If you have watched recent Nascar events on television, you can’t fail to see the number of empty seats in the stands. As someone who grew up in Nascar country, it is truly astonishing to see this drop off in attendance. I can vividly remember people packing up their vans and Winnebago’s with beer, steaks, snacks and more beer and heading down to that weekend's race, wherever it was.
It was with this in mind that my eye caught an article in the New York Times entitled “With Merchandise Sales Down, Nascar Has High Hopes for Tiny Cars.” It seems that sales of collectable toy cars (1:18 or 1:24 scale die-cast replicas) to fans are way off. According to the article “Sales of die-cast replicas peaked at $250 million in 2002 but plunged to about one-third that total five years.”
As I read this my mind went back to a posting I wrote in July entitled “Fewer teens getting drivers licenses; what it might mean for Wal-Mart.” In that posting I speculated on the steep drop in teenage driver’s licenses and young adult driving time. I posited that we were seeing a decline in American car culture and with it the “big box” retail infrastructure that depends upon drive-in consumers.
Fewer drivers could mean fewer customers walking in the door. It may just be that the recession and over saturation are the culprits in the Nascar story. The drop-off in sales does, however, go back to 2002, long before the recession began. So could this drop off in car collecting among the most fanatic of automobile enthusiasts mark yet another sign post on the way to a brave new world in which big box retailers will struggle to survive?