Despite the cost of living crisis, Fighting 15s is still here and thriving. The caveat to that is that Fighting 15s is a much smaller business than it used to be, turning over about one sixth the level of orders that it used to in the heyday of representing AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures.
In short, Fighting 15s turns over around £24,000 a year. After running costs, that produces a modest, pension-level income, which with other income means it is enough to support me. Fortunately, my wife Janet still works, and my daughter Gemma has at last started work in Sweden rather than requiring parental support out there as a top-level athlete, otherwise things would be much different.
Anyone who imagines Brexit has taken a toll by providing an excess of paperwork for foreign orders is mistaken. I can cheerfully say that the burden of form filling has barely increased since the UK committed economic suicide and left the EU, simply because, as I predicted way back in April 2016, handling fees for collecting VAT at the border have in effect killed off orders to the EU. Few EU orders means very little form filling. I am very grateful to the occasional EU customers, usually ones living in countries with low handling fees, for continuing to support Fighting 15s by ordering and for being one per cent of my customer base instead of what was once 40%. Curiously, orders to the USA and Australia have increased, against my expectations because I have agents in both countries, because Brexit has caused the value of the pound to tank.
The pandemic has taken its toll. Fighting 15s was kept very busy over two years what with orders for Gladiator Miniatures and selling off the remaining stock of AB and Eureka, and I’ve come out of that a bit shattered, not just because the whole family went down with Covid. I’ve been spending the past six months or so recuperating mentally, with some key projects put on hold until I regain my enthusiasm. That is happening, thanks to face-to-face gaming starting up again locally, and quite simply because I’ve started to play with model trains, which can be done safely without needing anyone else. Most of my opponents on the Isle of Wight are people who need to shelter from Covid; I haven’t seen one of them now for more than two years. Also, I’ve been playing a lot of tennis, which has been providing some of the tactical challenge I used to get from pushing toy soldiers around a battlefield, at the cost of more physical injuries than I’ve had in a lifetime, but which can be played safely outdoors in fresh air.
I’m also facing up to the fact that, aged 62, I cannot stand up casting and packing all day long. That means orders proceed at a more leisurely pace than in the past. I’m not sorry that I no longer handle the vast volume of orders that AB and Eureka produced, although I miss the exquisite figures. It was one of my wiser decisions to throw in the towel when I did.
In the New Year, I aim to start work again on the 15mm Generation 5Z range, and have been cleaning up production masters. I have some 15mm SF Ape masters to put into moulds. Additions to the 40mm Napoleonic range are currently being commissioned, project managed by my friend Alan Mercer. Plus I have some more moulds to make to finally bring the Vexillia 15mm Late Medieval Poles and Eastern Europeans back into production: most of the original production moulds for those are unusable with pewter (it discolours), and rusty beyond belief. Further down the line is redoing the range of 40mm Late Dark Ages Saxons once made by D’Arlo Figurines (Colonel Bill’s) and resurrecting an interesting range of 54mm Napoleonics that may once have been part of Prince Bishop. I’ve said it several times before, but hell is other people’s moulds: getting them into a state where they produce castings reliably can be a challenge. Mould making, however, is one of those energy intensive operations that I have simply been cutting back on to control costs. Staying warm enough to pack orders has seemed more important.
Talking of energy, after eight months, the last elements of our solar PV system were installed at the start of December, just in time for the darkest months of the year. This can potentially hugely reduce Fighting 15s’ energy consumption for casting and mould making, and accordingly I will try to time such activities for sunny days. It makes next to no difference on heating costs. This, plus the fact that I have a good supply of metal banked at a fair price, means I still do not have any price rises planned for the immediate future. Delivery may go up depending on what Royal Mail decides to do.
I’m also working with my flags designer to expand the range into 28mm Napoleonic Flags.These are complete redraws, not just scaled up versions of the 15mm range, and so it’s taking some time to implement. Over the years we’ve provided a number of scaled-up 28mm flags for customers. The last project we did, however, meant redrawing them completely, and this has provided the spur to move into 28mm proper.
Sharp-eyed customers may have noticed that the site no longer has a Twitter icon – it usually appears top right in the site’s header bar in desktop browsers. I have quite simply decided to stop using Twitter as a way of communicating. I’ve gone back to using Twitter only for receiving updates on local news and public transport.
Thanks to all my customers for their support over the past year, and during the darker days of the pandemic. Happy New Year.
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures