INTERVIEW: Martin Carr, Modelzone

In his first interview since joining the kits and collectables retailer as chief executive last August, Martin Carr speaks about his plans to improve ModelZone?s core categories and why there?s a long way to go until it becomes THE destination for enthusiast customers.
Publish date:

What are your aims for the ModelZone business?

The most important thing for us is for our core categories to be excellent in the eyes of our customers – and they’re not. I’m happy to admit that. 

Our core ranges fall into five key areas: die-cast collectables, model railways, plastic modelling kits, remote control and slot cars. And to be excellent in all of those areas in the eyes of our customer is all about range, range and range. Our research has told us this is the most important thing to our customers.

Our desire is to please our core customers in those five areas and recognise that we’ve got a long way to go before I’m happy we have the proposition – in stores or online – to really do that brilliantly.

What’s stopping you from having such a proposition?

The industry has seen significant price inflation over recent years, especially in trains and die-cast models. This has impacted customer demand and the availability of product in the supply chain. Despite this, quality range is available at attractive prices and we need to get better at sourcing this.

Our trading behaviour will favour our suppliers in these specialist areas that can satisfy our need for range and price. If our suppliers can give us price deals or promotional activity, then we’re more likely to favour them.

What’s interesting is our customer profile for ten months of the year is predominantly core enthusiasts and that is why we need to satisfy them. 

And the other two months?

During the peak Christmas trading period our profile shifts much more towards gift buyers and our product mix broadens slightly. For Christmas 2012 we introduced some board games that were relevant to our proposition like James Bond Monopoly, because we sell Bond cars throughout the year. We’re looking for more of those things for Christmas.

You have 46 stores at present. Do you want to open more this year? 

Over the next 12 months we’re not expecting to grow that number, but we are looking at Christmas pop-up stores. We opened one in Bath last Christmas and we’re looking to do more of that this year. We were very happy with the trial.

What are your best-selling products of the moment?

The model kit category is amazingly healthy despite the continued rise in computer games and digital toys. One area that’s doing amazingly well for us is sci-fi and film collectables. Tell us about the strategy for the new ModelZone management team.

I’m the new chief executive and I’ve been here for just over six months. We’ve got a new retail director and a strong buying team. Kam Morgan is our buyer who’s been in the industry for many years.

Also, our business has grown from a small family business into a national and international retail business. It is not possible to effectively run a business of our size without strong operating practices and disciplines. We’re going through a professionalising process right now. We need to hold on to our experts and our expertise.

You produce a catalogue every October. Will you focus more on your digital offering in the years ahead, like Argos?

The catalogue is well established and successful but our web future is critical to us and we’ll be marketing that very strongly. It’s the fastest growing part of our business.

We also have Amazon and web stores – it’s important to look at all areas of growth online. Our key focus is to drive people to our own website, and to be the destination for these specialist customers. I don’t think we sufficiently are yet, and that is our focus. I expect to see many changes in this area as we improve the proposition.


Established: 1986

Stores: 46

Originally known as: Model Aerodrome

Specialism: Die-cast collectables, trains, model kits, R/C products, slot cars, film/TV collectables

Contact: 01903 765496

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