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31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
Spielwarenmesse®: Mr. Engstfeld, the Germans are not the only ones constructing, crafting and hammering for all they are worth. DIY stores are enjoying great business. These are surely good times for plastic model making?
Heinz Engstfeld: This is certainly true of model making brands with models that live up to the higher expectations of today’s consumers. However, brands which still include parts from the seventies to nineties should not be surprised if nobody comes back to get a second kit from them.
And if this was that person’s first time trying plastic model making, then they may be lost forever. The brands that understand that a high quality product is a must if you want to please model builders, on the other hand, are very successful.
We heard from a competitor in the market that plastic model making has to reinvent itself nonetheless. Can you explain to us what may have been meant by this?
H.E.: This is true to some degree. However, it remains a hobby for people who enjoy working mostly alone on a model which will never drive, fly or swim. Simply constructing, painting, priming, adding the perfect accessories. This is NEVER about speed - you go at a slower pace. I know many model builders with very stressful jobs who do this for relaxation purposes.
The sixties were the heyday for plastic model making. More and more sellers entered the market. Models became increasingly more detailed. Was there too much of a focus on the hobbyists then, at the expense of newcomers to this pastime?
H.E.: The hobbyists do tend to be more prepared to construct high-quality models because standards have risen and accessories are in high demand. With a good model, 2 or 3 times more again is often invested in the accessories. Newcomers were put off before by poor models. Some manufacturers, such as Airfix and a few others, have understood this. Nowadays, we are again seeing investment in new designs and attention to getting the fit exactly right. With some old models, you need to get stuck in with the filler straight away.
A course correction has been under way in respect of plastic models for a couple of years now. Just look at the Model Making Day and products for a younger target group. You have been in the market with the new Airfix Quickbuild range for children aged 5 and older since 2014. How are you finding it? What is working, what has been achieved and what is yet to be done?
H.E.: On Model Making Day, children in particular get involved in building in around 150 venues. This means approx. 3,000 children being introduced to the hobby for the first time. I myself run a craft group for two days in the summer holidays, which often includes children coming with their first model. They tend to find the first hour really, really challenging. But then they start to get into the groove. The children use the tools, help each other, explain things. And it is all very relaxed and calm.
With the Airfix Quickbuild range, you can also cater for children with somewhat less developed fine motor skills and less patience. These children also get a feeling of success with models which they can then regard as equal to the plastic models. This is definitely the perfect introduction, but does not yet mean that this will become their hobby.
Your company Glow2B is growing strongly, especially in the plastic model construction segment. What are the reasons for this and where are you seeing the most growth?
H.E.: Yes, we have been growing by 15-25% annually for several years now in the area of plastic model construction. This is down to our European strategy in particular, but also the broader retail setup. We are moving away from being a niche provider.
You forecasted a concentration on the distribution side. This appears to be under way. Does this also mean closer relationships among manufacturers to achieve the production runs for models?
H.E.: Currently, Glow2B Germany is a distributor of approx. 22,000 active items from approx. 75 manufacturers, which we source worldwide. We now offer almost all brands across Europe and have already an export share of approx. 35%.
We started a few years ago as a purely German distributor. We now consider Europe our home market. Keeping 95% of such a range in stock all of the time and delivering within 48 hours - you cannot do this any more just for small markets alone.
You joined with the retail sector in implementing a system partnership concept three years ago. However, the Internet has now become the most important distribution channel for your products. How can you reconcile all of this?
H.E.: Bookstores in medium-sized cities were the model which I was following. You can browse a bit on a Saturday, see all the nice things on offer on the shelves, find something for the weekend. But you might also order something to collect on Tuesday. The bookseller can check immediately for a title on his computer and promise when it will be available for collection.
It is the same story with the specialist retailers who work with us. The customer can browse and come back for anything missing on Tuesday. The retailer is able to provide a complete offering thanks to our online shop and can give a concrete commitment because he can rely on our system.
Of course, you cannot prevent the customer browsing in store and then buying online. But many model constructors value the professional system offered by “their” specialist retailer. And with our partners enjoying such a diverse range through this, there is good reason for the model constructor to return again next week.
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