Model sales rise as people search for antidotes to pandemic


PARIS – He leans over the dining room table, putting the finishing touches on his WWII miniature tank. Deeply focused, he keeps his hand steady as he strives to make the scaled-down plastic model as realistic as possible.

And in doing so, Maxime Fannoy – husband and father locked in on the coronavirus with his family in Belgium – feels the incessant pandemic nightmare of the outside world happily slipping out of place.

“It’s an escape. When you build a kit or a stage, you really dive into it, ”says Fannoy. “Everything else is losing its importance, and in the current context, it is a real help.

Rejuvenated by quarantines and lockdowns, the old-fashioned hobby of creating miniature worlds by assembling and decorating scale models or running mini-trains on mini-tracks is experiencing a revival – plastic therapy against the pandemic blues.

Sales are booming as families stripped of their social life occupy idle hands and minds making models and dusting oars. British brand Airfix saw a run on plastic kits for Spitfires, the iconic WWII fighter plane. Hornby, which owns Airfix and also manufactures a range of model trains and cars under other brands, has returned to profitability with booming sales.

The analog pleasures of gluing and painting, repairing and playing the violin also keep some of the digital generation away from their screens. Teens catch the modeling bug from parents and grandparents who suddenly find themselves with time to indulge in hobbies many had been too busy to pursue since childhood.

In France, Guy Warein, a 70-year-old retiree, said his renovations during the containment of a model train that had gathered dust in his attic helped him connect with his video game grandchildren, pulling them “from the virtual world to reality.”

On a visit out of school, the eldest, 16, said: “Come on grandpa, let’s go see the trains and get them running. “So we put them together and did things together,” Warein says. “It’s a coming together of generations, and that can only be beneficial.

He has therefore repaired the locomotives and HO scale rolling stock inherited from his father-in-law and fitted out the room where he intends to run them on a U-shaped layout that he designs. The activity helped Warein, a former educator and city councilor, end the pandemic and his anxieties.

“You take your time and forget what’s going on around you,” he says. “Turning on the radio or television is like being beaten with a baton, because they always talk about the virus and the misfortunes it has brought. … Having a hobby allows me to think about other things.

Manufacturers have struggled to respond to the surge in global interest. Hornby CEO Lyndon Davies said he had to airlift 10,000 Spitfire kits from a factory in India when Airfix stocks first ran out in the company’s 71-year history .

“What you don’t want from your kids, your grandchildren, is for them to be sitting watching TV or looking at phones all the time. This pandemic has really brought families back home, ”he says. “They used the types of products that we make to try to get over what was going on in the outside world. “

Another British manufacturer, Peco, has hired additional staff to meet growing orders – up 50% in some markets – for its model trains, tracks and modeling accessories.

“It’s happening everywhere: our markets in the UK, Europe, Australia, North America, China,” says Steve Haynes, Director of Sales. “People use their free time a lot more, their free time, their forced time stuck at home to fight boredom, to fight against isolation and to do something creative.

In Belgium, Fannoy describes himself as a “model maker doing containment”. He had bought plastic kits for a long time, as they reminded him of his childhood, but had never had time to make them. Instead, he hid them in a cupboard.

When the pandemic ended his busy life and forced him to do his job as a home business developer, he set to work on his stash, stocking up on brushes and paints in the last few years. days before the lockdown.

He first completed a series of 1 / 24th scale rally cars. A WWII Tiger tank, painted to look weathered and mounted in a winter scene with troops and a jeep, followed in late 2020. He posted photos of the diorama, the result of 50 hours of manual labor, on Facebook.

“I usually start in the evening around 8 pm and stop around 11 pm-midnight,” explains Fannoy. “I can’t do the things I normally would anymore. So what should I do? I open a kit and work on it. In fact, it’s my wife who comes to pull me out of this mini-world that I am in. screw.”

“The hours go by. It’s a form of meditation, ”he says. “It really helped me get through the past year. “

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