Playing the Long Game

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Although large multinational toymakers have seen falling revenues, smaller, more traditional firms with local production are booming.

  • Facts


    • On average, Germans spend $363 per year, per child, on toys, around $100 less than American and British consumers.
    • Lego, Mattel and Hasbro are the largest toy producers worldwide. The biggest German producers are Simba-Dickie, Playmobil and Ravensburger.
    • The Nuremberg International Toy Fair, the most important toy trade fair in the world, begins this week.
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Chain building blocks of the Simba Dickie Group
German toymakers such as Simba-Dickie are increasingly producing their products in Germany rather than Asia. Source: DPA

Kurt Hesse has never shied away from a challenge. In 1970, the Bavarian engineer founded his first company at the age of 26. A couple of years later, his Nuremburg-based engineering business employed 360 people and had contracts from large car manufacturers.

In 1985, Mr. Hesse changed course, buying up Carrera, a bankrupt toy car-racing manufacturer located in the nearby city of Fürth. He built up the company over ten years, before selling the Carrera brand in order to start up a new toy car manufacturer, Cartronic, which operated in direct competition to his old firm. Ever since, Cartronic has offered a similar product to Carrera, only cheaper.

This year Mr. Hesse turns 73, but he remains as restless as ever, and as willing to break with norms. His newest project will come to fruition in the next couple of months: he is bringing toy racetrack production back from China to Nuremburg, where his company Autec is currently building a highly automated factory.

Autec promises better quality, shorter delivery times and less hassle from suppliers. On top of that, it will be cheaper, too. Mr. Hesse sees only upsides to the new factory, at a time when almost his entire competition has outsourced production to East Asia.

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