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Is the scale model railways and accessories crisis over?

January 17, 2013

scale model railways and accessories

Not only in the tt gauge, the crisis seems to be over, consolidation has come to an end and the points are set to positive. After years of falling sales, the scale model railway industry is once again positive of growth. Helping to achieve it are rapidly advancing digitization, good value starter items and new sets for children. However, there’s a cloud hanging over the comeback of the niche because of the production situation in the Far East and the long payback time for the flood of innovations that come onto the market every month. At the same time, the number of committed model train fans is tending to decline. The qualified specialist trade is increasingly showing itself to be the bottleneck.

All in one, 2012 was a very good year for scale model railroads. The number 1 driving part in the hobby market exceeded the good numbers of the year before, number 2 experienced a slight down in sales but was again in the black, while number three exceeded the targets it had set itself with a rise of 17 % per cent and resulted in a record turnover. The biggest trade network on the globe for model trains and scenery reported winning of 0.3 per cent, that was resultable mainly to small manufacturers. With over-the-counter toy sales of around 500 million euros within the network and model trains accounting for a share in these sales of approx. 30 per cent, the turnover achieved with model trains and accessories alone could be as high as 140 million euros. And, according to the producers, the sales of 0 gauge have also been rising continuously. So were the a lot of cases of insolvency in recent years down to the mistakes of management?

Model railways, a toy or not a toy?

The scale model trains producers has been struggling for more than two decades to secure the next generation of customers and to find the right value for its items. In so doing, this best age hobby finds itself in a common dilemma. Although scale model trains are in essence not toys, they can certainly be named as such; the scenery are way more than just an nice appendage to a we only need to think of the scale model railroads construction kits – but they are only mentioned in the same breath as the scale model railways itself. Both industries are pursuing a twofold strategy of ‘not only but also’. In the case of lokos, dcc of sound, smoke, lights, the sound of trains travelling, braking and in special situations like going round bends, and the control of automatic doors is taking the model railways hobby to ever new dimensions of innovation. The latest innovation in this development is controlling the diorama with a smartphone on which the user loads a photorealistic image of the cab of his favourite locomotive so that he can then take charge of the travelling with a virtual control panel or joystick. On the other side, the industry is trying to get a foot in the market of the nursery by selling compatible and attractively priced model trains that kids in the 3-plus age group can play with as toys.

You see the equivalent development in the case of accessories, where producers are trying to create a balance between the attractive staging of themes for seasoned model railways enthusiasts and simple laser-cut models for children and adults. Natural materials and special cardboard are being combined with conventional plastic parts. The next trend is motion. Here too, it’s the advancing miniaturization and digitization of technology that creates the momentum.




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