Spielwarenmesse: How the new feeling of solidarity is streng­thening the model railway sector

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  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

How the new feeling of solidarity is streng­thening the model railway sector

from Ulrich Texter

Families are highly regarded in our society. The model railway sector also sees itself as a family. But family life isn't always a bed of roses. Producers of model railways and accessories have experienced this, too. Now they have come to the conclusion that family is and always will be indispensable. Jörg Vallen, executive partner at Busch GmbH & Co. agrees with this view.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Vallen, when the model railway sector talks about itself, it often refers to a family. Isn't the traditional family dying out in these times of stronger trends towards individualisation?

 Jörg Vallen: Why dying out? As in all families - there are times when everyone lives together in harmony and other times that are more turbulent. As in all families, every member has his or her own concerns that have to be dealt with alone - but the important thing is that everyone comes together again to solve the common problems, isn't it?

What makes for a good family these days? There are a lot of different combinations now. And more importantly, what binds the model railway family together after their family reunion at the end of April 2017.

J.V.: In the 50s and 60s model railways were the epitomy of technical toys - there was virtually no competition. This has changed dramatically over the last few decades. There are a lot of technical toys that compete with model railways for children's attention - quite apart from computers, smartphone and tablets.

The model railway industry has to make sure that it still attracts attention - and that's easier if it's a family that pulls together rather than every member of the family fighting for themselves and possibly even against the others.

A good eight years ago, IGEMA (Association of Model Railway Exhibitions) made the headlines. The manufacturers of model railways felt freer without any ties. At the end of April, the DVSI (German Toy Industry Association) announced the establishment of the professional model railway group. Does old love really die hard and does it need a mediator to rediscover family life?

J.V.: The original members of IGEMA were manufacturers of rolling stock - Arnold, Fleischmann, LGB, Märklin and Trix. Arnold has long ceased to exist as an independent manufacturer, Fleischmann has been taken over  – all the other manufacturers have found shelter under the Märklin "umbrella". Then Märklin had its own problems that Märklin had to deal with alone. I don't think they felt freer without any ties - the constraints were quite different ones.

The goals of the new model railway group sound ambitious: to improve public awareness, expand target groups, polish up its image. What is going to change, because the goals are not new?

J.V.: The goals are not new. But in the past, some of the companies have really had to fight for their survival - and that's quite a different goal. We are happy that the industry has stabilised itself and we can start pursuing the bigger common goals again.

IGEMA still exists alongside the professional group, but its active members are all producers of accessories. What effect will that have on family life? Will IGEMA continue to exist as a small, refined unit?

J.V.: Yes, IGEMA will continue to exist. We have discovered that in our big model railway family, we have our own little problems that we can solve better in a smaller circle. For example, safety issues (joint workshops, discussion about compliance of model railway accessories with EC directives, labelling of packets etc.).

Families live off and with rituals. Will there be a party at the Spielwarenmesse 2018 and what can the extended family circle expect?

J.V.: There have been two model railway parties so far and they have established themselves as a communication platform for dealers (independent of the association), manufacturers and the media. Another party is planned for 2018 but there are no plans as to how it will be different from 2017, if at all.

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Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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