Iconic toy company Corgi is looking forward to a new lease of life after being successfully integrated into the famous Hornby portfolio.
The model railway maker paid £8 million earlier this year to acquire the Midland-based brand and its stable of companies now reads like a 1960s toys cupboard.
In addition to the Corgi brand - still probably best known for its replica of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 from the film Goldfinger - Hornby now boasts Scalextric, Airfix and Humbrol paints.
Corgi managing director Alex Balzaretti said: “Prior to the takeover by Hornby, Corgi hadn’t brought any new products to the market for eight months.
“A huge investment was needed in order to develop new product and now that the integration is complete, we are looking forward to the future.”
Although the bulk of its workforce are based in Leicester, it also employs five people in Hong Kong, mainly responsible for the production process.
It also has operations in the United States, Spain, Italy, France and Germany and will be looking to these markets for growth.
The company’s collectible models provide the bulk of its business and its target market is now the over 40s - the people who played with the toys as a child and have grown to cherish them as they get older.
However, the company is looking to attract younger customers and is developing a new range of products based on the films of Harry Potter. The parent company had spotted the potential of the franchise at a much earlier stage and quickly brought a Hogwarts Express train set to the market.
Corgi has also strengthened its traditional offering, introducing a series of die-cast planes to mark the 90th anniversary of the RAF, while it has expanded its Motorsport and Trackside collections.
Ms Balzaretti said the acquisition by Hornby had also improved Corgi’s technical capabilities.
“Corgi have had a traditional approach but Hornby are far for technically advanced. They will be employing computer-aided design and this should improve our product offering,” she said.
The firm’s progress, which will be the subject of a BBC1 documentary tonight, is being closely monitored although Ms Balzaretti said that unlike many companies in the toys market, Corgi was not over-dependent on the Christmas period.
“Our Collectibles business means we have a solid all-year-round market that doesn’t really spike at Christmas.
“Nevertheless, we will be assessing the firm’s performance to see if there are any lessons to be learned,” she said.
The Corgi brand was created by the Mettoy Company of Northampton, which had first started to produce colourful metal toys before the Second World War.
The first Corgi models appeared in 1956 and reflected the British-built cars of the period. By the end of the decade they had become the top selling toys of their type, a record that was sustained throughout the 1960s when models such as the Goldfinger Aston Martin, the Batmobile and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang enhanced the firm’s reputation and made them a staple part of any young boy’s toy collection.
However, in the 1970s and 80s a decline set in as trends changed and youngsters moved towards new products such as early home computers and electronic toys.
In 1983 the company went into receivership. It limped on for a time but starved of capital investment, production was switched to the Far East and its UK manufacturing operation closed. In the 1990s it was bought out by US toy giant Mattel and moved into the nostalgia and collectables market with attention focused on its 1950s and 60s heyday.
It continued to operate this way until its acquisition earlier this year.