Alquemie and The LEGO® Group unveils the World’s Biggest LEGO store in Sydney

On Thursday 09 November, Alquemie and The LEGO® Group unveiled the World’s Biggest LEGO store in Sydney.

Situated over two floors, the 900sqm landmark new store is situated in prime position at Sydney Arcade, overlooking Pitt Street Mall, to provide a world-class new experience for brick enthusiasts.

LEGO stores are renowned across the globe with landmark locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, Dubai and Denmark and a footprint in more than 50 countries.

The new landmark store includes exclusive large-format brick-built features that draw inspiration from local architecture, with the design based on ‘Stories of Australia’ bringing a combination of Sydney and Australian culture to life in LEGO brick form and the first LEGO Minifigure Factory in Australia.

Richard Facioni, Executive Chairman, Alquemie Group, said the new store would capitalise on the enduring appeal of the LEGO brand and bring a world-class retail concept to Australia.

“We’re incredibly excited to unveil our flagship store and the world’s largest LEGO store, in partnership with the LEGO Group ANZ, right in the heart of Sydney.

“This globally unique store will offer an immersive LEGO experience for local and international brick fans, with a number of features new to this market. It will have something for LEGOfans of all ages and will definitely put Sydney on the LEGO world map!”

Sydney’s new LEGO Store features a range of exciting LEGO experiences, including:

– Storytelling Table: LEGO fans can go behind-the-scenes of the LEGO design process with a new storytelling table including interactive areas that allow access ‘behind-the- scenes’ through interviews and videos displayed on screens;

– Personalisation Studio: visitors can experience the first LEGO Minifigure Factory in Australia and make a memento of their visit via personalising their own LEGOMinifigure including heads, hairpieces, torsos, legs, and accessories available for fans to customise;

– Pick and Build Wall: an enormous signature brick experience where visitors select the exact LEGO brick elements required to create personalised builds;
– Hands-on play opportunities: including a LEGO play wall and free LEGO build challenges and in-store events every month;

– Brick Specialists: whether visitors are selecting a gift, looking for the latest set or bringing a LEGO fan in for a special treat, Brick Specialists can help find the perfect LEGO set.

All large format 3D LEGO models within the new Sydney store have been designed and built by Ryan ‘The Brickman’ McNaught – one of just 21 LEGO Certified Professionals in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.


US-based adventure brand National Geographic has unveiled a new retail offering in Australia and New Zealand, as the 135-year-old organisation looks to capitalise on its high level of brand awareness and strong social media following to grow its foothold in the fashion industry.

Developed by Alquemie Group in partnership with The Walt Disney Company, which owns National Geographic, the offering includes a local e-commerce site and a number of experiential retail stores selling a range of premium outerwear and accessories.

The first two stores opened in Australia in May, at Melbourne Central and Sydney’s Westfield Chatswood, with a third store set to open in Canberra in June.The plan is to roll out about 20 National Geographic branded stores across Australia and New Zealand before assessing whether there is capacity for more.

“We certainly see an opportunity for this concept to go much wider, and for this to resonate around the world,” Tim Everett, vice-president and general manager of consumer products for The Walt Disney Company in Australia and New Zealand, told Inside Retail.

The store format was custom-designed by Alquemie Group and features a first-of-its-kind digital screen running along the entire ceiling and back wall, showing videos of ocean life, jungles and other stunning scenes captured by National Geographic’s team of photographers and explorers.

Additional screens throughout the store show models wearing the brand’s premium outdoor apparel, including Gore-Tex parkas, fleece jackets and technical hiking pants and shorts, while a custom scent evokes the Australian Outback.

“The aim is to have an environment where we can showcase the National Geographic content, but also product,” Alquemie Group’s executive chair Richard Facioni told Inside Retail.

“It’s a unique design that we developed and got signed off by Disney globally. They love it and want to replicate it overseas.”


Technical gear with a fashion edge

Unbeknownst to many consumers, National Geographic has offered premium outdoor apparel and accessories in South Korea since 2013, through a partnership with Korean manufacturer The Nature Holdings.

