We all know how hard it is to find the correct parts for a MOC (My Own Creation). We sometimes end up buy a LEGO® set just to get a few needed parts from it. A lot of us SAFOLs already know and use BrickLink. For who don’t, BrickLink.com is a site where one can acquire LEGO® parts, sets and accessories from all over the world. You will find the most recent and also hard to find items on BrickLink. If LEGO® released it you will most probably find it there. Some at a hefty price though.
BrickLink is more than just an online LEGO® shopping mall. It connects people all over the world who share the love of the LEGO® brand.
This quote from the Bricklink website sums up this sentiment:
“Dan Jezek (1977-2010) founded BrickLink in 2000 and operated the site for over a decade until his death at the age of 33. He created a profound example of helping a community grow and connect via the web. The “link” in the name BrickLink means “real connection between people.” Through the years, BrickLink continues to unite several millions of fans around the globe who share the same passion for all things LEGO®.”
SAFOLs has always held firm to the concept of supporting local before looking internationally.
We have a number of great local BrickLink stores who put in a lot of time and effort to give us quick and easy access to the LEGO® parts.
SAFOLs approached these stores are asked them to participate in this article and answer a number or questions so we could inform our community about who they are.
We asked the following questions:
- How did you get started?
- How long you have been running?
- What difficulties and challenges have you faced along the way?
- Are there any achievements you are proud of?
- How do you list your parts?
- Are there multiples of the same item or consolidated.
- Why have you chosen this way of listing?
- Have you as a BrickLink store owner raised the issue of “difficulty in consolidating similar parts” with the admins of bricklink.com?
- How do you deal with customers enquiring why local BrickLink prices are more expensive that international stores?
- What parts do customers want to see more of?
- What do you find positive about SA BrickLink stores?
- Are there any other comments you would like to add?
Here is the great response we got from the stores who agreed to participate. (In alphabetical order)
ARCBricks – Abrie Coetzee
- I had a lot of extra pieces and I though the pieces I don’t need could help me fund the pieces I do need.
- Almost 2 years
- I’ve had some PayPal buyer complaining they have not received items before the expected date of arrival. Post Office strikes, go-slows, inconsistent postage prices. And in one case the item getting lost.
- None as yet.
- I prefer multiples of the same item
- Less effort and better stock control
- I just count the items list them accordingly. Sold items automatically gets removed and if I need to add items I just update the item count.
- I normally compare my prices with the average in BrickLink. I think the main price difference is due to the shipping and customs from America and Europe to South Africa
- I mainly specialise in LEGO® Land Space and Castle. The younger generation seems to want more Ninjago and Star Wars
- I think we are a pretty helpful bunch. SA BrickLink stores are often willing to go out of their way to get items to you, deliver items or even give you discount.
Brick Fanatik Depot – Adrian Prangley
- As a child, like so many of us, I grew up with LEGO® and as I moved into my early teenage years it was packed away and I assume given away. In 2015 I bought a set and some minfigures and decided this was officially my new hobby. Out of necessity and passion for the LEGO® brand, in early 2017 I opened an ecommerce business selling LEGO® sets online, operating as Brick Fanatik – Exclusive online LEGO® Store in Msanzi. To be frank the store was not as successful as I like and I wanted to increase my online presence and essentially opened Brick Fanatik Depot.
- March 2018
- Bricklink charges fees per transaction which is payable on a month to month basis. I was not aware of this in the beginning and came as a surprise when I received my first invoice. Essentially BrickLink charges to use the portal and it’s not by any means a free service.
My biggest challenges were sorting and storing. In order to fulfil and pack orders its absolutely imperative to have the stock stored in a logical way. I personally store my parts in small, medium and large containers in sequential order as they appear in BrickLink. E.g all brick modified parts irrespective of colour in one container and each unique item is stored in a small, medium or large zip lock bags.
Minimum orders – I had one client who ordered one component for R8 and paid the R80 courier fee. Taking the costs below into account there is no way you can make any profit on an R8 order in fact it pushes into the negative. This is why stores have minimum order thresholds.
Direct and indirect costs running Brick Fanatik Depot
|Direct costs||Indirect costs|
|Purchasing sets / stock||Time – Research, packing|
|Plastic bags||Storage space at home|
|Brick Link fees||Email and telephone|
|Printing – colour cartridges, paper etc (includes orders and courier waybills)|
|Packing material – boxes / bags|
|Promotional / Thank you gifts|
- Largest order was 2992 parts which took approximately 15 hours to pack.
