Classic play is back in a big way, and the toy industry has broken sales records as kids and adults forge new bonds through the power of play.
Two categories that have been speeding back into the mainstream are slot racing and R/C — a pair of evergreen staples that are ever-present but don’t necessarily always get headlines and attention. One company that’s leading the pack is Carrera Revell of Americas Inc., home to an extensive range of high-octane products for motorsports enthusiasts and casual racers of all ages, from preschoolers to hobbyists. The Toy Book caught up with Carrera Revell of Americas’ President and CEO Frank Tiessen for a look under the hood to get the latest company updates.
The Toy Book: Over the past 18 months, slot car racing has shad a resurgence. What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing right now?
Frank Tiessen: The “resurgence,” if you want to call it that, started already a bit earlier and was more of a continuously increasing interest during the last few years. But it’s correct that this went into overdrive around March of last year.
Parents were looking for activities at home, and a lot of them remembered fondly all the fun they had when they were kids playing with slot car sets. That led many of them to a rediscovery of slot car racing, and many were surprised about what today’s products offer in regards to quality and play value. Slot car racing is definitely accepted as a fun activity at home for all ages and the whole family.
TB: The R/C segment had seen a dip for a few years, but started making a comeback before the pandemic hit. What are some wins for Carrera in terms of assortment and consumer response?
FT: For the North American market, we are completely focused on our Nintendo Mario branded products in the R/C range. As much as this is an evergreen license, it’s also soaring to new heights for us every year. We have a broad range of products here and are releasing new items annually. The feedback from consumers is that they love how detailed our products are sculpted, the fun they provide, and, of course, the quality.
TB: Speaking of Nintendo and the Super Mario line, licensing has long been a successful endeavor in slots and R/C, but Carrera in particular has seen a lot of success in that space in recent years. How are your products connecting with kids to merge the physical and digital spaces?
FT: Licensing is, of course, extremely important for our company. Aside from the entertainment licenses in our current portfolio like Mario, PAW Patrol, Minions, and Disney•Pixar Cars, we also have licensing deals in place with nearly all of the big car manufacturers. Carrera’s focus is to always stay true to the license, which means a Nintendo Mario vehicle has to look exactly like it does in the Mario Kart video games and a Chevrolet Corvette has to look exactly like the real car you are seeing on the street.
TB: Earlier this year, Carrera and Revell formally joined forces to become Carrera Revell of Americas Inc. How are the combined companies better positioned to connect with and serve retailers and consumers?
FT: Carrera and Revell are both brands with very storied histories and are also kind of synonymous in their respective categories of slot car racing and model kits. Together we will now be able to offer our retail partners a much broader range of products out of our new warehouse in Newnan, Georgia, and also better service while leveraging the individual strengths of the two teams now working together.
TB: As trade shows begin to occur again, will Carrera Revell have an in-person presence? If so, how might it compare to previous years?
FT: We are all looking forward to meeting all of our customers again in person at the various trade shows, starting with the National Retail Hobby Stores Association (NRHSA) show in September and, hopefully, at the most important event for our industry, Toy Fair New York in February. We have certainly all learned a lot about different ways of communication in the past 18 months, but nothing can beat the direct and personal interaction with our clients. Our plan is definitely to be present at all shows where it makes strategic sense for us and where we can meet a maximum of our customers.
TB: As with any hobby, there is always a balance to maintain between passionate, long-time enthusiasts and the next generation of kids that are essential to growing and continuing a brand. How does Carrera work to serve those different audiences?
FT: Our wide-ranging portfolio of products definitely offers something for every age and for every type of slot car fan. We capture the imagination of our youngest fans with our Carrera First line, which is age-graded 3 and up. This line is specifically built and designed in a way that kids at this age will have a fun and satisfying experience. Carrera First focuses on the licensed properties we discussed, including Mari0, PAW Patrol, and Disney•Pixar Cars.
From there, we continue with our Carrera GO!!! range, age-graded for kids ages 6 and up and with vehicles in 1:43-scale. While we are still offering all the aforementioned licensed characters, here we are starting with the true racing feeling, and you will see everything from Formula 1 cars to American Muscle and GT cars.
We follow that up with our Carrera Evolution range, which runs 1:32-scale cars on a 1:24-scale track. The details on these cars are truly amazing and will definitely excite any car enthusiast.
Last, but not least, we have our top-of-the-line range with Digital 1:32 and Digital 1:24. As the names suggest, these ranges include either 1:32-scale or 1:24-scale cars. The digital system allows for many additional features, especially to run multiple cars on a two-lane track at the same time.
There is definitely something in our range for every age group and for enthusiasts as well as just the occasional “racer.” We know that there are a lot of slot car racing hobbyists out there who dedicate a lot of their time to their favorite past time and their support is invaluable for our brand. Of course, it is also important to always find new fans and introduce them to this wonderful play experience. But maybe the very best for us to achieve is, to bring families together around a Carrera race track, play together, have fun together and create memorable experiences together.
TB: What are some new product offerings that retailers and families can look forward to in the months ahead?
FT: Our big new introduction for 2021 is certainly our Carrera GO!!! Build’n Race program. This combines two of kid’s favorite activities: slot car racing and brick building. With Build’n Race, kids — or kids at heart — will be able to build a complete environment around their racecourses with their plastic bricks and connect them to our track pieces. And maybe most importantly, they will be able to build their own cars on top of our Build’n Race chassis. This is taking slot car racing to a totally new level.
Learn more about Carrera’s full range of products at carrera-toys.com