A chain of model shops aims to double in size following a management buyout.

Lancing-based Modelzone, which has 29 stores across the UK, including outlets in Brighton, Crawley and Eastbourne, has been bought by a team led by former finance director David Mordecai in a deal worth up to £8.9 million.

He will become chief executive of the new company, Modelzone Holdings, which incorporates the retail chain and Amerang, a wholesale agent for overseas suppliers to the model and hobby industry.

Mr Mordecai, who joined the firm in 1987, said: “The ultimate aim is to build a bigger, better and stronger business, both on the wholesale and retail side.

“Modelzone is already the leading retailer in the industry but we want it to have more of a spread nationwide.”

The company employs 260 people and Mr Mordecai aims to double in size over the next three years. He said: “We have been trying to do this for some time because we have proved during these tough times that our industry is recession resilient.

“Our like-for-like sales are up 7.5% on last year.

“Part of the reason is that more people are sitting at home and returning to their old hobbies and getting their family involved with them. Last time there was a recession in the early 1990s, the same thing happened.”

He said traditional gifts such as Hornby train sets and Scalextric were increasingly popular over the past two Christmases.

New technology such as indoor remote control helicopters are also selling well, while themed models, such as Harry Potter and Doctor Who figures, have generated a lot of interest.

Mr Mordecai said: “Our products are male orientated but we cater for all ages.

“We are not a toy shop but many of our products are demonstrated inside the stores. We bring some fun to the high street.”

The buyout was backed by LDC, the private equity arm of the Lloyds Banking Group. An initial £5.9 million investment will be supported by a further £3.6 million funding over three years to enable Mr Mordecai’s team to open more stores.