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MÄRKLIN & RAILROADS : A personal view by Christian Vinaa

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Written by
Christian Vinaa - February 2017

"That's how I see it . . ."

Trend : Unity, but . . .

Having visited the Nürnberg Toy Fair yet again in 2017 there is one major trend that I noted : UNITY.

Unity and collaboration between the companies was the - sometimes well hidden - agenda, that no-one really wanted to talk about, but that everybody knew was essential if the model railroad industry should survive.

And I predict that it will be even more visual in the years to come.

Already before Märklin took over Trix, Märklin presented several Trix items as "their own".

In 2017 Märklin has the 39548 - Baudiensttraktor ➚ in several liveries, but states that "Dieses Produkt entstand in Kooperation mit der Firma Viessmann Modellspielwaren GmbH."

Märklin-Chef Florian Sieber said in a press-release from January 27, 2017 :
"... In den vergangenen Jahren hat Märklin zu anderen Herstellern innerhalb der Branche ein gutes Verhältnis aufgebaut. Um mit vereinten Kräften am Gesamterfolg der Modelleisenbahn zu arbeiten, entstehen immer mehr interessante Kooperationen der Branchenteilnehmer untereinander. ..."

In visual terms you just have to look at the Hall 4A at the Nürnberg Toy Fair to realize that it is an ever growing smaller number of companies that are represented at the Toy Fair.

That is also why I have been advocating a separate model railroad trade fair.

The unity is also about the "symbiosis" between the actual model railroad manufacturers and the accessories industry. I.e. Märklin vs. NOCH.

In recent years the number of "professional" model railroad layouts have grown dramatically - not only thanks to the MiniaturWunderLand in Hamburg.

The amount of detail-rich - almost life-like - layouts and dioaramas that have been shown at European Fairs have grown drastically.

The German hobby of "basteln" - the English would call it modelling or handy-crafting - has been re-juvenated in the later years, with modell trains taking a back seat to building whole "worlds" and sceneries.

This means that where Märklin can sell but a few items the accessories industry can sell loads and loads of items - and items that does not cost much.

NOCH has recently acknowledged that their strategy is to produce 2 kinds of items :

one kind that is low priced and that the customer, when he sees it at the shop, will not think twice about buying, simply because it is within an "affordable" 20-30 euro price-range. ( Which in fact is more than the typical cheapest Märklin car ).

The other kind is more elaborate, technical and expensive things that NOCH knows will only sell in limited numbers.

The - for Märklin - dangerous thing is that NOCH can sell their items to people who doesnt even have a model railroad, or to someone who just want to create a small 38x38 cm diorama, where Märklin would sell perhaps 2 tracks and one car. I.e. the diorama contest that takes place at the "Märklin Tage".

So basically we have a model railroad scene where a few companies produce the, more expensive, rolling stock, and other companies that produces the cheaper accessories. Nothing new about that. However today the layouts are much more detailled to a point where the main objective is NOT running trains but building a perfect scenery.

And this is also where the fight between psysical shops and internet shops can be seen, because who wants to buy some 20 euro accessories on-line and save perhaps 1-2 euro. However buying a locomotive online and saving perhaps 50 - 100 euro is different.

So all-in-all the unity / symbiosis within the modell railroad world is very fragile and perhaps dependent on how different products will be sold to the end-customer in the future.

"Service, service and service" has always been claimed as being the sole survivability of the typical psysical model railroad shop.

Will the model railroad shops then be a street-kitchen / water-cooler hybrid where only the cheaper ( accessory ) items can be seen on "coca-cola-type" displays, and where the customers can only see the expensive Märklin items on AR ( augmented reality ) ?

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