Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Welcome to our all new Meccano blog!

Things are looking up...
Earlier on this year Sue and I took the monumental decision to give up building new models and to sell off our entire stock of traditional and modern Meccano building stock. We have given up attending meetings and shows and decided to get on with the other things in our life that we enjoy doing. Meccano has been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember, even in the periods of non activity the interest has still been there as we would be buying, even if we were not using or dealing. If that sounds like an addict speaking, I suppose it may be. It was not some chemical substance that gave us a high, just a craving for more Meccano!  

The sell-off of our building stock continues and I thought that would be it. I was sure I had kicked the habit and Sue felt the same too. We had always intended to keep up with the new releases and continue to follow the Meccano company and its development within the Spin Master family. Right from the beginning of the Spin Master take over we knew there were going to be changes. Like a powerful car accelerating hard, from a standing start, can loose its grip and veer from left to right before the power is tamed, and it heads off in the chosen direction with the confidence of a thoroughbred, so too has it been with the journey of Spin Master's development of the brand over the past few years. That period of testing the market seems to have been concluded and Meccano has morphed into the robust toy that it is today. 

I am sure that when Spin Mater were thinking about buying Meccano, they were given the impression that the adult following for Meccano was much greater than it actually is. I have often been pilloried for saying that the true number of adult enthusiasts, who are actively building and buying Meccano is very small. Initial discussions with the new management of Meccano in London, during the early part of December 2013, were encouraging and it was obvious that they were prepared to listen. One of the questions that came up at that meeting was how many ten sets did they think they would sell if they produced a special run for us enthusiasts. Now, bearing in mind that this would have been at today's prices - I have no idea what that would be, but it would have to be several thousand pounds - I said "Ten, world wide?" Their jaws dropped and I said I might have underestimated it slightly "Maybe twelve".

When I explained that there were probably only a few hundred Meccano enthusiasts buying Meccano world wide they were staggered. They had obviously been talking to other enthusiasts who had given them totally the wrong impression. They were also beginning to discover what Sue and I call the missing generations. For decades now, Meccano enthusiasts have been trying to sell the hobby to the subsequent generations, without any success. Kids have become fathers, fathers have become grandfathers and now even great-grandfathers without successfully passing on the interest. I was standing at one of our Meccano Road Shows talking to a dad, whose son was demolishing our display, and he said " I remember Meccano... My grandfather had some!

The guys from Meccano were full of enthusiasm for the product, these guys are not the suited and booted bean-counting men in grey suits, far from it. These guys are down to earth toy industry 'lifers'. They have been with Spin Master for years and in the industry before that. Even at that first meeting it was obvious that they had a plan. It was way back then when we were first told of some of the changes to come and the development of what eventually emerged initially as Meccanoid GKS 15. (Genesis [the beginning] Kid Size and first released in 2015 - GKS 15). We left that meeting full of hope for the future. Little did we know then of what was to come...

It was not long before the robots were taking over - No, you can't drive!
By the summer of 2014, we were working closely with both the management (now in Toronto) and the design and marketing team in L.A.) Things were developing at an alarming rate. At the London Toy Fair 2014 Meccano had the largest presence I have ever seen. Spin Master had proved to us and the toy trade that they meant business.

Development of the brand continued and we were now firmly on-board with what Spin Master were doing. Having bought the company, lock, stock and barrel, they were committed to continue with  the immediate product releases. The first new products would not start to filter through for another year or so, however all the existing licence agreements for models were terminated. This was the end of the Rabbids and Gears of War models, both of which were very second rate compared with the sort of names other manufactures had on board.

It took a while, but today the new Meccano models have moved on. Away from the all metal sets of our childhood to the modern materials of today. This has been a shock to the system and one that has been just one step to far for the few remaining hard-core traditional Meccano enthusiasts. I get that. Most of us have been involved with the Meccano we knew and loved as a child but we could not afford to buy. I know that all I wanted to do was build with what I defined as 'real' Meccano right up until ten years ago. As far as I was concerned, I believed 'real' Meccano production ended when production was moved away from the iconic Liverpool address of Binns Road.

New parts - of days gone by...
For the past ten years, mainly thanks to Sue's less prejudice eye, we have championed the new parts - even the plastic ones. The introduction was always an addition to the range, as far as we were concerned, something to increase our choice, not to replace our beloved metal parts, which is what is happening with strips and now solid plates. Having already 'divorced' traditional Meccano it has been much easier to look at what is in fact a totally new construction system with new eyes. Yes it still has links with the past and of course all parts and fixings are compatible, but the concept is alien if you have grown up with Meccano. Change has always been slow and organic. Never before has there been a such a radical change in such a short time. What has come out the other side is something that merits proper consideration and a respect for the design and thought that has gone into each and every part.

So, it's plastic, it still looks like Meccano!
Forget that the system is more plastic than metal now. It is the material of the age. Just as Frank Hornby used the material of his age - steel. Forget the 'progressive' set. That is not how kids see or use toys these days. When I was a kid, I would refer to my toys by brand and only brand. With the exception of maybe Lego, but even that usually is prefixed, or suffixed with another major brand. Today most kids will refer to toys by subject "I want a Motorbike" for example. They may well go into the big box store and come out with a Meccano Ducati, but I bet most kids will only see it as a motorbike, not as a Meccano set. The next trip to the shop, to buy another motorbike, could easily result in yet another purchase for Lego.

The way kids play with toys has also changed. Kids don't want to create and entertain themselves, they want to consume and be entertained. One mother told me that her "little 'orror" preferred Lego "cus 'e could do it wiv one 'and" When I asked cautiously what he was doing with his other hand, I was relieved to discover he was "Textin' innit".

For us, the latest Meccano releases have opened up a whole new interest in the product. No we are not going to be building lots of models to tote around from one show to the other, neither will we be going back to being a slave to it. What we will be doing is keeping up with new developments. building and trying to understand the new TECH range and seeing if we can build a few different models from the contents of the sets.

You will be able to follow our journey and get all the latest news here on our new blog. Bookmark it and keep coming back as we will be adding to it regularly.

Ralph and Sue, August 2017  
      

4 comments:

  1. Interesting to read about the idea for a run of 10 sets. The vast majority of those who'd consider one would already have at least one. I would have been interested, but how much is, well too much? At a guess, more than £2000 would have made me think, but I would not be surprised if it would have been £3000.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The idea was only viable if they were going to sell thousands of them. I believe they were given the impression that was possible by some of the more, shall we say, optimistic enthusiasts. It did not take them too long to realise the enthusiast market is very small in global terms. As for cost, it was never worked out as the project was dead in the water. As for price, A replica set made in India, with cabinet is over £3000 before shipping I can't imagine a set made by Meccano would be as 'cheap' as that...

    ...3½ - 5K would have been my guess - Maybe five would have been a closer bet for number of sales!

    Ralph.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, there's no doubt that some of the "usuals" would have bemoaned those sort of prices, even though we know that many of those "usuals" have more Meccano than a no.10 anyway, so really, how many of those dozen sales would have taken place? I for one would have purchased one at, say £2000, all things being equal, even £2500, but a at £3000 I start to have second thoughts. Anywho, it's not likely there will ever be a chance now for a new one. In any case, if the same old model designs were to be included, none of them really appeal to me. I find more interesting models in the no.9 set. That's the true no.9 of course. I must say that it would be nice to have a chat with someone from Meccano, say Tara Tucker, but not about Meccano (wink).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Ralph,
    I have read the above article regarding the new meccano format and I could not agree with you more. Thank you for a thought provoking balnced view.
    007

    ReplyDelete