James Moore: Hornby didn't need to take Olympics gamble

Outlook Hornby's run out of puff again with too many Olympic-themed engines stuck in the station and not on tracks laid out in the bedrooms of small boys and the attics of bigger ones.

The blame for yesterday's profit warning was placed squarely at the door of the Games.

Sales of Hornby Olympic-themed merchandise didn't go well, and when other Olympic-related merchandise stalled in the same way as the toy maker's rather fetching taxis, retailers started discounting and earnings evaporated like so much steam.

Is that a credible summation of what went wrong? Not entirely. It doesn't appear to have been the case that all Olympic merchandise ended up in bargain bins on the wrong side of the tracks.

Sports Direct's buoyant recent trading statement provides ample evidence of that. And a cursory glance at the London 2012 auction site shows that the really collectible Hornby 2012 products – those that have genuine rarity value – are fetching silly money.

But that's rather beside the point. The real question here is why Hornby needed the Olympics in the first place; why it felt it needed to become a licensee and then flood the market with Olympic branded products when its own brand is so powerful with its customers.

There are plenty of collectible Hornby products with rarity value which don't need the 2012 logo on them to fetch silly prices at auction. That's a lesson the company's executives should learn.

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