Best of British: Part four

Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Founded: 1901, Turnover: £47.7m for year ended March 31 2017, Product to watch: Scalextric Arc Air Le Mans

After a tumultuous couple of years, Hornby may be on track to stage the turnaround of the decade. The long-standing British brand has been vocal about its recent efforts in re-establishing the business within the UK’s marketplace, and it may be starting to pay off.

Having recently detailed its results for the year ended March 31st, 2017, the company – home of the iconic Scalextric and Airfix brands among others – has plenty to be cheerful about, having secured revenue of £47.7 million.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Hornby, of course, but having emerged successfully from stage one of its multi-step turnaround plan, the wheels are firmly in place for this heritage UK brand.

Reduction of business scale and costs, maintenance of its key UK brands and a streamlining of its European operating model and brands have all helped the firm rise with a second half gross margin at 40 per cent, reflecting its new strategic focus on profitable product lines.

And what are they? Having spanned more than 100 years, Hornby’s portfolio needs no introduction, boasting the UK’s most famous model railway, the iconic Corgi range, Airfix and Scalextric.

Founded in 1901, nobody could have imagined how the Hornby model railway would influence the hobby today. In 1980 the company, now known as Hornby Hobbies Ltd, became an independent company.

It was in 2006 that Hornby Hobbies acquired Airfix, followed by Corgi Classics Limited shortly after, one of the world’s oldest makers of collectable die-cast models of trucks, buses, cars and aeroplanes.

Corgi is in for a big 2017, with new licenses due to launch later this year, including a special Paddington Bear 2 movie licensed New Routemaster Bus and Captain Scarlet’s Spectrum Saloon car to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the character this September.

And while heritage is at the heart of the Hornby offering, the firm’s forward thinking attitude has seen it introduce tech to its stable of brands.

Leading the charge, recent years have seen the introduction of app-controlled technology to enhance the driving experience across both new and classic Scalextric sets.

Scalextric set launches in 2016 included the popular super cars set Total Speed and Track Day ARC Air set with supercars McLaren P1 and Jaguar C-X75. Meanwhile, the My First Scalextric set has continued to be a key sales performer for recruiting young racers, hitting the number two spot in the category last year.

Continuing to look to the future, then, and as the firm embarks on phase two of its big turnaround plans, Hornby Hobbies will continue to build on the profitability of the Hornby, Airfix and Humbrol brands, while improving the performance of Scalextric.

Growth across the European and US markets is on the cards as the company looks to maximise the return from its brands through curated licensing agreements. It’s a new and exciting territory for the firm to be embracing as it looks to return to strength as a true British success story.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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