- When parting out sets it’s easier to apply old or new pricing tiers and click the consolidate box. This ensures the new parts are added to the existing inventory.
- See above
- Never had the query
- I only receive requests for specific parts from time to time. I find plant elements, minfigure utensils and weapons, decorated tiles and anything reddish brown in colour moves.
- The community is small and we support each other to extent.
Bricks for Africa – Johannes Bisschoff
- I am a keen LEGO® collector since 1972 and ordered numerous times from BL stores, mainly stores in Europe.
- 4 years, since June 2014
- I am not that computer literate and the BL site is not always that user friendly. Made a lot of mistakes but eventually managed most of the options.
Slow moving parts. Tiles, bricks, slopes and technic parts move fast but a large number of items have been there for a long time!
- Almost 500 orders – 100% satisfaction feedback!
Only new bricks, part new sets out!
- I consolidate items but any now and then need to make sure about that!
- Much easier for buyer
- Have you as a BrickLink store owner raised the issue of “difficulty in consolidating similar parts” with the admins or bricklink.com?
- International stores has access to bulk LEGO® purchases, which we don’t have. There is no way you can have 12000 parts from breaking up sets! See also answer at 8.
- Technic parts, Slopes, Tiles
- Delivery time from order to delivery can be within 2-3 days! Sometimes even the next day! If order is placed, payment received I can forward the parcel on the same day for delivery the very next day! A wow experience for customers.
If you consider the time (and frustration) of foreign orders, taking up to 8-12 weeks for delivery, customs clearance and unexplained duties then it is much cheaper to order from local stores.
- This is not an easy money making business!!!!!
VERY time consuming and requires huge capital layout.
Although we process small orders, it is very expensive for the buyer. Standard courier cost or Postnet is at least R100. Plan your MOC and consolidate order rather than ordering 3 or 4 small orders.
Builders Emporium – Malcolm Keevy
- I sometimes buy 2nd hand lots in order to put the sets back together to keep or sell. At one point I had a few collections with lots of incomplete sets or spare parts, so I decided I should try listing them on BrickLink. I didn’t realise how time consuming it is to add used parts, so now I mostly do new parts.
- About 1 ½ years
- Storage is the main one. As the stock increases you need to keep expanding the storage in order to keep parts so that you can find them for an order, but without spending a small fortune on containers
- I am pleased about my customer feedback and it felt like quite an achievement when I got to 50K parts.
- It makes sense for how I store and price parts
- There are tools to consolidate items, which I have used to fix mistakes in the past, but mostly I think it arises from how people want to store and price their stock.
- I haven’t received any comments directly.
- Masonry bricks normally sell very quickly, as do most plants and animals.
- A big positive for me owning a BL store has been meeting people interested in LEGO®. I don’t think I would have joined the LUG etc. without it. There are also a large number of people who I have met who are passionate about the hobby without wanting to be a member of the LUG and some I get to see on a regular basis.
I have also gotten to know some of the owners of other stores in Cape Town. It is great to have people to talk about both LEGO® but also the store and plans and storage. We are trying to collaborate on combining and shipping orders in order to save customers Postnet costs.
Cape Brick Fairy – Colleen & Elmar Wentzel
- The importance came from loving a brand, with a rich and humble history and how it aims to bring people together. We further identified a need that quite a number of parts were not readily available in South Africa. We know how frustrating it can be when a LEGO® creation is dependent on that one specific part, in a specific colour and size, and the delay it can cause waiting for that part to be imported if not available locally. At the Cape Brick Fairy, our Slogan is, “A World Where Adventure Awaits”, quite fitting with the growth and history of LEGO®, leg godt “Play Well”.
- The Cape Brick Fairy commenced during September 2017. During September 2018 we celebrate our 1 year anniversary and 100 000 part count in our store inventory. We are proud of our growth, client-base and service delivery. We cannot believe time has gone by so quickly, and that we have been able to assist quite a number of active builders along the way!
- We have had a number of challenges some including in the unstable exchange rate, the SA postal service, and the customs VAT. We have also had some parcels destroyed in the delivery process and some parcels taking months to arrive.
