The toy-train maker Hornby has temporarily stopped all orders to customers outside the UK, blaming delays caused by uncertainty over Brexit and disruption at UK ports.
The company, which also makes Scalextric car racing sets and Corgi cars, said it would not accept any non-UK orders until 4 January, after the transition period ends and EU-UK trade switches to a new relationship under rules that have not yet been agreed.
Hornby’s toys exported from the UK to the EU could face tariffs of up to 4.7% of their cost if no deal is agreed. If tariffs are imposed while goods from the UK are delayed in transit, an EU customer could be forced to pay the duty themselves before receiving the goods, a complication Hornby is keen to avoid.
Lyndon Davies, Hornby’s chief executive, said: “I’ve seen the Gulf war, Falklands war, three-day week, crashes on the stock market – after all these things there are issues.
“All we’re asking is, tell us what is going on. We’re forced into a position of saying, what is the point of going through the pain of all these orders?
“What the world of business has to do is sort out the mess and the carnage of what’s left.”
Importers to the UK have been struggling with increased demand for goods before the 1 January Brexit deadline, adding to global problems in the shipping industry that have already caused significant delays for imports from east Asia.
Davies said Hornby had taken delivery of one shipment of Batman vs Joker Scalextric sets, which had been “going up and down the strait of Dover for three weeks”, as a result of port delays.
However, the company has stockpiled enough toys to ensure there is no danger of running out of some of its key items, such as train sets, for as long as a year.
“We will not be running out of Spitfires,” Davies added, referring to models of second world war fighter aircraft.
Hornby head office tweeted the decision to pause orders on Tuesday. It said it was pausing all non-UK orders until 4 January 2021, adding: “We hope you can understand the difficult position we are in & remain patient with us until we can find a solution.”
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit & what it’ll mean for our International customers, as of the 15th Dec, we will pause all non-UK orders until 4th Jan 2021.
We hope you can understand the difficult position we are in & remain patient with us until we can find a solution. pic.twitter.com/BbGaZ0zVck
— Hornby (@hornby) December 15, 2020
Davies said the company should be able to cope in the longer term, in part because of its surprise lockdown sales boom. Hornby enjoyed a 33% jump in sales in the six months to September as families stuck at home bought more toys.
“You can sit there whilst the world is falling apart creating your fantasy train set,” Davies said.