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Airfix model aeroplanes


James Barnett
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Hi there! This is my first blog on here. In the last five years I have rekindled this childhood hobby only to find much disappointment with some of the older kits. In particular, Airfix. I see that they have recently taken much off the market, including some of their newer 24th scale models (eg, Wildcat, Mosquito, Typhoon). Can someone tell me why? Is it because they are going to be re tooled (which would be great)?

 

James

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One major difference between earlier days and now is that kits are no longer kept in the catalogue year upon year but are rotated in and out.  This avoids tying up large sums of money on stock sitting gathering dust on expensive storage.  These kits will appear again (I presume you mean Hellcat) but there's no great likelihood of retooling these recent additions to their range.

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The OOP Airfix kits are still available on the second hand market and Hobby Craft still have the 24th scale Hellcat on sale as I saw one in my local outlet today but I suspect Airfix have a policy of withdrawing kits after their initial release to then build up demand for when they then re-issue, which makes commercial sense even if it is a wee bit frustrating.

 

Kind Regards

Colin.

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1 minute ago, contrite said:

Airfix have a policy of withdrawing kits after their initial release to then build up demand for when they then re-issue, which makes commercial sense even if it is a wee bit frustrating.

They don't withdraw them, they calculate how many they are likely to sell, and make up that amount. One it's gone, it's gone. 

 

Bear in mind it's not just the kit,  but also the printing of decals, box and instructions.  

 

There are points in dealing with printed good where economies of scale start,  but don't massively diminish.

Many years ago dealing with a printer the cost of getting 500 items printed compared to 1000 was not a great deal, about 10 more, but the unit costs didn't drop much over a 1000 pieces,   so it made sense to get 1000 printed.

 

And there is also as @Graham Boak the cost of storage.   Better to a a run of 5000, and have surplus demand, than to do 6000, sell 5,300 and then have to store or sell off cheaply 700 kits.   

 

IIRC in 2017 Airfix has a big Black Friday sale, for just this reason,  I think  they moved location. 

 

Airfix also did at points offload kits in bulk, The Works had various items at approx 50% retail  at points.  This also greatly annoyed parts if the trade which still had stock, and likely paid more wholesale than The Works was knocking kits out for.

 

This seems to have stopped,  partly as the demand for indoor hobbies  exploded during the initial Covid lockdown,  which greatly upped demand, and Airfix are much more careful regarding production runs, and as a result,  certain kits just don't end up cheap.   

 

Airfix now also aim for more direct sales,  which makes them more money per kit.

 

And they also use the their Mystery Boxes as a way of shifting off slow moving stock. 

 

As for the OP @James Barnett,  the trick is patience,    unless you like having a huge stash of unbuilt kits, or even if you do, work out what you want, what you are prepared to pay and keep hunting.

 

The big items you mention, Mosquito, Hellcat, Typhoon,  are all what get called 'stash queens'   they get bought and then get stored,  and finally the realisation sets in that they are not going to be built for whatever reason, too big to display, too much work, people leaving hobby,  common ones are having children or getting too old,   and then they get sold on. 

At the risk of sounding gloomy,  predictions of the general economy for the near future are not that positive,  so these stash queens end may well end  up selling for a lot less than they have been.

 

This is speaking as a someone who went from collecting one thing (records/CDS) to it seems kits and sundries,  I had far too many projects and plans,  and up till Covid  found there were many bargains to be had.   

I sold 90 kits on ebay last year, and that didn't seem to make much of a  dent in 'the stash' ....    Though I have got distracted and in some cases end up doing 'kit research' 

Ironically the ones I have built and completed have been some 72nd planes and 76th  armour, that I wasn't that 'invested' in,  so concentrated on a simple clean build and accurate paint jobs...    Though bearing in mind my 'stash queens' comment,  one was kit I'd had for 44 years..... 

 

In the case of the big items you asked about specifically,  unless you are basically building models as 'job'  then one of those is going to be weeks, if not months work, so do one of those and keep looking out for future projects, as they will turn up,   for all the reasons I have stated above..

 

And welcome to the site,  if you do get one of these kits, it's well worth doing a work in progress build if you can be bothered,  and well worth having a search around to see how others got one with them.

 

HTH

 

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41 minutes ago, contrite said:

The OOP Airfix kits are still available on the second hand market and Hobby Craft still have the 24th scale Hellcat on sale as I saw one in my local outlet today but I suspect Airfix have a policy of withdrawing kits after their initial release to then build up demand for when they then re-issue, which makes commercial sense even if it is a wee bit frustrating.

 

Kind Regards

Colin.

 

I'd be surprised if that was the case.  I suspect it has more to do with batch production and scheduling of moulding machine time.  Obviously if there is demand for a kit, then it makes sense to meet that demand by continuing to sell it, rather than withdrawing it and risking the buying public looking elsewhere in the meantime.