- The Cape Brick Fairy has never enforced a minimum buy on BrickLink. Our smallest order with the greatest success story would probably include selling a single part to restore a set the Client had on display at a school to convey a lesson. The set was the Saturn V. Upon order collection it became known he was a teacher. Our Client was so thankful he could find the single missing part to restore his set, and that is what keeps us motivated. We have also had the opportunity of making new friends through our BrickLink store and introducing them to the Cape LUG, of this we are proud as they feel part of a greater community. We have met with friends who have travelled abroad to demonstrate their niche LEGO® abilities. We have also attended to specific requests that we have managed to find and supply.
- At the Cape Brick Fairy, local sets that are parted out are consolidated. Whereas imported parts and sets are loaded at a different rate, as there were different associated costs involved (including Seller BrickLink fees, shipping costs, insurance fees, online payment transaction fees and customs VAT)
- We try to offer our Customers the best price. By showing the different price options the Client can get a fair understanding of what certain parts can escalate to.
- No, it has never become a need. We do try and consolidate certain listings where the part listing prices are not too far apart. This does however leave room for error due to the amount of manual intervention required.
- We have not had queries like this before, however, it was recently raised in a discussion group. It’s important to note that delivery to South Africa on most international stores fall on the most expensive bracket under international supplier stores.
- The Cape Brick Fairy looks forward to hear from SAFOLs on this topic as it’s always a mystery to us. There is no consistency on the orders, and each order comes as huge and pleasant surprise.
- The dedication, passion and commitment it takes to run a BrickLink store is more often than not, overlooked. There is a fantastic collaboration and interaction between the SA BrickLink stores, each with its own trials and tribulations.
- The Cape Brick Fairy has been the fastest growing SA BrickLink store. We are celebrating our 1 year anniversary with 100 000 + part count. We would like to thank our Clients, Friends and LUG members for their continuous support. Without your support this success would not have been possible. We would also like to thank SAFOLs, for their continued encouragement and for being a LEGO® ambassador in SA.
HJK BRICKS – Hein van Kaam
- In part both Travelers Tales LEGO® Games and LEGO® Dimension got me hooked on LEGO® again, I understood how PC and Console gaming took me into my LEGO® dark ages, but it brought me back as well. I started buying Dimension Toy Tags from overseas BrickLink sites and the rest was history.
We bought some locally sold sets and decided to sell some of the excess part on BrickLink.
We started selling in October 2015 but moved over to Bid or Buy just for the sheer number of local buyers. But close to the end of 2016 we reverted back to BrickLink. There was a massive growth in registered user base and we decided to dedicate our store to local sales only. It has taken time away from MOC building but, I do see BrickLink as my hobby now.
- Effectively since October 2015, so close to 3 years.
- Effective storage, we basically converted a bedroom into work space and now have more means to offer increase volumes. Plastic containers are constantly being added to ensure effective picking and packing.
Receiving credit card payments, working with a pay merchant helped us to accept credit card payment, very effectively. It help us increase our sales.
Effective Delivery Systems, Working with some delivery services have given us grey hairs, like postal and courier, but we have learned from our experiences and have moved forward.
- Customer satisfaction, It is our most important principal. Our Ratings have shown that to be so.
- We list single lots of a part numbers in stock, we only stock new part in our inventory.
- We consolidate all our lots
- We prefer doing it this way, to help us with stock control and stock taking
- Has never been an issue for us.
- We actually have never had such an enquiry on our pricing. We keep prices as low as possible and use 6 month sale average for loading our new stock.
We also try to cap certain parts to a reasonable price levels.
- Rock Parts: mainly LURP and Slope 65/75
Minfigure Parts: in a varied array of colours for Monochrome Minfigures
Brick Parts in: LBG, DBG, Tan, Dark Tan, White
Technic Gears and Track Pieces
Tiles in: LBG, DBG, Tan, Dark Tan, White
- A growing seller base is good for all local sellers, we wish we had 100 active sellers locally. When we started we had only 5-6 active sellers, so it has grown well.
- We would like to thank SAFOLs for this review of local BrickLink Stores, we appreciate the spotlight being given to our local stores.
Kinleven Brick – Kah-Kin CHOW
- Well, when you buy a bundle and find that there are too many bricks, (Yes, I understand “Too Many bricks” doesn’t exist in AFOL dictionary) BrickLink is always one of the right channels to sell off extra parts to someone looking for it. Wishing to be entrepreneur one day through the passion we share. (Hopefully…..J)
- Since Jan 2018
- Courier services in South Africa which can be pricey especially to overseas. One example; the parcel can go missing using SAPO service without tracking to overseas. Postnet / DHL is really costly sending to overseas.
