Fecha de publicación: 15/02/2016
THE STATE OF SLOT / PART I

Is the Slot in the ICU, intensive care unit?
STATE OF THE SLOT PART I
20 Slotcar entrepreneurs answer questions from SlotCar Today
Not exactly the question I like to raise, but all the evidence, all references, all comments on Off, everything, absolutely everything points to a critical situation in the slot sector.
Let that personalize a little so it is understood that I speak from the perspective that allows me more than twenty years devoted to slot journalism.
I have seen birth and death, positive and negative bends, illusions and delusions, enrichments (few) and very painful bankruptcies (in a very personal), reinventions and much looking forward so the slot had the prominence it deserved.
Today, after the umpteenth slap of the harsh reality reflected in the Nuremberg Toy Fair for first time jumps the doubt, and inevitably the question: Is the Slot in the ICU?

There's something I have no doubt. The situation needs not a culprit. The Slot Hobby is a victim of the evolution of modern society. For some years now the users pyramid was truncated by the base and we failed to see it, and if we saw it we thought that we could fix it.
There have been efforts, especially by big brands, those who got that his name became a generic name or a synonymous with the Slotcar concept.
But that effort seems to have failed to materialize and the base of the pyramid is still so thin who now feels as the whole market falters.
From SlotCar Today we try since four years ago to give visibility to each and every one of the actors in this sector and I sincerely believe we have provided our bit to the spread of Slotcar. But it is the close contact that we have with manufacturers, distributors and retailers who also gives us an accurate reading of the situation.
We do not want denying our own perception of the situation but we would like be wrong.
For all these reasons we would like to know the opinion of all these actors so readers and fans slot value these statements and make their own idea of what is the real situation in our hobby.

Albert Boet
SlotCar Today Editor



Today February 15th:
Is the Slot in the ICU?

Tomorrow February 16th:
Where is the key to give oxygen to this hobby?
We tend to request gestures of manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Can we ask something to the fans?


List of participants in alphabetical order: J.Alcaraz, J.Aloy, J.Arceo, A.Barrios*, R.Barrios Jr., M.Berjano, C.Boyer, R.Carralero*, A.Chapeau, M.Cellini, P.Cieza, D.Dámaso*, M.Ferrari, S.Fothersgill, A.Jobal, D.Kennedy, P.de Lespinay, M.Miret, J.Molist, G.Montiglio, A.Norman, G.Noviello, D.Ripoll*, D.Vallese*

(Edited on February  16th to include manufacturers who send late their answers. Given the interest in the topic we believe give them adequate voice)





SCT.- Is the Slot in the ICU?

Javier Alcaraz – CEO Black Arrow
My impression is that Slotcar is a market not very different to many others, in which changing times are carrying fans to other sectors and is becoming more difficult to attract new "followers". Globally, the Slotcar market has seen greatly reduced compared to previous years, but is certain that "faithful" fans have remained and even increased in number for some time. For generalist brands are becoming more difficult to stay, that's undeniable, so a good criterion from manufacturers, is becoming heavier in the final results. Hit the mark has become more important and decisive.

Josep Aloy – AloyShop Owner
I cannot deny that the Slot, as a hobby, is in good health now, but I don’t think that is terminally ill. Although it is obvious and palpable that generational change is virtually nonexistent.
In a studio we are doing in our company we see clearly how the young people born in the digital age does not show much interest in Slotcar. So I can see that despite the efforts in promoting workshops and youth championships, the inflow of new fans is not enough to ensure its continuity.
However, I am positive and I think that it remains path for our hobby. If we look globally at Slotcar lovers, we are (myself among them) a generous number. Internet and social networks bring us closer and create community, a community that I think is globally nothing to sneeze, with much strength in common, that it would be important to review and strengthen.

Jorge Arceo – Scalextric / Educa Borras
I could not tell if it's as much as the ICU or not, but the fact is that demand continues to fall year after year and this 2015 has been a significant fall and highest that the previous 3 years: according to NPD data closing 2015, slotcar category has fallen 12%, with the biggest slot drop in 1:32 with a greater than -20% decline. And are not opinions, valuations, guesses or estimations, we are talking about real market data.

