BAYKO - The MECCANO Take-over Enigma

The long established toy company, MECCANO, took over BAYKO's manufacturer, Plimpton Engineering, around September, 1959, but why, despite their geographical proximity, superficially at least, it makes little sense.


This seems like a serious error of judgemental : -
A BAYKO set 3 from the late 1950s
BAYKO's innovation stream was dry, and had been so pretty well throughout the entire 1950s, following the death of inventor, C.B. Plimpton…
MECCANO era set 14
Other toy construction products, including the [then] recently emerging LEGO, were crucifying BAYKO, not least because of the vastly superior scale and pace of their innovation programmes.
BAYKO's profitability was at a low ebb.
MECCANO itself was, similarly, substantially under performing across their entire product range, partly, I believe, because of their anti-plastic stance.
MECCANO had, at best, comparatively limited experience of plastic manufacture of the type and scale needed for BAYKO.
Canadian BAYKO flier which shows that MECCANO Canada were the importers
So why did MECCANO do it?
Both the companies had a long history of toy production in Liverpool and must have known each other well.
There was a long, successful track record of cooperation between the two companies…
…e.g. MECCANO Canada was the local BAYKO importer.
Probably much more significantly, I understand that Plimpton moulded various plastic components for MECCANO's DINKY range, among others…
…and they were, perhaps, anxious to secure this part of what we would now call their 'supply chain'.
MECCANO may also have finally seen the future and wanted to buy in plastic moulding expertise…
…they did subsequently launch CLIKI and CLIKI PLUS.
If you disagree with my assessment, or if you can can add some more, useful information into this debate, then I'd certainly love to hear from you…
The MECCANO Directors' Report and Accounts, for their financial year which ended January 31st, 1960 is no help : -
Front cover of the MECCANO Limited Directors' report and Accounts for yesr ending January 31st, 1960
The only reference to BAYKO in the MECCANO Limited Directors' report and Accounts for yesr ending January 31st, 1960
“During the year the whole of the share capital of the Plimpton Engineering Company was acquired. This business, which manufactured Bayko Building Sets, has now been integrated with our own production plants.”
So, not a lot of clues there I'm afraid…
…unless you interpret the dead pan style of the statement and the lack of any forward looking reference to BAYKO as being significant…
…but that me be just me.
The two images [left and right, above] are shown courtesy of the Liverpool Maritime Museum whose archives contain these and several other interesting originals.
For the record, MECCANO announced their acquisition of BAYKO in 'Games and Toys'.
Page 38 of the December, 1959 issue of Games and Toys, showing the MECCANO takeover announcement
The announcement [in full below] appeared in the 'Notes and News' section, which appeared on page 38 of the December, 1959 issue.
'Games and Toys' was the leading publication for the U. K. toy trade.
The message is relatively short and reasonably up-beat, if a little vague, but, to be fair, it does carry a positive commitment to update the 1930s rooted product : -
“Meccano Acquire Bayko”
“Meccano Ltd. have acquired the entire share capital of the Plimpton Engineering Co. Ltd., manufacturers of the famous Bayko Constructional Sets. It is their intention to redesign and represent this popular product. We are informed, however, that the basic principles will be fully maintained and further details will be announced at their trade exhibition at the Grosvenor Hotel (adjoining Victoria station) in February.”
The were several other august organs in which the announcement appeared : -

What Happened Next?

Set 15, introduced in August 1962
Marketing confusion : -
MECCANO completely retooled BAYKO, effectively taking it off the market for many months.
Contradicting that slightly is the BAYKO Parts Price List, date coded May, 1960, which still offered much of the 1959 Plimpton era range…
The relaunch advert didn't appear in their own publication, 'MECCANO Magazine', until September, 1960.
Product didn't actually hit the shops until November, 1960, and that was just set #11!
There is further evidence of dysfunctional thought in the first advertising flier from the MECCANO era…
MECCANO produced a range of new parts in August, 1962, which were excellent, and would seem to show they had a long-term intent at that point.
They began a second retooling of many BAYKO parts, late 1963-ish, producing the 'Flanged' Bricks, also known as 'Minimalist' Bricks, as shown in the model [below, right] and matching parts. Sadly this potentially excellent process was aborted roughly half way through - thanks a lot Mr. TRI-ANG - I don't think!
Again this looks initially like part of a good long term strategy - and yet…
…just look what happened next.

The Consequences?

The death throes : -
My freelance BAYKO model using only 'Flanged' Bricks and matching parts
The final stages were best described as “more of a whimper, than a bang”, to [mis]coin a phrase.
BAYKO passed away, peacefully, [in MECCANO's sleep!] on some as yet unspecified date in 1964 - probably…
…though there is evidence that BAYKO production limped on, without marketing, until 1967
…being 'milked' following the TRI-ANG takeover of MECCANO.
The overall verdict? : -
We'll probably never know what MECCANO's thought processes were. It certainly smacks of confused planning for them to undertake two major investment programmes within eighteen months of BAYKO's death, yet not support the product with regular advertising in 'MECCANO Magazine' - their own publication for so many years!
Perhaps the root of the problem lay within MECCANO's core businesses - my preferred explanation - not for the first time, they just couldn't update and implement their thinking fast enough…
…though I've heard MECCANO collectors blame the BAYKO focus for the company taking its eye off the MECCANO ball!
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Latest update - August 10, 2022
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