Dubbed National Geographic Wear, the range includes more than 3,000 SKUs and emphasises quality construction, technical performance and fashionable designs.

The Nature Holdings recently expanded into China, and it is now working with Alquemie Group to make a selection of products available to the Australian and New Zealand markets.

South Korea is well-known as the birthplace of global fashion trends, and Facioni believes this factor, along with National Geographic’s heritage, will help set the brand apart in a crowded outdoor apparel market.

“It’s very technical and highly functional, and the way it’s made is very conscious of sustainability,” he said.

“You can say that about a lot of brands in that category, but I think what differentiates National Geographic is the heritage, and the fact that the product is designed in South Korea, so it’s got that fashion edge to it.”

The fashion focus can also be seen in the team that worked with on the launch campaign, including stylist Vanessa Coyle, a former senior fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar in the UK, who has worked with the likes of Stella McCartney, Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy; photographer Bartolomeo Celestino, whose work has appeared in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar; and filmmaker Alice Wesley-Smith, who has worked with Condé Nast Traveller, among other publications.

“When you see the product, and the way we’re presenting it, it’s playing to that fashion space,” Facioni said.

“You can wear it to go and grab a coffee, and you can also wear it when you go skiing or hiking or climbing a mountain. It’s that versatile.”

While he believes the range will appeal to a wide range of people, including older age groups seeking technical outerwear, he expects the primary customer to be Gen Z.


Strong social media presence

Over the coming months, Alquemie Group will centre its marketing efforts on building a connection between the National Geographic brand and the apparel offering, since most people in Australia and New Zealand are not aware of it.

This will be made easier by the fact that Disney has granted Alquemie Group access to some of National Geographic’s star explorers, including Australian conservationist Valerie Taylor, who is serving as a brand ambassador for the launch.

“Disney has a lot invested in this. They want to take this global,” Facioni said. “This is the first Western market that this product is being launched in, so we’ve got their full support.”

Alquemie Group will also benefit from National Geographic’s enormous social media following, which includes 278 million people on Instagram, well ahead of Apple’s 30.2 million followers, and just behind Nike’s 295 million.

That kind of reach is unimaginable for most retail brands, so it’s not surprising that National Geographic is looking to leverage its platform in new ways.

“The opportunity to bring some of that storytelling into product and into the retail experience is the next phase for us,” Walt Disney’s Everett said.

This original article appeared in Inside Retail:


Australian fashion brand Insight has just launched its online eCommerce globally, marked by a campaign collaboration with more than 20 creatives who will partner with the brand and Art by Friends.

Called ‘Systems Reboot’, the campaign series brings together graphic designers, digital and 3D artists, animators, videographers and musicians from Australia, US, Asia and Europe to produce original and immersive branded content.

Insight is a subsidiary of Alquemie Group.

Insight’s global launch will include a new standalone website and exclusive ranges, as well as a stronger presence in General Pants and a new e-commerce partnership with SurfStitch. Both are also subsidiaries in the Alquemie Group portfolio.

The second series of collaborations under Art By Friends will launch in early 2023, including exclusive merchandise and events.

Alquemie Group CEO Sacha Laing said this is a strategic move for Insight, which he describes as a brand that blends style and alternative subculture.

“With a streak for rebellion and challenging the status quo, Insight celebrates self-expression and viewing the world through a unique lens, and we look forward to continuing its growth trajectory with this global launch,” Laing said.

Insight was founded in Sydney’s Northern Beaches in 1993, bringing alternative fashion through skate, surfing, art, music.

Originally inspired by the alternative lifestyles and subcultures of surf, skate, art, music and fashion, Insight was founded on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and reimagined bold to create a signature apparel brand.

Alquemie Group CCO Jacq Vuleta said the global launch marks Insight’s evolution as it collaborates with artists internationally.