Attila Barrios – More Than Slot

As MTS we have not enough experience to affirm or deny categorically that Slot is or not terminal, because first we have a very short history, second we are a small company who were born in crisis so we could only grow, and third we went to a very specific market niche and we have no a global vision.
That said, there are environmental factors that no one escapes, like:

- the competence (measured with respect to the economic capacity and time availability) which has the slot world is fierce compared to previous generation: : Video Games, wide range of other hobbies such as radio controlled, more widespread culture of sport, tourism culture, YouTube, social networks and other internet inventions that make spending hours at a computer.

-Loss of arts and crafts culture (modeling) in favor of digital.

- Small and expensive homes than does not have enough space to assemble permanent tracks or accumulate car exposition showcases.

-Economic crisis in the countries of reference of slotcar hobby.

-the big brands and middle-large have been saying for some time that lower their sales, and these brands are great scavenger of new fans and so who better have the pulse of the situation.

All these factors indicate that it is not unreasonable to think that it has reduced the ratio of population-slot fan.

In summary, we believe the slot car market would be positioning itself, like any other sector to adapt to the new scenario.

Rafael Barrios – CEO FlyslotCars
I would think that we are in a difficult time, perhaps at the bottom of a cycle that passes through the slot world for some years but with the prospect that together we can have it better and with time will recover in part.
I think in the same way that the global economy will not return to a situation such as we live, but I think better than we have. We have and are having a difficult time at all levels, both at home and in the others and that makes that the illusion, the joy, the desire to have your whims are in low hours.
We have not managed to care the base like Albert says? Maybe. And I say this because for many years I've heard already, take care of the base, generate school, create new consumers, loyalty, so told me a American driver, Michael Keyser, sitting one afternoon on the house porch more than 8 years ago. Since then I had it very present.
The perspective I have had over the years is that we have effectively moved from an upward curve in which Slotcar quality rose, and that among all manufacturers climbed a step in the reproduction, functionality and track systems, creating new users, collectors and a passion for slot to an opposite downward curve.
But you have to think that we are still struggling to keep creating part of the Slotcar history, and in a small way of automotive history.
It is true that Nuremberg has left evidence of a dejected picture, but that we're in a hospital bed does not mean that we are not picking up the strength to keep going and I really think we will. A German friend told me that the day that disappears passion for motorsport and Slotcar, is that day the world will be gone.


Mateo Berjano – Evotecshop
As always throughout its history, slotcar is suffering from a very bad iron health. As a result of social changes, tastes have changed and Slotcar hobby is having to compete with other entertainment options which stars the mass media, and that has largely deducted potential fans, but the number of fans continues to be important throughout the world.
Keep in account not only the competition of radio control more accessible and with a much wider choice, video game consoles etc., which is very difficult today to have a available site for the "scalextric" as current floors not have much usable space, and the idea of having to mount and dismount after playing is not liked by many potential base users and are those which, if consolidated, make the layer of habitual users. Scalextric or Slot, continues to enjoy the favor of the people, but have to share space with other alternatives and perhaps the large existing supply cannot be fully absorbed by the number of users.

Chris Boyer – Proto Slot Kit

I think there are too many manufacturers and not enough consumers (and unfortunately, every year we lose fans)
Every collector has a limit of forbearance. When there are hundreds (or thousands) models in his slot car collection, why buy one more?
Almost all the interesting cars were reproduced one or more times by different manufacturers. In my opinion, the path chosen by some manufacturers: Vintage Formula 1, is a dead end, because there are not enough fans.

R.Carralero - Hornby Spain / Superslot
Right now I'm probably one of the most optimistic person in our hobby, although I can understand that many of the brands that compete in this sector in Spain, do not look like me. Mainly because its main market is Spain and although they support in the international market, are not fulfilling their expectations. We are also having the worst economic crisis in history, affecting our greatest number of fans with an age range of 20-40 years.
Despite this, I think it may be one of the best years for the Superslot brand in Spain, mainly motivated because Hornby in the English market continues to be very strong and allows that, as every year, we continue bringing to market between 10 and 12 new features. Developments that cover main racing categories, classic and modern, being highly valued by collectors.
Also in 2016, with the support of Slot.it brand developing new models, and production of PCR chassis or new SlotingPlus 3D chassis developments, Superslot will be represented in the majority of Slot Car clubs in Spain.
Last but not least, the introduction into the Spanish market of the racing management system ARC, being one of the sector revulsive and from which we will provide soon more information.