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6 minutes ago, Werdna said:

 

  Obviously if there is demand for a kit, then it makes sense to meet that demand by continuing to sell it, rather than withdrawing it and risking the buying public looking elsewhere in the meantime.

But how is this demand judged?  Obviously there must be some feedback from the trade, but as we've seen time and again, subjects claimed to be in great demand, heading wish lists year after year, then don't sell once they are produced.  As pointed out, Airfix judge their runs by how many they can sell, most of which are already ordered in advance by the trade.  To build up a stock on the off chance costs money, which Hornby doesn't have..  

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If you are looking at kits in 24th scale there will be a limited demand as this is not the most popular of scales plus they tend to be rather expensive so having created initial demand by releasing information to the modelling world prior to release the kit will then probably sell in line with the initial demand created.

 

Once this initial 'early adopter' market segment has been met it makes sense to then 'suspend' production until the next market segment can be grown to its full potential and demand from the wider target market begins to build. This is basically in line with fundamental marketing principles and it is unlikely that those in the market for a 24th scale Hellcat, Mosquito etc. will have anywhere else to go in the meantime so competition is not a factor.

 

Just my thoughts as an x-marketing manager.

 

Regards

Colin.

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The 1/24 stuff will never sell in big numbers, as even those who like big models will rarely build more than one whereas people building 1/72 for example will often build many of the same subject in a variety of markings.

 

The market is generally more aware nowadays too, and Airfix have kinda had to withdraw a lot of the especially naff back catalogue, although they're still churning some out as "nostalgia boxings" but to be honest that's not a sustainable source of revenue long term. Compared objectively to their competitors Airfix nowadays generally gets shape and major dimensions correct but engineering is hit of miss with some decent fit but also some really crap stuff (new tool Vulcan air intakes would be below average in the 1990s), whilst detail and surface quality of plastic out of their toolings is also rather poor. Their subject choices appeal well in the UK in particular but this probably limits them overseas where imported pricing puts them head to head with better products.

 

The new Buccaneer for instance seems reasonable so far, but the price is pretty much what a Tamiya F-14 or F-4 costs. It's easily the best Buccaneer on the market, but it's unquestionably a poorer quality product than the Tamiya jets for pretty much the same money.

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Also bear in mind how the market has changed in 50 years. When I was nowt but a nipper… enough of the nostalgia!  In the mid to late 1960’s when I was moving from primary to secondary education nearly every boy bought “Airfix” kits (That is Airfix, Frog and Revell) from hobby shops, toy shops, Woolworths, newsagents, hardware stores, one art shop I can think of and I suspect other types of outlets. The turn over in kit numbers must have been huge and ranges were always available- at least I think so but I was not paying too much attention to that side of the hobby. 
 

I can’t see that same retail scenario existing today and competing with electronic games etc. I imagine that makes manufacturers leery of keeping big ranges and large stocks that might not sell that quickly hence what we see today

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As Jamie correctly points out how often would anyone want or need to buy another 24th scale kit at £100+?

 

The initial 'early adopter' market segment inhabited by serious modellers with deep pockets, as in members of this forum and similar, will be their key and most likely biggest market and thereafter sales will be much slower and spread over a much longer time period. Hence the reason why they are withdrawn and only re-released when demand has grown sufficiently to justify a re-run to make sure they will sell and avoid building up expensive stocks. This is just basic business sense as Airfix's usp is not to please all of the people all of the time but to make a profit (hopefully).

 

I can't imagine a parent deciding to buy their son or daughter such an expensive kit as an impulse purchase of surprise Xmas gift so it will be interesting to see how long the HK and Wingnuts 32nd scale Lancasters are available for as these will also have the same limited appeal. My advice would be to get one now whilst they are still current as it will be far cheaper than getting one second hand when they inevitably become OOP. Or perhaps buy one or two as an investment to sell on for a tidy profit in the future!

 

Regards

Colin.

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57 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

But how is this demand judged?  Obviously there must be some feedback from the trade, but as we've seen time and again, subjects claimed to be in great demand, heading wish lists year after year, then don't sell once they are produced.  As pointed out, Airfix judge their runs by how many they can sell, most of which are already ordered in advance by the trade.  To build up a stock on the off chance costs money, which Hornby doesn't have..  

 

Agreed - point accepted.  I was just challenging the notion that a company would deliberately withhold a product from the market, when demand was still in evidence.  As ever, batch production (assuming that's what Airfix does) is always going to be a bit hit 'n miss...

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52 minutes ago, Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies said:

It's easily the best Buccaneer on the market, but it's unquestionably a poorer quality product than the Tamiya jets for pretty much the same money.

