The crisis of plastic model industry

By Nakamura Takahito of Response emerging media

At the “57th Shizuoka Hobby Show” held at Twin Messe in Shizuoka for the four days from 10th to 13th May, a press conference was held where the leaders of manufacturers gathered.

At the beginning, Shizuoka model teaching cooperative representative, Mr. Shunsaku Tamiya, president of Tamiya model, talked about the current state of the model industry. To my surprise, as far as the plastic model is concerned, Shizuoka Hobby Show is now the most fulfilling show in the world. Previously, the Spielwaren Messe held in Nuremberg, Germany lived being said to be the world’s largest hobby show, but with regard to the plastic model, mainly because of the economic downturn in southern Europe, the spot is lacking in spirit It is said that it is. On the contrary, Shizuoka Hobby Show says that due to the collection of buyers from Southeast Asia, which has shown remarkable growth recently, Twin Messe, which has been held for many years now, is in a state of capacity shortage.

The Asian market including China and Japan seems to be booming now. And it seems that the hobby show is being held in Shanghai and Beijing etc. in China, but many buyers in Southeast Asian countries gather in this Shizuoka because there are distrust of mutual makers and no new products are displayed in the show . That is the driving force to push Shizuoka Hobby Show to the world’s best show.

It is certainly the world’s best trade fair as a plastic model show globally. Also, looking at miniature cars, a number of brands, mainly in China, are entering the Japanese market. However, even if it is a plastic model or a miniature car, there is no doubt that it has come to a corner.

Shamanism in the plastic model industry

As a big news in the model industry, a company named Hobico, a big North American Distributor, applied for the application of the Corporate Rehabilitation Act in January 2018 and was effectively sold. Along with this, in Japan manufacturer Hasegawa Co., Ltd. has been hit hard by a relationship that had exported plastic models throughout this country through this hobby. Furthermore, the long-established store of Plamoel, which was Hasegawa’s import source to the Japanese market, the level was the relationship which was acquired by Hobico as mentioned above, and this also stopped production in April 2018. The current level says that all dies and molds are being transferred to the German level.

As a result, as a model manufacturer in the US, only a few brands including the AMT under Round 2 survive. It is a situation where you can not see the future how the American level will go.

Incidentally, under the umbrella level, the brand called Monogram which blew the world in Japan in the 1960s was also included. On the other hand, in Europe, there are model makers at the top of the German level, for example, the largest hobby maker in the UK, Hornby (with Plastic model brands, Air Fix under the umbrella) will also be transferred to Phoenix Asset Management Company in 2017 Management has changed with the sale of shares, the management of Elele in France has been changed many times, now the management is continued under the new owner in 2016, the feeling of tapering is extraordinary. There are emerging plastic model makers in China, especially Macao, especially the transponder with mold factory in Macao has made a breakthrough brand and has grown rapidly to threaten Japanese manufacturers.

Even in the Japanese market, Kyosho who swept the market with radio controlled computers worsened management, sold all the shares to Shinsei Bank investment fund, Rembrandt HD, and plan to regenerate. The project itself is continuing.

Tapered hobby demand

Change in the world of miniature cars also stand out. As it used to be, mini cars are no longer being sold, and if you make a mold for production of one model, you are in a situation where it can not be sold enough for its mold cost to be amortized. For this reason, the resin model is making a difference in width, replacing the die casting model that requires a mold.

When comparing die casting and resin, you can not make a gimmick that was possible with die casting such as opening a door or opening a hood, for example with a resin. There is also a fear of deformation due to aged deterioration. However, as it is possible to produce small quantities accordingly, many manufacturers are turning their attention to resin models at present. Especially recently the quality of the resin has dramatically improved, and the production method is also changing due to the appearance of 3D printers. Of course, if it says to the manufacturer, he seems to feel a big appeal to die casting, but at present it seems that there is a fear of breakage of profit and it is impossible to get out at hand.

As you know, the plastic model also needs a mold by injection molding, and it is necessary to make a number more than a certain number for its amortization, but it is difficult to clear it, and when it comes to miniature cars it raises a new mold The fact that the number of plastic models produced is decreasing.

Consumer preferences have also changed. It is certain that few children are interested in making things. Tamiya also admits the fact that consumers in the hobby industry are aging. Even if you look at the hobby show, it is remarkable that many of the end users occupy most middle-aged elderly people. Whether the hobby that makes up things will be lost as it is, I feel like I am having a real turn at this moment. Specialized the talk with the car and attracted the attention stock of this year’s “Hobby Show”. Plastic model is incredible …

Source (in Japanese language): Response emerging media

12 thoughts on “The crisis of plastic model industry

  1. Antonio Henrique Dantas Silva

    I do not imagine that the current crisis will break the hobby sector, there will always be people interested in the hobby, Airfix went through a violent crisis, but it returned strong, now producing models with better quality, others stopped producing as an example of the Monogram and Heller, I do not imagine that modeling will disappear, we still have many planes to be produced on the 1/48 scale, the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Convair 240, the Fairchild C-82 and C-119 among others.

