By Maz Woolley and Rod Ward
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Leigh Hobden of Diecast Legends asks an interesting question in the May issue of ‘Diecast Collector’. Has the large increase in prices over the last five years made models unaffordable? It seems a good question to me. Leigh says that manufacturers are seeking to address this issue by reducing retailers’ margins, which is only likely to reduce the number of sales outlets and thus further reduce sales volumes. He suggests that manufacturers could cut their costs by simplifying models, rather than making more and more detailed models for higher and higher prices. It is well-known that model collectors are often retired, or heading towards retirement, so the answer to Leigh’s question may be that even current prices may not be sustainable. Lower-price ‘Best of Show’ models based on resin castings with printed features, rather than photo etched components may be an example of what the general market will want in the future, whilst the sales of more detailed and increasingly expensive models will decline.
The structure of the toy and model industry was always like a pyramid. The base consisted of cheap and accessible toy cars which were good enough to fill a gap in a collection, if no better model was available. Above that were increasingly sophisticated levels of toy cars, then collectors’ diecast models of ever-increasing quality and cost, with the peak being made up from expensive handbuilt white metal and resin productions. The scale of that pyramid was what made the collectors’ world sustainable; the top-quality peak was a tiny part of the total volume, maybe only one or two per cent of the total market. Buyers would move upwards through the various levels, gradually spending more per model as the collecting fever took hold, but stopping at whatever level represented ‘too expensive’ for them.
If the ‘peak’ creeps downwards to take up too large a proportion of the pyramid, then there will be an insufficient number of potential buyers moving upwards to sustain sales of expensive models. Makers of complex collectors’ models may be able to simplify their specification a little, to introduce a layer below the peak, but unless quantities of less-expensive diecast models and better-quality toys are constantly being added at the intermediate levels, the pyramid will become top-heavy.
Existing customers fall away, and new collectors don’t join the process, as there is no natural and gradual progression from the cheap toys, where we all start, to the most expensive models. Hardly any collector will jump straight from buying a £4.99 toy to a £95.00 model. The prognosis is not good, therefore.
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