- So far no overwhelming achievement yet but always try to provide my best service as possible with no delays and be responsive to all queries. No complaints yet so I treat that as an achievement. J
- We try to consolidate all parts (same price and colours). Will do an inventory every time parts are uploaded which is really time consuming but easier to allocate when there is an order.
- I have always believed that everyone has their own ways for themselves which not just one system.
- Have not raise any concern before but will always learn and improves from time to time.
- So far, no one have asked this question. If take into consideration the shipping costs, custom duties and risk of a lost package from overseas, using a central shipping solution but this will be benefits to someone who frequently purchases from overseas.
Basically, I will use “Current Average Price” for all my parts. I believe as long as both parties are happy with the deal that is all that matters.
- Various, depending on the customers as believe will be parts for MOC building or missing parts that stores might available.
- Orders received within one week with stress free delivery. Sometimes one can arrange pickup including orders from other regions.
Prices are pretty reasonable when NOT comparing to buying in bulk from overseas.
- Overall, I am happy that BrickLink Stores in SA are able to cater all SAFOL needs. As mentioned earlier, correct the price in overseas (some countries) will be far cheaper if buying in bulk but you have to consider the shipping cost, customs duties as well as risk of lost packages. I always believe the deal must suit both parties and especially the needs of the customer.
McT’s Bricks – Craig McLaurin
- The idea sparked when I needed parts to complete some older City sets that I had. I realised that there might be many others who are similarly looking. After some research, I decided to take a leap of faith.
I owe big debt of love and gratitude to my wife who helped me make this a reality. She still is very much involved in decision making and helping me get orders out there.
- I am quite new to the scene. My BL store is only in its second month. Preparation to launch began a few months before.
- My biggest challenge has been getting storage of parts organised. It is nowhere near perfect yet and my organisation will evolve towards something that is quicker to process when orders come in. Quality and accuracy is supported by good underlying organisation.
Apart from that, trying to get a feel for what people are looking for, and then finding sets with those parts in them.
- Being naturally cautious, just getting started was an achievement. I am sincerely grateful towards my wife who encouraged me to go for it.
- While there may be other methods to list parts, I use the standard BL methods to list sets, parts, gear and minfigures. As far as I can see, there are no duplicate for same items in my store. When I upload parts, by default setting I combine lots and parts with my existing inventory. The quantity of items that are already in my inventory are adjusted automatically.
Perhaps the only duplicate would be if I were to sell used parts in the store. One item will show as “new” and the other “used”. To date, all items in the store are new.
I have stuck with the standard method to avoid mistakes in what makes it into the online store.
- I have not had any queries like this yet. That said I am very conscious of pricing. I want to remain competitive. I would prefer turnover of happy customers. The challenge for most will be to find the right price that offsets the “cost of sales” and keeps customers coming back.
- Being new to this, it is something I am still working on. I have an idea that items that may attract interest are those that are more difficult to get hold of locally. For example, fences, plants and items that will go toward water. Not that I think that I should ever assume what my customers are looking for, until I have a better understanding, I will be listening attentively.
- To be honest, I have only met one seller in person. My encounter with him was someone who genuinely loved what he did and wanted to make sure his customers were “king”.
That is my personal aim too. Anyone who enquires or shops at my store must get top-notch service – or I am failing at what I do.
- Getting started and through my first order was nerve racking. Still very happy I got started. I am still learning and evolving. I want to be innovative with the kind of things I make available in my store. I have a few ideas, but need plenty of patience and capital to take it to the next level. No matter what happens, I never want to lose focus that my customers are the most important part of the store’s life.
Ody’s Bricks – Estelle le Roux
- I was interested in Mindstorms and technic, but wanted to start building with systems too. I found a few bargains on OLX for used LEGO®. Boxes and boxes full. I realised that I now had far too much parts and knew there was a shortage of parts available in South Africa. I opened my shop and started selling used parts.
- Since April, 2015.
- Identifying all the parts in the beginning was difficult, Bionicle was a nightmare. PayPal was a problem as you could not get your money out of the account. FNB now has a facility to do this.
- Every order sent out that received a positive response is great. Getting a nice thank you letter is even better. Some buyers get really excited. I love it.
- I mostly part out sets, without consolidating at the time. As I sort the parts into ‘bins’ I then consolidate same items. It is a timely process so I almost always have duplicates in my shop.