Angèlè Chapeau – Le Mans Miniatures
For those who consider the slot hobby market like the mobile phone market, yes they can consider the market is in the ICU. For LMM, we never consider the slot market like a mass market but like a small market with niche markets like most of all markets now. And to be honest it is not so bad. The current situation is more due to cyclical reasons than structural; the economic crisis is here and especially for hobbies that come last in the budget of families. We can observe still some movements between manufacturers, distributors and retailers, the market is still alive…

Massimo Cellini – TuttoSlot Owner
The ups and downs follow each other in time. The slot is in the ICU for a long time, but not in all countries. In Italy, for example, the crisis began much earlier than in Spain and other countries.
Slotcar culture. In Italy this is lacking. Until there is a culture of the slot, the market will go up and down depending on the moods of those who run the club that frequents and what the producers realize.
From the forum administrator, TuttoSlot, I see a lot of different and opposing situations.
I see clubs in full health, with new subscribers every month, which grow and acquire tracks. I see others who drag themselves and are struggling to make races with more than 10/12 people.
There are also "smart" clubs. Attract new people, make him spend much money to buy machines and buttons, hold too high club dues and these "chickens" sooner or later disappear from around frightened by the costs.
They do the same with the manufacturers: they promise so many inscriptions and promotion, and then struggle to fill the lanes of the track and invent "ghost" teams in the rankings to increase the number of participants to promote themselves on the forums.
As long as there will be "sharks" that will only make money at all costs on drivers, there can be no culture of the slot.
Among the sharks also insert some manufacturers, who in order to buy cars to collectors, they churn out all the time, but just changing liveries. The cars are always the usual models.

Pedro Cieza – CEO Slot Racing Company
Of course the health of the sector does not go through its best, probably lies in the middle clinical diagnosis and in search of adequate treatment, but fortunately still necessary to have recourse to palliative medicine.
In the last decade, the life of many projects is over, the other is being regenerated and some, although seems a madness, engendering.
Given this, we cannot say another thing that yes, the Slot sector has suffered in recent years a global loss of interest, and many factors shape the equation to arrive at this statement: change in tastes of the younger generation (key); manufacturers ambition (increased margins, reducing costs by sacrificing much quality); economic and social crisis; etc.; in short, a long list of unknowns that could go revealing without reaching port.
On the other hand, we cannot fail to mention, from the perspective of the manufacturer, that the production of a slot car is becoming more and more complex; for example, from an economic point of view, among other things, quality Mold are very expensive and therefore difficult to amortize, or from a commercial point of view, sales are dwindling because of the sum of the various factors in the equation is that the end user is composed of a group of people every day smaller which in turn they have an unfortunately limited purchasing power, essentially as a result of prolonged and deep global economic crises we have suffered and still suffer.

Diego Dámaso – DiegoColecciolandia
These are schematically the problems of our sector.

Manufacturers:
- In general lines, bad planning and choice of models to be manufactured.
- In many cases there is overproduction. This makes that after a few months being marketed a model or version we can see it on offer. Bad policy that makes fans waits for the arrival of the offer.
- Direct selling on its website of some of them. They kill the traditional point of sales.

Customers
- Disappearance of the well-known collectors
- It has lowered the level in every way. Prevail only those who buy offers or second hand.

Professional intrusion
- They have appeared, such as mushrooms, so called Virtual Professionals. At the moment, any amateur can create a website, register a domain and get down selling online. Too much offer for a bad moment in our industry. Many manufacturers are to blame for trying equally true professionals and these "new professionals".

Maurizio Ferrari – Slot.it CEO
Or, to quote Eeyore, Winnie Pooh's donkey friend "If it is a good day - which I doubt".
Not for slot cars, anyway. Yes, it is in ICU, the problem is - what prognosis?
How did we get in ICU, and what can be done about it - if anything can be done?

There are a few factors that have conjured against the hobby in the last couple of years.
1 - It goes without saying that no business can survive without being financially viable and profitable. Most companies use China based suppliers, so a 20% Euro vs. Dollar drop is a net loss of profitability. True, several companies are moving back to Spain, but is this due to better prices and better quality, or just because the numbers are not big enough to justify staying in China?

