There and back again: The hobbyist market returns as ‘model making sees massive resurgence’

UK toy and hobby shops have cited a ‘massive resurgence in model making’ throughout 2020, driven by families and consumers turning to the more traditional pastimes such as construction kits, building sets, and games and puzzles to best navigate the social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions put in place over the past 10 months.

While it comes as no surprise that the games and puzzles sector has seen strong sales throughout the year, culminating in a 31 per cent sales surge (year to date) for the month of November, according to the latest trading update from the NPD Group, it’s perhaps the increase in demand for the hobby and model making sector that has created the most fervor this second half.

Back in October, the model railway company Hornby revealed that it had seen a 33 per cent increase in revenue in the first half of the year, marking a return to profit for the Margate-based manufacturer for the first time in ten years. Most notably, the company’s uplift arrived following a surge in interest for Hornby portfolio of model and building kits over the UK’s lengthy lockdown period.

Driven primarily by online sales and an increased interest in the hobby, revenue at Hornby Hobbies rose to £21.1 million in the first half of the year, up from the £15.9 million in revenue for the same period the year prior. After almost a decade of losses, the hobby specialist wad reporting an operating profit of £200,000.

It’s now according to the NPD Group, that that surge in interest in the building and construction kits category, fueled by both kids and adult fans (or kidults) has led to a 25 per cent increase year to date in the November update.  The figures are reflective of trends occurring on a ground level, with retailers now citing a ‘massive resurgence in model making’ throughout the year.

“I’m ridiculously excited to show off our new range of Airfix models,” said Duncan Conner, owner of the Scottish independent toy and hobby specialist, Bus Stop Toy Shop via a post on social media last week, indicating a haul of the popular construction kits. “I’ve wanted to do this for years, and with 2020 seeing a massive resurgence in model making, I’ve made it happen. Fantastic Christmas gifts for new and experienced modellers alike.”

Talking to ToyNews, Conner, said: “The return of model making as a hobby in 2020 has been nothing short of staggering, as customers seek out ways to entertain themselves indoors. As a 46 year-old man-child, who used to hang Spitfires from his ceiling as a boy, the nostalgia of having rows of Airfix models on the shelves has been wonderful.

“It’s the broad appeal that’s been particularly interesting – you have both my generation and older, rediscovering our childhoods, but of course those customers are in turn introducing a whole new generation to the joy of fiddly plastic parts and glued-together fingers.”

Meanwhile, the construction toy powerhouse, LEGO is continuing to build on a strong first half in which the Danish toy maker saw revenues rise seven per cent to DKr 15.7bn. A series of strong releases throughout 2020, including a favourite of many a retailer’s top toys for Christmas lists, LEGO Super Mario, has ensured that the toy brick maker has maintained its position of strength over November’s trading.

The NPD Group has now tipped both LEGO’s licensed Harry Potter and Super Mario ranges to be big hits this Christmas amid a resurgence of the traditional toy sector over the course of the year.

Earlier this year, the eco-conscious STEM arts and crafts brand, JUNKO – a range of kits developed to enable kids turn waste into toys – has experienced a week of sell-out sales across Amazon and a surge in online orders across its own website. The pick-up was the knock-on effect of the company’s prime time appearance on ITV’s trend spotting segment, How to Spend it Well at Christmas, an indicator of some of the key buying trends adopted by consumers throughout 2020.

Check Also

Indie insight: Armadillo Toys’ Lisa Clay on lockdown spirit and being the BTHA’s Ultimate Superhero

For the past 17 years, the independent retailer Armadillo Toys has been supplying the Leeds …