The first Art by Friends series includes collaborations with Austin-based video-artist Alex Aulson, Australian graphic designer Jericho Marcel, Paris-based visual and audio artist Michael Renassia, Stockholm-based graphic designer Achilles Marondis, US based digital creator Blaine Pate and music by Australian-based band Teenage Dads.

Alquemie Group is a retail and consumer investment platform managed by ACTA Capital. It’s current portfolio includes LEGO® Certified Stores, General Pants, SurfStitch, Ginger & Smart, Pumpkin Patch and National Geographic apparel (a partnership with the Walt Disney Company). It expects additional acquisitions in the future.

This article originally appeared in Ragtrader:


Richard Facioni, chair of retail groups Alquemie and Mosaic Brands – with upwards of 1,000 stores and brands including SurfStitch, General Pants, LEGO Store, Ginger & Smart, Noni B and Rivers – thinks ecom pure players may be in trouble. Facioni hates the word ‘omnichannel’ but says it’s the future of profitable retail.

“Personalisation, hyper-personalisation, real-time analytics of what the customers are doing. That, to me, is where we’re heading,” says Richard Facioni.

Fresh back from Dreamforce, Facioni’s helping steer both group’s commerce and ERP stacks, with a customer data platform likely to follow. He also predicts social commerce will be the next revenue frontier.

Originally published in Mi3. For more, see the full article here:


Alquemie Group today announced a new retail collaboration with National Geographic within the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) market that will see Alquemie opening a portfolio of new National Geographic experiential retail destinations across the regions, in addition to a dedicated e-commerce channel.

Richard Facioni, Founder and CEO, ACTA Capital and Executive Chairman of Alquemie Group comments: “We are excited to join forces with The Walt Disney Company and National Geographic to bring one of the world’s most highly regarded and recognised brands to retail across ANZ.

“This landmark agreement with Disney strengthens Alquemie Group’s emerging position as one of the country’s largest retail operators and investors. We intend to strategically grow its retail and consumer brands footprint, exploring relevant investment opportunities with leading local and global operators and exciting new goods across apparel, accessories and adventure travel.”

Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Senior Vice President and Managing Director for The Walt Disney Company in Australia and New Zealand comments: “National Geographic is unrivalled in its ability to bring people closer to the wonders of the world. The extension of the National Geographic brand with exciting new retail experiences brings our loyal and deeply engaged fans and consumers in Australia and New Zealand even closer to the science, adventure and exploration that National Geographic is world-renowned for.”

Meagan Sanders, VP & GM, Consumer Products of The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand comments: “We look forward to collaborating with Alquemie Group to bring our National Geographic branded stores to local explorers at heart and continue the successful expansion of our stores across the Asia-Pacific region.

“With over 133 years of brand heritage and the notable resonance and relevance that
National Geographic has in the Australian and New Zealand markets, we couldn’t be happier to bring our unique offering of National Geographic apparel and accessories to consumers and fans in those regions.”

Alquemie Group is a retail investment vehicle managed by ACTA Capital. The Alquemie portfolio consists of a number of leading consumer and lifestyle businesses including LEGO® Certified Stores, General Pants, Ginger & Smart, SurfStitch and is currently exploring additional investments and licensing partnerships, with some in advanced discussions.


Alquemie Group and the LEGO® Group today opened the largest LEGO® Certified Store in the Southern Hemisphere at Melbourne Central (GPT).

The 559sqm custom-made store showcases an immersive new retail concept featuring hybrid digital and physical experiences designed to inspire creativity and encourage play.

Richard Facioni, Executive Chairman, Alquemie Group comments: “The new landmark LEGO experience is set to delight both local and international brick fans, with custom built features that are a tribute to imagination and creativity.

“We are pleased to set new benchmarks for innovation and design with the opening of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest LEGO® Certified Store at Melbourne Central.”

The new store format has been developed following two years of LEGO® customer research which identified consumers were seeking opportunities to play, customise retail experiences and to have fun.

Troy Taylor, the LEGO® Group, says, “The new store format is part of the LEGO® Group’s strategy to innovate across retail channels, with a similar concept to be introduced around the world.