2 - The most damaging single factor is the disappearance of the hobby shop. Internet is a double edge sword, and distributors, in many cases, have sold with both eyes closed to anyone who was placing orders. This lead to the destruction of the margin for the owners of real shops, forcing them, in several cases, to close shop or change products. Slot cars are not like appliances or mobile phones. To buy a slot car, you must see it in shops! Nobody goes buying on Internet for something that they don't know it exists...

3 -Track manufacturers should consider one thing: when I was a child, in 1968, I could open a Policar box, assemble the track, and drive the car around with my dad with no magnet at all: the track had a very good surface texture, the power supply was adjustable in 5 positions, the track was very hard solid plastic, there was no magnet at all, it had very simple but working guard rails and lap counter, and a small child could play and race against friends. "I don't think that the current offering of boxed sets with 14.8 V power supplies and cars equipped with very powerful magnets suits small children, or beginners, well. A base set should also include simple guard rails and a basic lap counter".

So, if you ask me...
Yes slot car racing is in intensive care unit. It got in this situation due to the disappearance of shops, and in my opinion by not improving constantly the quality of the base product - a simple working base set with the same operating principles of 50 years ago.

Sean Fothersgill – Pendleslot Racing Owner
Is Slot in Intensive Care - Great question and something that needs careful consideration. The slot business is quite diverse with manufacturers ranging from one man producing single items in his garage to large PLCs with hundreds/thousands of employees. In my opinion the smaller companies are in good health, operating with lower overheads and the ability to move quickly to respond to market demands. They are often producing products for a niche market driven by a thorough knowledge of the subject matter.
The sector which is in trouble is with the big box manufacturers (Scalextric, SCX, Ninco, Carrera), as a retailer we rely on these to push the boundaries of the hobby in new directions. The last positive move was with the introduction of digital systems. At that time there was a positive feeling and new customers were attracted to the hobby. Unfortunately that initial positiveness has all but evaporated. As a UK retailer we need Scalextric (Hornby) to be strong in the market. As a retailer I have always believed that to be successful in the slot car market you need to satisfy the demand of 3 sectors - home racers, club racers & collectors. Scalextric have only ever satisfied 2 sectors. The club racer has been neglected for far too long. However, the biggest issue with Scalextric is that for the past 2 years they have alienated a large number of retailers to such an extent that many shops no longer stock Scalextric. Instead sales are directed through their own website or via large supermarkets at discounted prices. The problem with this is that there is no personal contact between retailer & customer. Scalextric may hit their target of selling 'x' amount of sets but there is absolutely no after sales service or opportunity to purchase additional items. If a problem arises the set is returned for a refund usually for the sake of a missing braid or a broken motor wire. A model shop owner would be able to effect a repair or talk the customer through the process of operating the system correctly. Unfortunately model shops have largely disappeared from the UK high street, those that still exist have replaced Scalextric with faster moving product offering higher margins.

Albert Jobal – Slot Adictos Adm.
We come from prolific years where every day there were new manufacturers with spectacular projects and lots of illusion, where everyone bought everything, all we collected everything we could, all of us were tuning the cars with the latest and most sophisticated spare parts made of exotic materials, and where all were capable to solve any questions and to impress anyone who did not know the hobby with technical explanations because we spent plenty of hours in the club or glued to a computer memorizing catalogs and participating in all forums we found.
We are all familiar, and certainly victims more or less, of the financial scourge that has shaken the world market the last decade. This led to the immediate preventive killing of hobbies and more superficial necessities affecting inevitably our hobby.
Slot Adictos Forum was founded in 1997 and has witnessed the decline of our fans, an exodus of people who was leaving aside the hobby, and little by little to take part in the forum. We have seen the sale of incredible collections and world champions disappear without trace, passing from having a million and a half visitors per month, just over four thousand at the worst moment.
Large manufacturers, following complex marketing strategy, announced more restrained brochures, and survivor’s modest brands are forced to offer repainted older models or, hopefully, a new model by year. It is what can give the impression that it is now when we cross the worst hobby time. But the truth is that the crisis has bottomed some time ago, there are more jobs, banks re-open their doors, and people gradually resumed his hobbies and buy back. By tracking the activity reflected in SlotAdictos over the past year and a half, we can see a curve that slowly becomes ascendant, some hobbyists return, but many others, and this is great news, are new blood.
Following hospital terminology, the slot is out of the ICU, and is going to rehab. We will not be discharged from hospital or one or two, or five years, it will be a slow rehabilitation, but firm. We have now doubled the share relative to the lowest peak two years ago.

