Tracks to the future | Hornby Hobbies talks licensing plans and the retro-appeal of its iconic Scalextric

Anyone paying any level of attention to the general narrative of the toy industry over the course of the past 12 months will know that there’s been a re-awakening among some of the market’s more traditional sectors.

The hobby community is one among them. As consumers have found themselves with more time on their hands and a greater tendency to lean back into the pastimes and brands of yesteryear, it comes as little surprise that the hobbyist sector has undergone a resurgence.

The pandemic, for all of its ills, has played a helping hand in driving those dormant hobbies out of the shadows and into the limelight. Gaming – whether it is tabletop or role-playing – has never been so popular, with Hasbro citing record years for both its Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons franchises, while the more traditional pursuits – and we’re looking at model building and the hobby trains segment here – have too ploughed full steam ahead into a wider-spanning, more mainstream audience.

As a result, Hornby Hobbies, a name synonymous with the hobbyist market, has reported some of its best results in years. It’s in fact the success of sales of Hornby Hobbies products over the past two years that have given the outfit a new lease of life, and a new grasp on the contemporary market. Consumers have rediscovered the joys of slowing down, and in turn, things at Hornby Hobbies have been, well, speeding up.

Hornby Hobbies’ licensing consultant, Michele Pearce

Earlier this month, the company announced a definitive return to the licensing sector with the appointment of licensing consultant, Michele Pearce, who has taken on the role of leading a new charge of licensing opportunities for the company’s popular Scalextric brand.

Talking with Licensing.biz, Pearce has confirmed that the programme will commence with a few of the more pertinent categories, spanning luxury goods such as watches, video games, board games, sportswear, sports equipment, footwear, and apparel. While it may be early days for the programme still, the message is a big one; after a period of softer sales not some five years ago, Hornby Hobbies is ready for growth, and licensing is a very viable route towards it.

“Hornby has dipped its toe into licensing in the past,but this has not been the focus for some years due to changes in the company and a need to really focus on the core product ranges,” Pearce told ToyNews.

“However, with the success of the sales of Hornby products over the last two years, the company is now in a great position to expand its options. This is also the perfect time to connect with the customers with other consumer products.

“There is a strong nostalgia response trending among all consumers right now as well as a focus on known and trusted brands, and Scalextric is definitely a good fit on all points.”

A traditional slot-car racing system with more than 60 years of rich history behind it, Scalextric is keen on bridging the gap between the surge in demand for nostalgia, with the necessity to contemporise for modern day audiences. It’s by no accident that Pearce talks about Scalextric in the same breath as Mattel’s Hot Wheels, or Hasbro’s Monopoly; each pedigree brands with the vision to remain contemporary and span audiences.

“Scalextric has both the fun and excitement of a dynamic speed-driven toy and the gravitas of being a retro brand,” says Pearce. “This is not something many toy brands can share as an accolade, and the few that do are already partnering successfully with licensees.

“Scalextric has a wealth of imagery in its archive relating to box artwork, catalogues, and old logs and slogans which can be utilised in bringing an extra zing and classic look to a range of adult product.

“Then the new style guide offers a bright and dynamic range of colours, logos, and the digital tie in with the Scalextric Performance App that will appeal to the younger audience.”

Racing into the future

While the potential for the Scalextric brand within the consumer products space lies before it like an expanding horizon, Pearce has already earmarked her markets for initial exploration, and amng them, of course, is digital gaming.

“With the Scalextric App already developed and the ability to play via your mobile phone or tablet to control your cars and then share scores and discuss via social media means that this is a natural extension for the brand,” she explains.

Then, there’s the scope for audience engagement that live eventing – when the world opens itself back up to in-person events of course – has to offer.

“Once the opportunity is available again to participate in the public space, we will be looking for partnerships with stores and other types of events that could host Scalextric events,” Pearce added.

Reading the signs offered to the Scalextric brand over the past 12 months, engagement with the slot-car racing brand is expected to remain high. House-bound consumers have rekindled their love and affinity with a brand to a degree that it has welcomed families back into the field, while Hornby Hobbies has been active in engaging new fans through its social media platforms.

“All of these actions have either reawakened past fans or brought the brand to the attention of new enthusiasts who have discovered the fun and excitement that is Scalextric. We now want to build out the partnerships over the next six months and have a positive story to tell at the Brand Licensing Show in late November,” Pearce continues.

“Over the last three years or so, Hornby has invested heavily into the Scalextric brand, with new scales, new sets, new features, and new licensed characters. The team has reinvigorated the brand with such innovations as SparkPlug, but there is still plenty to come.

“Scalextric is a 60 year old brand with an eye to the future with both product, brand awareness, and vision,” she concludes.

About Robert Hutchins

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

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