“Our new store at Melbourne Central showcases LEGO® brand experiences whilst also allowing customers of all ages to share their ideas and creativity.”


ACTA Capital today announced that its retail investment platform Alquemie Group has acquired General Pants Co.

The acquisition strengthens Alquemie Group’s emerging position as one of the country’s leading retail businesses with General Pants Co. joining a growing portfolio which includes LEGO® Certified Stores, SurfStitch, Ginger & Smart and Pumpkin Patch.

Under the terms of the transaction the current owners of General Pants Co., which include the Victor Smorgon Group, Phil Staub and Jackie Vidor, have agreed to reinvest a significant portion of their proceeds into Alquemie Group.

Founder and CEO, ACTA Capital, and Executive Chairman, Alquemie Group, Richard Facioni comments: “This acquisition brings Alquemie significant scale and breadth of operations as we seek to partner with exceptional, like-minded management teams to build great businesses.

“General Pants Co. is highly complementary to our existing portfolio and positions Alquemie for continued growth as we build a leading multi-channel retail investment business.

“I’m excited that the current owners of General Pants Co. have agreed to become shareholders in Alquemie, a testament to their conviction in the strength of the Group as an investment.”

General Pants Co.’ current CEO, Sacha Laing, has been appointed as Group CEO, Alquemie Group. Sacha Laing is a highly experienced executive, having held various senior leadership retail roles including at Colette, Country Road Group and David Jones.

Sacha Laing says, “Alquemie Group has a strong, well-diversified portfolio of retail brands and strong forward growth ambitions. It’s a privilege to join the business at this pivotal time and I look forward to working closely with Richard.”

Founded in 1972, General Pants Co. is an iconic specialty retailer of youth casual apparel. It currently operates 60 physical stores across ANZ with a growing e-commerce arm, offering customers a flexible omni-channel experience. The business has a portfolio of well-established vertical brands and in-demand third-party brands, anchored by a market leading and sought-after denim offering.

Funding for the transaction, in addition to reinvestment by the vendors, comprised an acquisition debt facility provided by CBA and a dedicated investment fund raised by ACTA Capital.

ACTA Capital and Alquemie Group were advised by Hamilton Locke and Greenmount Advisory. General Pants Co. and its vendors were advised by Monash advisory and Danaher Moulton.


The biggest Lego Certified Store in the southern hemisphere is set to open at Melbourne Central in April, bringing a slew of new features and experiences to Australian customers.

At 559 square metres, the store will be roughly twice the size of other Lego Certified Stores in the country and will feature the brand’s new store design, which was unveiled in New York City last year and is being rolled out globally.

“It’s going to be a destination,” Richard Facioni, executive chairman of Alquemie Group, which holds the rights to Lego Certified Stores in Australia and New Zealand, told Inside Retail.

“Pre-pandemic, Melbourne Central was one of the highest foot-trafficked centres in the country, and as we come out of the pandemic, it will come back to being one of the highest foot-trafficked centres.”

In addition to popular features that exist in other Lego Certified Stores in Australia and New Zealand, such as the pick-a-brick wall and mini-figure station, the new store will debut a personalisation studio called the Mosaic Maker, where customers can take a photo of themselves in Lego form to commemorate their visit.

It will also offer 3D models of Lego sets and hands-on building experiences to inspire creativity and imagination, alongside a wide range of products.

“There’s a lot of engagement in there,” Facioni said.


Room for growth

The Melbourne Central store is just one of a handful of new Lego Certified Stores that are slated to open in the coming months.

“There will be a couple more openings before June, and then we’d like to see another four to six openings in the second half as well,” Facioni said.

Alquemie Group currently operates 13 Lego Certified Stores across Australia and New Zealand, but plans to grow that number to 25-30 over the next few years.

That could include up to four more stores in New Zealand, and several more stores in metro Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth, as well as key regional cities like Geelong.

“We notice plenty of gaps in the network,” Facioni said. “There’s plenty of opportunity to grow the network without stores cannibalising each other.”