I see this argument a lot and I still don’t understand why people make it. Most people want to make a model of a particular subject so the fact that Tamiya makes perhaps the best jet aircraft model ever with their 1/48 F-4B Phantom is quite irrelevant if the subject you want to build is a 1/48 Buccaneer or indeed any of the innumerable subjects not covered by the Tamiya range.

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21 minutes ago, contrite said:

I can't imagine a parent deciding to buy their son or daughter such an expensive kit as an impulse purchase of surprise Xmas gift so it will be interesting to see how long the HK and Wingnuts 32nd scale Lancasters are available for as these will also have the same limited appeal.

The HK 1/32 kits and the Border Lancaster are known to have been produced in limited batches. Some of the early B-17 releases from HK are now only available on secondary markets like eBay. 

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I think the point about 'perceived demand' is a good one as the market will ultimately dictate what any manufacturer will produce as they need to turn a profit, otherwise why are us 'experts' still waiting for a Spitfire XII in 72nd scale - its because there aren't enough of us to justify the expense.

 

Sad, and personally frustrating, but true.

 

Regards

Colin.

 

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8 hours ago, VMA131Marine said:

I see this argument a lot and I still don’t understand why people make it. Most people want to make a model of a particular subject so the fact that Tamiya makes perhaps the best jet aircraft model ever with their 1/48 F-4B Phantom is quite irrelevant if the subject you want to build is a 1/48 Buccaneer or indeed any of the innumerable subjects not covered by the Tamiya range.

 

It's merely an observation on quality of product versus the price point. I suspect Airfix could do better if Hornby allowed them to, between QC improvements, plastic choice and finishing of the tools.

 

There's a difference between "best kit of that subject in that scale" and "actually really good".

 

A lot of their competition nowadays will include canopy masks and PE seatbelts for example.

 

Tamiya (for example) tends to keep good selling kits available for a long time, because they will always sell. Airfix like many now sells in batches. With the shift from high street shop to online sales batch production becomes more apparent as all the outlets list the kit and after a couple of months all the outlets still list it but as sold-out.

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2 hours ago, Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies said:

With the shift from high street shop to online sales batch production becomes more apparent as all the outlets list the kit and after a couple of months all the outlets still list it but as sold-out.

I do sometimes wonder if this will be the end of modelling eventually, with local model shops closing and kids generally not seeing the boxes on the shelves in toy shops/newsagents/High SStreet Retailers/Bicycle shops etc, I am not sure the market will continue to be there in decades to come.

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So enjoy it while you can.  However modelling has been in existence since at least the ancient Egyptians, so I doubt very much that it will disappear altogether.  We are already seeing the effect of the changes in retail selling  in the problems experienced by the major producers and the increasing prevalance of smaller companies.  This is in many ways beneficial but smaller companies end to have a rather higher rate of disappearance.

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On 8/20/2022 at 10:49 PM, VMA131Marine said:

I see this argument a lot and I still don’t understand why people make it. Most people want to make a model of a particular subject so the fact that Tamiya makes perhaps the best jet aircraft model ever with their 1/48 F-4B Phantom is quite irrelevant if the subject you want to build is a 1/48 Buccaneer or indeed any of the innumerable subjects not covered by the Tamiya range.

 

I am sympathetic to your point and that is the way I approach modelling: for me, it's subject driven.

 

However, it's pretty clear from the online communities I participate in that a lot of people are not like me (maybe a significant minority) and choose kits on the basis of quality first and subject second. I see lots of Tamiya F-4Bs being made on YouTube, FB, etc., by people who would never have done so were it made by Airfix rather than Tamiya, The same for the P-38. There were acceptable kits of these subjects before, but the number being made has exploded now there's an exceptional kit available. If Tamiya did the impossible, and made a 1/48 Buccaneer, my bet would be a significant number of people who never had any intention of getting one would suddenly be rather interested...

 

Jon

 

 

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On 20/08/2022 at 22:49, VMA131Marine said:

I see this argument a lot and I still don’t understand why people make it. Most people want to make a model of a particular subject so the fact that Tamiya makes perhaps the best jet aircraft model ever with their 1/48 F-4B Phantom is quite irrelevant if the subject you want to build is a 1/48 Buccaneer or indeed any of the innumerable subjects not covered by the Tamiya range.

On 21/08/2022 at 07:25, Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies said:

 

It's merely an observation on quality of product versus the price point. I suspect Airfix could do better if Hornby allowed them to, between QC improvements, plastic choice and finishing of the tools.

 

There's a difference between "best kit of that subject in that scale" and "actually really good".

 

A lot of their competition nowadays will include canopy masks and PE seatbelts for example.

 

Tamiya (for example) tends to keep good selling kits available for a long time, because they will always sell. Airfix like many now sells in batches. With the shift from high street shop to online sales batch production becomes more apparent as all the outlets list the kit and after a couple of months all the outlets still list it but as sold-out.