Dave Kennedy – Carrera N.America Marketing Manager
So no I don’t think that slots are on life support. Why? Because mostly mismanagement has led to the decline of certain companies. We are seeing growth here in North America because we’re increasing 1/43 sales, reaching out to folks outside the hobby by getting in front of them at shows around the US (trade shows, consumer shows) we sponsor part of a US car show (GearZ with Stacey David), we are active on social media (Facebook, message boards, etc) we are reaching out to clubs here in North America to engage with them about supporting them racing Carrera. So when you say the industry is in decline I don’t agree. I would say it’s a natural rebalancing of the companies that have had made a number of poor choices and put themselves in this position. It’s just now that some of those choices are becoming evident to people who follow the hobby as having had negative effects on the business that those companies have done.

Philippe de Lespinay – Los Angeles Slot Car Museum & (TSRF)
As far as the health of the slot car business, it has been up and down and up and down since 1957, when V.I.P. was first to introduce a complete racing set, a few weeks before Scalextric did the same.
The hobby industry today is in great distress for the same reasons it has previously been many times: a world economy downturn. But this time, the downturn is very serious and might be a true killer of many hobby segments due to so many factors, the main one being technologically advanced countries national debt, which appears to be for many, an insurmountable obstacle and the road to financial ruin.
I will not debate the benefits or pitfalls of the political results of social engineering of the economy forced upon businesses and individuals through income redistribution, because people have debated this for over 5000 years without any positive benefits at the end of each crisis, but suffice to say that spending into debt causes inflation, which in turn causes poverty, which in turn causes lack of disposable income to buy... slot cars.
Another factor is an overabundance of available product, to a point when hobbyists have simply too many cars and need no more of them. After all, most have a 2-lane, maybe a 4-lane track system, and one can only have so many cars running on these tracks. It comes to a point when too many are simply just that, too many.

Miquel Miret – CEO SlotingPlus
The reflection in general is good, but I think the question is another: It was normal what was happening 4 - 8 years ago?
I think right now the major brands (Scalextric, SCX, Carrera, Fly Slot.it and Scaleauto) are making a lot of new product and that they are not doing too bad.
Another thing is when the market be fed up with all these products and do not want to take on more. For years we say the same thing and the market continues to absorb almost everything that is offered.
The pyramid concept is fine, but the pyramid now has to start 20 years later. Children no longer ask for a “Scalextric” for Christmas. This is over. Today it would only be a good idea to promote the slot globally, than in the Christmas Parks that are organized institutionally there was a Slotcar layout.

Jordi Molist – Hobby Project
The ICU is a place where one has the hope of getting healed and subsequently recover their health status. In my view it is not the case in which we live.
The slot rather than an ICU patient is older, has little power and has an indefinite life expectancy. Will not have the force of the past and even less of the previous decade when he lived at full speed, driven by a bonanza also linked to an exponential increase in product quality and the return of thousands of fans who retook his old toy, now as a hobby. The perfect storm to create a "Sloting Boom" hard to swallow and impossible to maintain over the time. Dozens of new brands, amazing new brochures, private collections with thousand of cars, etc.

I think that taking the train hobby as an example we can have an idea of the times to come. The train sector (rather more global than slot) has an average age user of at least 20 years older, if we look at, shops, fairs, swapmeets, we see that there is no next generation of customers, (do not look for ... will not find it).
Some of the shops have more second-hand material than new to offer and the explanation is logical, less new and less affordable offer joined to many users that have left "necessarily" the hobby by age or economy.
Does the train hobby will die? No, certainly not, but it is bound to be an expensive and residual hobby. And Within 15 or 20 years this reasoning is exactly the same for the slot. The generation of users who have maintained this hobby afloat the past 2 decades, and now is around 40/55 years, is probably the last to keep it with a certain life.
Then perhaps there will be a few global brands that have the slot as another product in the catalog and a handful of specialists to cover the more specific "needs".
And this already seems a really optimistic vision....