  2. admin Post author

    Of course a hobby or market won’t disappear completely but can get smaller which results in closing of some companies which you also mentioned yourself.

  3. lito

    I’m a history teacher here in the Philippines and I use to use scale models for my class, sometimes we do a group build and they were very much enlightened and a few decided to adopt the hobby. That was before, kits prices went up high , so were the tools and paints, it took me a year to replace my air compressor because of budget. Although the kits are well improved, this doesnt matter to beginners or to those who are’nt joining contests. The hobby is to make us happy and relax, you can’t if you can’t afford it. Chinese brands like hobby boss or trumpeter became popular because of price, but many are complaining now because of the parts and the price. Perhaps you can resurrect your old but still desirable kits with a lower price. This might attract many.

  4. I Y Sobolev

    1. The children are more interested in cyberspace rather than in scale modelling or socialising with each other “face-to-face”.
    2. The average age of scale modellers is arond 50+ years. These modellers go for bigger scales and seek accurate, well detailed plastic kits (read “expensive”) together with aftermarket accessories which cost more than these plastic kits themselves.
    3. Market responds to buyers accordingly. 3-D technologies are still expensive affair for smaller model kit manufacturers so the latter stick with either resin kits, resin accessories or with limited run kits or with PE parts or with decals or with WM sets.
    4. Apart from being involved with the scale modelling industry (manufacturing, marketing, sales) I am a scale modelller myself. I honestly do not remember when I bought Hasegawa kit last time- they were cool kits in 80’s and 90’s but now they are surpassed by those who can offer better detailed plastic kits with nicer decals (Eastern Europeans for example).
    5. Chinese plastic model kits… even the best of their kits lack accuracy (this is my subjective opinion, I am sure there are many modellers who can and will contest my statement). Besides, Chinese guys sell their models cheap first 2-3 years and after that their prices go higher than European or American or Japanese plastic kits. True, that you get more spare parts in Chinese kits. They fill up storage boxes nicely.
    6. I am far away from who bought who and who sold who in terms of manufacturing and distribution. We are small fish who holds their bay and niche on the market and sometimes we find mistakes in seemingly most accurate kits (exception goes for Revell’s 1/72 F-104 Starfighter, Revell’s 1/72 Tornado, Fujimi’s F-14 Tomcat and few others) and we fill the market with correction sets (aftermarket) or with whole new kits (both/either limited run and/or resin).
    7. Where does it all go? Well, it goes into a Digital/IT/Cyber/Interactive/3-D world. The winner or survivor in scale modelling industry will be the one who will offer to the market (and kids) nice file containing 3-D programme with A-1J Skyraider in 1/72 or 1/32 or 1/16 which a modeller can build in his/her domestic grade 3-D printer… also the file should include options for sceleton model building (with transparent parts as an extra option) and with option to build a RC model like drone… well, why do I tell you all this? You are the big guys of the industry you know how far and wide the imagination with added technology can run.
    8. Invest your money into 3-D printer development and production. Make these 3-D printers at the price of a TV set. Make the materials for 3-D printers at the price of pack of instant coffee. Get together and workout what format/program for 3-D softawre to choose. Make the files with the models of airplanes, cars, tanks, ships, railway at the price of model kits in 80’s and you shall see another century approaching. Add a file to build hangars or flying decks to the airplane kits (I love airplanes 🙂 ) as a nice touch for diarama option or a file to build an amaizing coffe mag with 3-D logo of your model kit company in the domestic 3-D printer and you will hit the spot.
    Meanwhile carry on tackle Chinese manufacturers by overtaking them releasing very accurate kits (this addressed to Tamiya and to Fujimi first and foremost).
    Stay ahead, stay alive. We love your plastic kits though we getting older and older and our eyesight is failing us, who loves smaller scales.

  5. admin Post author

    Very thorough and nice comment ILYA, thanks for posting. 🙂
    Best regards

  6. David Folkard

    Interesting to read that China and particular Beijing are booming. I have tried to find models for purchase in Beijing and have not succeeded yet.

  7. James Woodward

    I want to keep my hobby as I am retired and 75 years of age. What’s next?

  8. James Woodward

    I am retired and I am 75 years of age. Model building has been a part of my life for years. Don’t take my hobby away!

  9. Andrew Noonan

    I’m not sure how the ownership of Revell moving to Germany removes them from the American market?
    I disagree to extent with ILYA’s comments about the Chinese companies. Trumpeter is leading the hobby in the ship space. Aoshima has finally started to release new subjects (finally British cruisers and carriers!) Trumpeter does have issues with their aircraft kits.

