Spotting a swallow doesn't mean it's Summer, as we say in Austria.
What is clearly noticeable is that the model companies seem to 'listen', i.e. reflect on what is discussed in the 'scene', among other on forums such as this one here (I mean you guys!).
They had to do something, since they must have realized by now that their target market hitherto - kids or at least younger people - aren't really buying model kits. I daresay the model kit has generally not made it into this millenium as a mainstream recreation-oriented product.
What the 'industry' is starting to realize is that model kits can only be sold if they target them to 'niche' markets. And what can be clearly seen in what has been announced for immediate and near future release, is that they probe various 'niches'. I would say, they have started to fight for each and every customer, which is a good thing. This strategy is probably the only one which will ultimately lead to success. Let's face it, it is a difficult road to take and certainly not easy money. But the times for easy money are over, or at least suspended for the time being. This can be felt in all industries, not only the hobby sector.
There are a few not so obvious factors, which could work in favour of the kit industry for the time being:
- Increased labour costs and tremendously improving social conditions in China led to an unproportionally high increase in prices for good quality diecasts over a very short period of time. At the same time, there is a decrease in spendable income in large parts of the population. You can read all about this on every diecast forum, or just check your bank account balance. Also, the diecast industry moans openly about dwindling sales figures, which in turn will again hike prices, a vicious circle. This will drive a lot of people who had left the model kit scene in favour of collecting good diecast models to return to building model kits.
- Many people are looking for cheaper recreational activities. The times where everybody could afford to go to the pub 3 nights a week and spend the weekend away are over. Just fill her up at the petrol station and you know what I mean. Recreational activities will more and more return to the confines of one's home and it is not unlikely that a few people who once were into modelling will take it up again.
- There is a sort of renaissance of family activities. For one thing, the novelty factor of the game consoles has worn off to a degree,and many games became very expensive. Another thing is that people start to realize that each member spending the evening in front of a different screen does not constitute a family life. Quite a few people told me they feel they have lost contact to their children to a large degree. I kept telling them to try to introduce them to modelling, something they can do toghether. And I was surprised how often they reverted back to me after a while and told me how well it worked.
Last Sunday was the largest toy and train fair in the North West of England. I had booked a table there (after more than twenty years of not attending such a fair) to sell a few kits which are truly surplus to my requirements. It turned out that there were only two other model kit vendors and I was the only one offering car model kits.
The rest of the fair was the usual array of toy trains, vintage Corgi/Dinky and other diecasts and toys clearly made for adults to collect, i.e. exactly teh same stuff I saw there last time over twenty years ago. However, I was surprised how many people stopped at my table and spent considerable time looking through my kits and starting to chat about them. Most of them were not unfamiliar with them, but hadn't tackled one in ages. Quite a few left with one or two under their arms.
When the event turned to a close, most sellers complained about not selling much and blamed 'the crisis' to a large degree. I told them, that I cannot share this view. Yes, comparatively little money had changed hands at my table, but there was constant custom throughout the event. A guy who had two tables full of very high end diecasts next to me said, sales are terrible compared with what they were like just three years ago. Which made me think again. Spending 150 quid on a diecast car to do exactly what with it? I can buy ten model kits for that kind of money and do whatever I can imagine in my twisted mind with them. Plus I can get my kids involved in building them. Aaaaaay!
The model kit isn't dead. The market has changed, that's all. But there is a small, loyal and devoted group of people out there, who will put their money where their heart is. This group may even slightly increase in numbers. If the kit industry plays it smart, we could face a very good future.
Edited by Junkman, 21 October 2011 - 02:09 PM.