 

4 hours ago, Jon Bryon said:

 

I am sympathetic to your point and that is the way I approach modelling: for me, it's subject driven.

 

However, it's pretty clear from the online communities I participate in that a lot of people are not like me (maybe a significant minority) and choose kits on the basis of quality first and subject second. I see lots of Tamiya F-4Bs being made on YouTube, FB, etc., by people who would never have done so were it made by Airfix rather than Tamiya, The same for the P-38. There were acceptable kits of these subjects before, but the number being made has exploded now there's an exceptional kit available. If Tamiya did the impossible, and made a 1/48 Buccaneer, my bet would be a significant number of people who never had any intention of getting one would suddenly be rather interested...

 

Jon

 

 

Yeah I'm with Jamie on this one; the fact that Airfix are making subjects that others aren't isn't a reason not to improve. I'm the same, I'm more likely to build a subject and find the best kit available. The fact that it might come from a Tamiya or an ancient vacforum or even scratchbuild is beside the point, really; it's got no relevance to whether or not Airfix are putting out the best product they can. 

 

It's something I've thought a lot about since returning to he hobby and seeing for myself the difference in design, materials, quality control and mould sharpness. With the engineering and quality of the likes of Tamiya or Eduard or Bandai, clear examples of in many ways 'better' products exist for everyone see. My first reaction, on having made a Tamiya kit was 'well if this is possible, why are Airfix not doing it?'

 

Now in defence of Airfix and having thought about it a bit longer, they have their niche; somewhat more esoteric, predominantly British or Commonwealth subjects (which limits the profitability of the kit of course); necessarily rotated on a much shorter lifespan than, say, a Tamiya tool that will churn out thousands of copies of very popular subjects for decades. They also have a niche in style I think, which is to say a nice (in my view) middle ground between affordability, medium detail, ease of construction and shape accuracy; almost in that gap between limited run and mass produced mainstream subjects. With this in mind, I would suppose it's a too much to expect the quality of a Tamiya tooling just due to the economies of the kit demand. There might not be the expertise in design and manufacture of some of the other companies either. 

 

So not quite a Tamiya kit then, but I think that there are nonetheless areas that Airfix can reasonably be expected to be trying to improve upon.

 

On a personal level, I like Airfix kits a lot, but a lot of that will be down to being from the UK: the subject matter is more likely to appeal, and not insignificantly, there's a deep ingrained nostalgia that I suspect is hard to separate from my opinion. Given the nature of these forums, there's likely to be a similar overall bias towards them. I get the impression from reading around, listening to podcasts etc, that the view of Airfix from overseas is generally much less positive and for good objective reasons, I think (I like this quote, "Airfix Kits: This is a tough one and even I get it wrong most of the time. My advice? Treat it like a negotiation. Read your audience and let them say the first thing about Airfix. Then just agree with it. Trust me; don’t die on this hill."). QC seems to be a big weak point at the moment in particular. I think this Paul Budzik video and follow up is a fair comparison (he seems to have got 4 copies of the same kit from 2 retailers and ended up with 4 stinkers for example); the quality of the parts he shows looks worse than I generally have seen from Airfix, but I think most of the points are fair. The fact that with some 'real modelling', one can achieve an excellent finish is again, not a reason to excuse bad design or poor QC. 

 

It probably sounds harsh and entitled, but it comes from a place of liking Airfix and wanting to see them do well. I like and continue to buy their products (usually for the very reason @VMA131Marinedoes), but don't feel they're up to the standard of competitors in many ways; and continuing to produce products that are in some ways inferior, when the industry is improving around you doesn't seem like a way to survive in the long run. 

 

There seem indications to me that Airfix is improving; shots of the new Bucc and Meteor tools seem to show good part design, better gate and sprue shaping, and with the Bucc, good noises being made by modellers about fit, material and print sharpness.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Ngantek said:

My first reaction, on having made a Tamiya kit was 'well if this is possible, why are Airfix not doing it?'

And now you know why Tamiya keeps those kits in the catalogue for a looooooooooooooong time. 

Because it takes them longer to get the ROI.

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Airfix stopped producing their entire catalogue each and every year a very long time ago - at least since the late 1970s, early 1980s,  which was when plastic kit building as a mass market kids' hobby began to fade. 

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4 hours ago, alt-92 said:

Because it takes them longer to get the ROI.

 

Does it?  Or do they get their ROI just as quick, or even quicker, and just keep making more  and more profit?

 

 

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It's a numbers game, I'd guess - developing their molds will be more expensive (time & research & QA) but that justifies a higher price point. 
Tamiya does carry their kits for far longer as well. 

You can still get their 1/32 Phantoms even though the last boxing was launched in 2004, the 1/48 and 1/72 Mossies are everywhere, as are Zeros, P-51s and F-16s.

Even their armour kits just last and last and last... 

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