At the same time, Lego’s online sales have increased rapidly since Alquemie Group launched a local e-commerce site two years ago.

“It was very rudimentary, but we knew we needed that online presence,” he said. “What we’ve been doing since then is building on that online store, and it now has a full delivery service, customisation and personalisation.”

About 25-30 per cent of sales are now made online, including click-and-collect, which remains popular with customers even though Covid-19 lockdowns have ended.

“It actually has been feeding traffic into the bricks-and-mortar stores because people go online, pre-order their stock, and go pick it up, so they can minimise their time in-store,” he said.

Between the brand’s online growth and new store openings, Facioni expects turnover to hit $100 million by June of this year, a significant milestone seeing as Alquemie Group only teamed up with the toy-maker three years ago.

He credits this to the strength of the partnership: “I’ve always said, the beauty of this partnership is they do all the brand marketing and product development, and our job is to create really amazing retail experiences, whether they’re in-store or online. And it works really really well.”


Alquemie Group has welcomed Mareile Osthus and Rebecca Khoury to its team as its readies for further growth.

Osthus has joined the business as digital projects director and Khoury has taken up the creative director position.

The pair will help the investment firm grow its portfolio, which currently includes businesses LEGO Certified Stores, Ginger & Smart, SurfStitch and Pumpkin Patch.

Alquemie Group executive chairman Richard Facioni said the strategic hires comes at a critical time for the firm.

“We are pleased to announce strategic additions to the Alquemie Group team as we prepare for the next phase of growth.

“It’s an exciting chapter with the continued expansion of our core business and a number of significant partnerships on the near horizon.

“We welcome Mareile’s and Rebecca’s experience and talent to the team at this pivotal time,” he said.

Osthus brings her extensive experience as a career retailer to the role, having previously held various senior roles in Europe and Australia including at Zalando and Hugo Boss.

She joins the business from The Oroton Group having previously spent five years at The Iconic, where she served as part of the executive team as chief category management officer.

“I am delighted to work with the incredibly talented team at Alquemie Group as the retail portfolio enters a new era of strategic growth,” Osthus said of her appointment.

“I look forward to playing my part in contributing to the group’s ongoing success,” she said.

Meanwhile, Khoury brings her comprehensive knowledge to her position, having previously worked at ACP Magazines, holding roles at both Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia.

She was previously associate editor and co-publisher of 10 Magazine and 10 Men Australia and has been a member of the Advisory Council for the International Woolmark Prize.

“I’ve been passionate about fashion from a young age and have been fortunate to work with some of the industry’s most formidable talents,” Khoury commented.

“The vision for Alquemie Group is incredibly exciting and it’s my privilege to help shape its forward creative direction,” she said.

Alquemie Group is a retail and consumer investment platform managed by ACTA Capital.


SurfStitch has announced a new partnership with General Pants Co.

The collaboration will offer SurfStitch customers access to the full portfolio of General Pants 11 private label brands across both men’s, women’s and accessories.

Richard Facioni, Executive Chairman, Alquemie Group said the partnership was part of a wider plan to strategically grow the SurfStitch consumer value proposition via marketplace.

“We are excited to welcome General Pants to our growing marketplace offering and giving SurfStitch customers greater access to these fantastic brands.

“Recently we’ve seen macro trends in retail accelerate, including retailers and brands collaborating and actively working together to grow their respective businesses.

“We look forward to working with new and existing brand partners in the months ahead and introducing them to SurfStitch’s active, engaged customer base through our marketplace.”

The eleven General Pants brands available from today include renowned denim brands Insight and Neon Hart, and in demand favourites Arvust and Alice In The Eve.

Sacha Laing, CEO, General Pants Co., said the partnership with SurfStitch will play a key role in the business’ accelerated growth strategy.

“It’s our core focus to continue evolving and catering to the needs and demands of our customers,” Laing said.

“We’re thrilled to announce our new e-commerce partnership with SurfStitch.”