Many farm owners and managers have a shelf or two in their office lined with scale model farm tractors, many of them carried over from that “small farm” most had as farm boys while growing up. In fact, even the founder of AGCO, Robert Ratliff, had a scale model MF manure spreader on his office desk that was kept full of candy.
There are even many hard-core scale model collectors who can claim to own hundreds of diecast farm machines. It’s that level of interest from customers in miniatures that helped Adam Reid, marketing manager at Versatile, come to the conclusion that the brand needed to increase its presence in the scale model and merchandising area of the business.
“That is really what spurred the merchandise side of things,” he told Grainews. “Knowing there was a demand for toys, knowing there was some demand from guys that wanted a Versatile hat. We partner with Ertl, which is called Tomy now, so we have a line of front-wheel assist and four-wheel drives. We have a 1/64 version of the Delta Track.
“There has been huge demand, far more than I would have thought. There is a huge subculture of toy collectors that is beyond anything I would have imagined. They have a real passion for collecting farm equipment toys.”
The company had been offering a limited range of apparel and scale models online since 2008, but the website has recently been rebuilt, providing a more user-friendly experience and offering a much wider range of products.
“We’ve really put a lot more focus on that store, on the merchandise that’s in there and in making sure we have toys,” he continued. “We’ve seen a lot more demand as that momentum has grown. We have quite a wide selection on there for dealers and farmers to order.”
Picking the right mix of products to offer through the online store has been the result of the company’s staff getting feedback from farmers. The trick is to stock it with products that won’t sit around and gather dust waiting to be shipped to a buyer.
Reid said on occasion some of the products selected by the merchandising team surprised him and he often didn’t think they would be popular, but the team’s instincts usually prove to be right.
“Our merchandise partner and my team have their finger on the pulse of what farmers are looking for, and they’re doing a good job of getting their feedback,” he said.
When it comes to brand clothing, offering things crested with vintage colours and logos have been a winner for Versatile, and the company will likely continue to offer several clothing choices.
“Some of the retro designs with the red, yellow and black, the farmers really like them,” he said. “We still offer a few of those historic pieces, but we want to make sure it’s really a limited edition and unique. We’ll release a few retro pieces and sell them every year. We give our customers a chance to show their pride in the machines they have, and with the new store, I think we’re going to see a lot more of that.”
The new website, which can be found at versatilecanada.merchcenter.com or linked from Versatile’s main website, offers everything from barbecue burger flippers to crested coveralls for the workshop. But the selection of products will continually change over time.
Said Reid, “I would say anything that’s in the store now only has about a six-month lifespan before we put it on clearance, sell it out and replace it with something new.”