- I mostly part out sets, without consolidating at the time. As I sort the parts into ‘bins’ I then consolidate same items. It is a timely process so I almost always have duplicates in my shop. Every manual adjustment can result in errors, so you can’t rush this. Sometimes I just do not have enough space or storage to sort items, so I leave them in their original boxes for a while, thus no consolidating as the items are physically in separate ‘bins’
- Everything in BrickLink is done manually. There is not a problem with how BrickLink consolidates items. It is the way you enter, sort and store your items that can cause challenges. Space is a big issue for me. I am currently unemployed so buying expensive little drawers and such is out of the question.
- In my opinion that is simply not true. There are many international stores that are extremely expensive. My prices are below average, and the rest of the SA stores prices do not differ much from mine. How can below average prices be more expensive?
Import costs do make parts more expensive for those of us who import. When looking at prices, the buyer should consider shipping costs as well for international shops, for prices to be comparable.
What is however true, is that due to the huge amount of international stores out there, it is easy to find ‘cheap’er stores to buy from. If compared to these low cost stores, SA shops may look more expensive. Statistics for all stores worldwide tell a very different story.
- Dark bluish grey and light bluish grey parts. I get whole orders for only grey parts. Tan is also popular. I would say any parts used in modular buildings sells well.
- It is wonderful that we have so many BrickLink stores now. When I started out, there were only 26 stores, and most had only a couple of sets. Only about 3 carried any kind of stock levels.
Not everyone wants to buy overseas. National postal services are often unreliable, and our parcels sit at customs forever. It is not so strange to wait 6 months for a parcel to arrive. Not everyone can afford to make use of courier services.
- I hope with time that the negative feelings towards SA BrickLink stores, that a number of South Africans seem to harbour, would start to fade. Our own shops are improving all the time, and service, and the willingness to go the extra mile, is really good. Almost all of our SA shops are run on a parts time basis, and it is a lot of work for a small return, so people should cut them some slack!
The Brick Cafe – James Burnett
- I was trying to build a MOC, but was struggling to find the bricks I wanted. I realized that if I was having this problem, then other AFOLs would also have the same problem. I also realized that I am not that good at buildings MOCs, but I could contribute to the local AFOL community by starting and running a SA BrickLink Store.
- 1 year.
- This is a labour of love and can be very time consuming as I need to part out large number of sets in order to have a decent selection of bricks available. However, it is important to note that most SA BrickLink Stores are not able to compete with international stores in terms of quantity or variety as international stores have access to sets/stock that we do not. SA stores need to import which also leads to higher costs per brick.
It is also a costly venture as the start-up and continued storage of the stock needs special storage unit/containers and you need to continuous add new units as your stock grows.
- I recently reached 45,000.00 parts in my store inventory.
- I part out by colour and by part.
- It is the easiest for me.
- I only explain once that SA BrickLink Stores are not able to compete with international stores in terms of quantity or variety as international stores have access to sets/stock that we do not. SA stores need to import which also leads to higher costs per brick.
- Light Bluish Grey bricks (all sizes) are very popular.
- There is a good sense of community and support of each other among the SA BrickLink Stores. Most SA buyers are supportive and appreciative.
- Unless you have run a BrickLink Store yourself, please be mindful of unnecessary negative comments directly at the local SA BrickLink Stores.
X Bricks – George Cornelius
- There were only a few stores at that stage, so I decided to give it a shot.
- Two years
- Quite difficult to put up an inventory large enough to attract customers.
- I still have 100% positive rating
- I list parts imported in bulk separately purely because there are other costs involved to parts coming from locally purchased sets and parted out, which are all consolidated.
- To keep track of cost and profit
- No I haven’t, as there are ways to do it, but if you are not careful, parts can be consolidated with different costs, causing you to lose money.
- I don’t. You can either buy from me, and enjoy local, fast shipping, or run the gauntlet yourself and import whatever you feel you need and pay less for.
- Plants, tiles, basic bricks and tiles, and minfigures of all sorts.
- It’s a growing market, which is currently expanding beyond the LEGO® and AFOL community into the broader population.
- In two years, 20 S.A. Stores were opened, I think big things are on the way with large BrickLink stores coming.
SAFOLs would like to thank all the SA BrickLink store owners who participated in this article and you our loyal SAFOLs for taking the time to read it and get to know them.
Please make the effort to browse through these stores. Clicking on the store names above will take you directly to their BrickLink store page. Who knows what hidden gems and bargains your will find.