerable toymaker has recovered after a mistaken over-diversification

Oct 26th 2006 |
From The Economist print edition

[…] For seven decades Europe’s biggest toymaker […]  prospered with openly professed disregard for maximising profits. Lego became one of the strongest brands in the toy industry. […] Yet a couple of years ago the company’s very survival was at risk. After six years of slowing sales and falling profits, […]  rumours abounded that America’s Mattel, the biggest toymaker, would take over its long-coveted European rival. […]  They considered it as a perfect prey : a mismanaged, medium-sized firm in the hands of a single owner, the family of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter who founded the company in 1932. Mr Christiansen’s heirs decided to stand by the family business. They injected some of their own money […].

The logic of diversification was compelling[1], says Mr Knudstorp, but Lego went about it the wrong way. […] .As it tried to attract more girls, it started to neglect its main customers, boys aged five to nine. […] Lego was also hit by the general malaise in the traditional toy industry, which has been shrinking as a result of competition from high-tech gadgets and falling birth rates in many developed countries. Lego’s turnaround plan, launched in March 2004, was painful. […]  Factories in Switzerland and America are being closed down and production moved to Eastern Europe and Mexico. […].

[…] As Lego gets ready for the busiest shopping time of the year, the mood at the firm is festive. The toy industry has been stagnant for five years […] but things are looking up. Toymakers have reported strong results in the past couple of weeks. And with Lego preparing to celebrate its 75th birthday next year, Mr Knudstorp sounds confident when he says the firm can remain independent for another 75 years.

[1] Compelling = irrésistible

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