Spielwarenmesse: Model cars: collectors’ treats

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blaues Modelauto von der Firma Schuco der Dickie Spielzeug GmbH
  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

Model cars: collectors’ treats

from Ulrich Texter

Manufacturers of miniature cars must contend with a paradox. While experts believe model cars may have had their heyday, the abundance of new products, number of scales and categories of collectibles as well as the quality of models are reaching new heights. So what is the right approach for such a disparate hobby market? That’s a question for Peter Brunner, Schuco Brand Manager at Dickie Spielzeug GmbH.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Brunner, you are a Schuco veteran, if you don’t mind us saying so. How has the market for model cars changed over the 30 years in which you have been part of it?

Schuco Brand Manager at Dickie Spielzeug GmbH

Peter Brunner: When I started out, the specialist retail trade and business with automakers were essentially equally important to manufacturers of miniatures. Today, the specialist retail trade accounts for approx. 80% of our business base at Schuco. Given its extremely low margins and sharp decline in unit quantities, the industrial business with current vehicles is hardly a factor for us anymore. Over the last 30 years, we have also grown older, together with our customers and collectors. On average, our collectors now fall into the over-50 age bracket.

Are today’s collectors also different to those from the heyday of the automobile?

P.B.: Back then, customers were often in their mid-thirties with an established career and a family and could slowly afford to realise their childhood dreams on a miniature scale. Many of these collectors are still active, but have grown much older. We need to get a new, younger clientele interested in model cars.

And what are people collecting nowadays in these times of Dieselgate and defeat devices?

P.B.: Classic cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies are still big collectors’ items. We are seeing more and more youngtimers, or future classics, as well. Farm vehicles also represent an extremely important, standalone collectors’ segment for us.

Model train manufacturers have been focusing on getting “back to their roots” for years. They believe that men aged 40 and older might take up the hobby again. What is the theory underpinning the discourse in your area?

P.B.: We are seeing the youngtimers from the eighties and nineties slowly establishing themselves as collectibles. The market is attempting to appeal to a younger clientele with these models and new products lines tailored to much younger target groups.

You’ve said it yourself. Schuco was a major toy brand, but now seems to be a collectible brand. Do you not have to give even further consideration to attracting younger enthusiasts?

P.B.: By introducing the Schuco Edition 1:64 with a price point of just under 10 euros, we have been trying for a good three years to appeal to younger customers. This “father-and-son scale” is slowly becoming increasingly popular in Germany as well. We are also considering introducing Schuco offerings for the very young. In any event, our absolute aim is to win over younger customer groups again through “younger” products.

Schuco’s presentation at the Spielwarenmesse was relatively modest, with just under 200 new products. Others showcased five times as many. Who is going to pay for all of these; who has so much shelf space?

model car in silver
The Silver Arrow by Schuco.

P.B.: Many of the problems in the market for miniature collectibles are certainly self-inflicted. It’s not unusual to see 1,000 new products per year and manufacturer in the miniatures market. This is far beyond what specialist retailers or end customers/collectors can handle when it comes to presenting the goods in shops or private collections and also finding the money to buy such quantities. Less would definitely be more in this case!

The Schuco catalogue shows 9 different scales and 13 different product lines, making up around 450 products. Are you not also overwhelming collectors and brick-and-mortar retailers, which could lead to this hobby increasingly shifting online?

P.B.: Schuco’s strength is derived from exactly this abundance of scales and themes. Where other market participants come out with 600 new products a year across two scales, we offer our retailers and customers a manageable number of new products for each product line, allowing them to maintain an overview and manage their range.

Germans worshipped at the altar of the automobile for many years. It is losing its appeal among the X and Y generations. In any event, there seems to be less of an urge to buy a car of one’s own. How are you planning to reignite the thrill of the chase?

P.B.: This should be achievable with an interesting product mix of classic, familiar basic models and ongoing product innovations combined with a market-oriented policy regarding the number of models produced. The new developments in the pipeline for a younger clientele are bound to be extremely important in this respect as well.

Collectors of model cars are almost exclusively male. Can you explain why? Often these are cars that collectors could never afford in real life, cars which they will never even drive and will always have to remain just a dream, while their models don’t even increase in value. Is this all a form of sublimation?

P.B.: That's two questions in one, but let’s give it a go. I do believe that men tended towards “hunting and gathering” quite early on in our development, while women were more likely to stay at home and care for the children. However, this doesn’t mean that women don’t collect. They are more rational in what they collect and they go for other themes. I don't personally believe that collecting is simply a form of vicarious satisfaction. Many collectors treat themselves by buying additional beautiful models and enjoy the look of a well assembled and presented model collection. This is just like model railway builders taking pleasure in the look of their own little miniature world or home gardeners when they behold the beautiful floral diversity in their very own patch.

Schuco’s strength is derived from exactly this abundance of scales and themes.

Peter Brunner, Schuco Brand Manager at Dickie Spielzeug GmbH.

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Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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