Giovanni Montiglio – CEO ThunderSlot
No ,it's not. Over 50 years (actually are 52) of Slot Racing I've been through Up and Downs but we are still here enjoying it.
The critical situation it’s true in a way but I believe much as to do with economic crisis as well as some management which has not been sensitive to what the market was asking for.
Like you I speak from a personal experienced point of view so I'm not so sure to be perfectly impartial but as I said I still have some faith.
Only who thought to have revolutionary winning ideas got disappointed, it is a difficult world the slot world, sometime it is enough a little difference to have a winning creation or vice versa.
For sure Nuremberg Toy Fair it's not the way it used to be until three/four years ago. I remember having this conversation several times with my friend Salvatore over it was worth keep coming to a very expensive Toy Fair in the hope to make new customers....on the other hand not showing up could be misunderstood as sign of weakness. It’s difficult to take the right decision.
Unfortunately (from my age point of view) nowadays there are so many "distraction" for the youths that slot cars can hardly match. Beside youngsters are used to get whatever they want with no effort and this general behavior goes against the capability to have a side by side challenge as it happens on any slot track of the world.
In other worlds young people is not ready anymore to accept the defeat by a human competitor; one thing is loose against a computer in a war game, something other is losing due a bad driving or car's settings.
I know this thought leaves no hopes for the future but i count always on the up and downs. I believe we are almost at the bottom, so, soon we'll start arising again.
It is a not a so positive moment but it will pass away. I and my friend Armando wouldn't start all over again if we wouldn't believe in the future. Is the slot in the IC? No, not really.

Adrian Norman – SlotCar Consultant
I feel that the current enthusiasts will not be affected immediately as there are many slot car manufacturers who will be able to survive for a while longer, perhaps another ten years or more. However, the general toy market may not be so lucky. The major slot manufacturers who supply the slot car race sets with track seem to be having a bad time. It is they who introduce new enthusiasts to the community.
I can only speak for the UK, but Carrera and SCX are seldom seen in the UK. Worst still, Scalextric (Hornby) is not a household name in the UK anymore. Names such as PlayStation and Xbox are the well-known names if one wants to play a racing game.
Traditionally, games and hobbies seldom last more than three generations so, the big manufacturers are going to have to increase their marketing spend to compete with video racing games, etc. and intelligently target new customers. There is plenty of innovation and good quality product in the industry, this area is in good health but marketing and advertising is not.

Gerardina Noviello – CEO NSR
I believe that a decline in the slot in the last two years there has been a general level. The cause may perhaps be attributed to the economic crisis which has spared no country. My brand, NSR, is very strong and resists both to the crisis, that the tragic death of my husband, Salvatore Noviello, known throughout the world for being the creator of the NSR brand and our Italian company which produces slot cars and it exports all over the world.

Diego Ripoll – Cartrix / Mitoos CEO
Yes, no doubt the industry is going through a particular crisis within the general crisis that has affected (and still affects) to most of the economic sectors of our country.
But that this is a temporary stay in the ICU and not a death foretold is what worries. Probably it depends on the point of view of each actor in this Hobby.
If we have to pronounce truthfully, personally I think this is temporary, and our hobby will live after passing through the ICU.
Perhaps there will be touched with sequelae (many of the brands that still survive ... it may shortly cease doing so)
And sure the slot will not return to the glorious past ... but will survive.

Davide Vallese - BRM Modelcars

Intensive care????? Maybe ... maybe not ... maybe we will enter it soon ... maybe we can ride out this time.
The basic problem in my opinion is that it is completely lacking the generational change ... the average age of slottisti has become too high and there are no new people who undertake this hobby ... the youth of today are attracted by other things and they do not even have the opportunity to approach this hobby.
Another problem that at first seems to have helped this world but instead it is slowly deteriorating it is internet ... hundreds of stores have closed or are closing ... the margins of online sales are too low, retailers cannot survive with these earnings.
Certainly the economic crisis has greatly affected in this slot world downturn... the costs for companies rise, car prices rise and people no longer have the money to spend on this type of hobby.



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