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Playthings


September 1, 2004
SECTION: Cover Story; Pg. 44


HEADLINE: Good to Go!;
TV is spinning couch potatoes into hobby enthusiasts and anindustry is waiting with ready-to-run gear

BYLINE: by Jason White

BODY:
In the new hobby landscape what was once the competition for time andcustomers has become the new ally of the industry.

The entire do-it-yourself craze on television has been a boon and boomto companies like Lowe's and Home Depot. Now TV is working its magic for themodel hobby industry. The joy of making things hands on has again become the inthing. It's a major shift that retailers--even those that don't ordinarilycarry hobby merchandise--can use to their advantage.

Shows like Do It Yourself Network's (DIY) "Radio Control Hobbies"and the Outdoor Channel's "Inside R/C" have brought hobbies into themainstream. This gives model hobbies the chance to show they have grown beyondthe glue, welding and from the ground-up construction of old. Ready to run(RTR) has really helped these shows get off the ground and into people'sliving rooms.

"We get a lot of feedback from the various trade organizations tellingus that when an episode airs in their area, the shops seem to get an influx ofwalk-ins and phone calls for the featured products," Bill Sykes, vicepresident of programming for the DIY network, tells Playthings. Ready to runmade it easier and quicker to get into a hobby for the first time in years; itreally helped get the series going, he adds.

While DIY's shows appeal to the newer hobbyists, there are also showsegments for the hard core enthusiast--like episodes on gas- and nitro-poweredproducts. Reaching over 30 million homes, DIY has received a lot of positiveresponse from viewers and the industry's organizations. The network plans torun six more episodes of the "Radio Control Hobbies" show in the fall.There are also two new shows in development, one of which will be on modelrailroading, scheduled for late 2005.

The growing popularity of the network has translated to increased hobbysales at retail.

"I get reports from the retailers all the time about customers comingin and asking, 'Do you carry?' or 'Can you order me?'--all based offwhat they saw on TV," comments Mike Wenig, president of the National RetailHobby Stores Association.

Bob Jacobsen, owner of Galaxy Hobby in Lynnwood, Wash., has seen peoplecome in and ask for items from the shows. "It's hard to really tell but theadded exposure can only help the industry," Jacobsen says.


"While R/C ready to run has really been the trend setter, the die-castside of the business is doing well too," says Pat Kozoil, executive directorof the Radio Control Hobby Trade Association (RCHTA).

Items like Orange County Choppers from Joy Ride Studios, a division ofRC2 based in Oakbrook, Ill., and military die-cast, especially tanks, areselling well.

"The die-cast military kits are in pretty big demand for us," saysThomas G. Smith, owner of Jersey Shore Hobby Center in Sea Girt, N.J., It'smostly because of the variety of colors and the amount of detail that goes intothem, he adds. Companies like Forces of Valor, based in Rancho Santa Margarita,Calif., and Dragon USA, City of Industry, Calif., are some of the bigmovers.

Northbrook, Ill.-based Revell-Monogram has embraced die-cast and made ita larger part of the company's product line. "With the advances in thetechnology used to make die-cast, the amount of detail we can put into producthas improved the sales," comments Edward Sexton, vice president of productdevelopment for Revell.

To reflect the growing interest in model hobbies the Toy IndustryAssociation (TIA) is changing how it handles hobbies at Toy Fair. JulieLivingston, a TIA spokeswoman tells Playthings, "According to our 2004survey, 3,150 Toy Fair buyers expressed interest in the model and hobby productareas. To accommodate the growing demand for this category, TIA is activelypursuing more exhibitors in the radio control sector." TIA has also renamedthe Model and Hobby exhibit area--encompassing radio control and die-castitems--to HobbyTech for the 2005 show.

Welcoming the mass

The gap between what traditional toy stores and hobby stores carry isclosing. Many traditional toy stores are merchandising model hobbies butusually don't offer the selection of the traditional hobby retailer. Thosecustomers who are looking for items that can be flown in the backyard, runacross the lawn or set out in the bath tub, but also want quality aren'tafraid to pay a little more.

Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us (TRU) had great success in 2003 with itsbranded line of Super Slicks mini R/C racers and the brand won the company'sPresident Award for performing beyond expectations. TRU will be launching a newline this fall called Super Slicks Fully Loaded.

"We will continue to carry the brand into 2005 with new licensed cars,six channels, drifting action, turbo boost and working headlights andtaillights," Arlene Wall, global brand director for Toys R Us tellsPlaythings. "We really aren't in the hobby business but saw that need inour customers and sought to fill it," she added.

Even stores like Best Buy and Circuit City are carrying R/C cars andtrucks. But independent retailers shouldn't mind the mass creeping into hobbyterritory, retailers tell Playthings.

The availability of hobby products at mass is really only "whettingthe whistles of the modern hobbyist," they concur. When a customer wantssomething a bit higher end or with more options, it's the independentretailer that meets these needs best, they say.

Marshall Winston, owner of America's Hobby Center in New York, tellsPlaythings, "I'm glad places like Toys R Us and Best Buy are carrying theready-to-run items. Those are lower end products and when the customer getsbored and wants something a bit higher end, they come here."

Whetting their whistles

Jason White

Parents and retailers would like to be able to get children more involved in activities other than the Internet and video games. While involvement in hobbies is a good way to do it, many parents might be reluctant to buy a $100 or $200 dollar R/C vehicle or train set to test the hobby waters.

Some new products, however, do offer an economical opportunity to test those waters.

For example, Basic Fun, Southampton, Pa.--well-known for its novelty licensed key chains and impulse items--has added model trains to its product mix.


Hobby's got game

Jason White

Miniature table-top-gaming is a fun way to introduce kids to the plastic and die-cast model hobby industry. Many of these table top games require painting and set building in order to play the game to its fullest. The gaming pieces range from metal to plastic and come in all shapes and sizes.

Players decide which army to field and what troops to call upon as they play out mock battles. There are all manner of choices, from fantasy and science fiction, to horror and super heroes. Prices range from (SRP) $6.99, all the way up to $175.00.

Games like Creepy Freaks from WizKids, Bellevue, Wash., appeal to the gross-out side of young boys. WizKids also produces HeroClix, Mage Knights, Sports Clix, Pirates and Shadowrun, which doubles as an action figure complete with accessories. The Sorcery set due out this month, adds spell casting to the mix of Mage Knights.
 

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Interesting article. Is it yours or have permission from the author to post this?

If not, this is a clear violation of copyright. As an author myself, seeing messages like this without stating this was posted with permission really bother me.

Larry
 

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Oh, for cryin' out loud, Larry, there's nothing wrong with posting an article of interest on a topical bboard, it's done all the time. When he charges money to read it, or claims it's his own work, then you can call the cops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Larry,


As a magazine editor for 15 years, let me assure you: Perfectly legal. Also, perfectly legitimate. Also, perfectly attributed to the source.

I can't think of anything more ridiculous than arranging for permission beforehand.

So c'mon. Really.
 
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