Lego Friends boost profits at toy maker

Lego's CEO Joegen Vig Knudstorp: "Many girls played with Lego even before we had Lego Friends"

Lego's profits have jumped in the first half of the year helped by strong sales of its Lego Friends sets, despite a controversy surrounding the product.

Net income jumped by 35% to 2bn kroner ($336m, £212m) from a year earlier, on revenue up 24% to 9.1bn kroner.

Lego said it would hire 1,000 new staff to cope with demand as the Lego Friends sets had proved to be so popular.

Consumer groups had accused it of reinforcing gender stereotypes, such as using pink in its sets for girls.

They had urged the Danish maker to stop differentiating sets for boys and girls.

Despite the row, Lego said it had sold twice as many sets than expected during the six-month period.

The family-owned business said it would now increase production due to the popularity of the Lego Friends line-up ahead of the crucial Christmas period.

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

"With Lego Friends we've managed to make creative construction toys more relevant for girls - and we look forward to developing the product line further in the years ahead," he added.

In the US, the SPARK movement against the sexualisation of girls and young women gathered more than 50,000 signatures in a petition calling on Lego to change its marketing strategy to a more gender neutral approach.

The Lego Friends set for girls includes figurines in pink and purple, a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty parlour.

But the company said its line was developed after receiving requests from parents and girls for more realistic sets with brighter colours and role-playing opportunities.

The global economic slowdown hardly affected the toy maker. Sales in Europe rose by more than 10% and jumped 23% in the US. Asia was the biggest driver of revenues however, making it a core market alongside Western markets.

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