    Hasegawa has a bit of a reputation within the hobby for removing weapons from their aircraft kits and selling those separately.

    From my own perspective while the average age of model builders is increasing there are a lot of kids entering the hobby but mainly from places like Eastern Europe and Asia. The space is definitely getting crowded in terms of options since you now also have competition from the diecast space. (Hobby Master and corgi – though Corgi has its own issues)

  10. Juan

    El modelo a escala de plástico debe actualizarse..mi sensación cuando termino un modelo es que le falta algo….queda precioso puedes mirarlo una hora y no te cansas…pero esta inanimado..este maravilloso hobby debe aprovecharse de la tecnología de alguna forma…la tecnología LED.. la impresión en 3D…pienso que los modelos a escala de plastico deben desarrollarse más.

  11. diego Arias

    El tema de los modelos plasticos en fantastico . . . . pero sus precios son demasiados altos y costosos . . . en mi experiencia hay niños y padres que quieren entrar en el hobby pero el tema de revendedores y distribuidores hacen que un modelo tenga un precio de mas del 300% que sale de fabrica.

    Si estan grandes empresas ubican puntos de fabrica directa al cliente el valor es mas economico y tendria mas demanda

    es tan maravilloso este hobby que sirven de material educativo para las escuelas el cual puede ser otro nido de venta para estas grandes empresas

    este hobby tambien se puede incentivar en el manejo de socializar y compartir . . .tema que nuestras sociedades necesitan

    en fin son muchos los nuevos mercados que este negocio puede tener y ser mas rentable el gran problema los japones solo negocian con japoneses . . . . ..


    I have been in the happy hobby business for over 55+ years and seen the rise and fall evolution of plastic modeling grow change and evolve into something that is simply amazing that should really be back in time to be fully appreciated by the hobby generation that wanted it so badly and made it all happen to present date via the here and now of today.
    I also was into the buying and selling of antiques and collectibles of all kinds and that entire big money hobby of white collar enthusiast is completely extinct via books,publications,clubs,and shows that now no longer exist anymore.
    Antiques collectibles of all types have lost their monetary value across the board thus no more shows,clubs,publications etc.
    First the hunt and seek find it sources have all been fine mined and exhausted primarily for example in Europe the source of the expensive antique doll market that commanded very high handsome prices among the feminine antique collectors is completely picked over and cleaned out as far as cheap first finds for resale.
    For example I myself once bought a Rose O’Neil action kewpie for literally a few dollars and sold it for several thousand as buying and selling was just taking something from one street corner to the next but the trick is doing it many times not just once
    Again way back when I bought it for about $5.00 & sold it for over $25G with no problems as I got even better offers showing a picture of what was just sold as that just like the TV show the pickers were the real deal possibilities.
    Even in the masculine antique field of interest German WW I & II military prices are starting to fall with the death of long term blue collar type collectors who were mostly the post WW II greatest generation families of European extraction & mentality.
    There is also another curse with collecting German military and that is the endless minefield of reproductions, restrikes, fakes and fraudulent rip offs of every kind.
    Why some very good limited edition fakes have actually become real over time to satisfy the hunger of must have collectors.
    However German military topics in plastic modeling are the true power house of production , books and exhibition international modeling contests of such well known hobby clubs like IPMS etc.
    The whole collector and dealer buy and sell hobby/profession that was more than just alive in the 60s,70,80s & 90s etc. has evolved and changed dramatically not just because of step by step evolution but because the endorsement of the generation past is simply dyeing and not being picked and replaced by the new young generation which is not into collecting and good old happy days plastic modeling which also has become very expensive if not just too expensive.
    If some of the wow now products that we see now like a 3-D printer could go back in time what a sensation it would create as that generation at that time would be more than appreciative to say the very least.
    The European / American mentality was the real great power house behind the serious structure of Antiques collectibles and the hobbies we once loved and knew as perhaps best illustrated when for example the SQUADRON SHOP was many store strong with those I just can not wait to get in the mail catalogs.
    I have a beautiful large wood carved imperial German eagle with a banner in its beak which reads
    ALL GLORY FADES WITH TIME ! which is but a true timeless very wise saying said way back when!
    The hobby we once knew is going going gone changing because the mentality and interests of the good old boy hobbyists are literally dying and with them the artistic self taught hands on skills not to mention historic interests of all diverse dedicated kinds!
    Yes it really is so super sad as the whole concept of our present day hobby is slowly dying instead of reaching higher heights of creativity and endorsement by yet another gifted ,dedicated , talented & intellectual generation proud to create and preserve which in itself is but complementary imitation of the greatness given from heaven above!

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