The useful LHS. A myth or fact?

2-8-8-0 Jul 2, 2010

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  1. 2-8-8-0

    2-8-8-0 TrainBoard Member

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    So, yeah. I live in extreme N.E. Ohio, and my "LHS" is approximately 40 miles away. There are two actually; a chain hobby shop, and a privately owned shop that specializes in trains. I was crazy enough to believe that one or the other may stock one of the locos on my want list; an Atlas GP9 with dynamics, or RS3 (dont care about road name, gonna repaint) or any of Kato's modern UP diesels. Pretty broad coverage right there. Oh, any sort of Western Maryland rolling stock as well.

    Chain hobby shop. Today I noticed that their normally anemic selection (one display case about 4 feet wide) was emptier than usual; some MT (of course, nothing I could use) and a few locos; an undec Bachmann 8-40CW, a couple steamers, and one Kato CSX SD70. All the MTs are marked down 50%, so I managed to find one car (60' auto parts box in GT paint) I could conceivably use, and a bottle of black PollyS paint. I asked the owner, "are you gonna stop carrying N?"
    "Yes" she replies. "No one buys it." Indeed...
    Now, we know it has more to do with their horrible selection than a lack of interest in the scale, but I kept quiet as she informed me of that ONE thing LHS owners the world over seem to still believe will save them;
    "I can order anything you like, though."

    Hey, LHS owners. I am perfectly capable of ordering it on my own, and without having to drive to you to get it, or having to pay your markup. If its IN stock, I dont mind paying more...but when I gotta wait anyway, may as well save the money.

    To the privately owned shop. Now, to this store's credit, if youre an HO modeler, it is heaven. But for N, one tiny shelf of N locos and cars, once again, odd selection...modern cars (like intermodal cars or 86' boxes) and a load of diesels I have no use for, like PC Geeps. So...modern rolling stock, 2nd gen diesels...yep, those go together well. But, once again, the dreaded phrase, when I enquire about their selection;

    "I can order whatever you want." Blood pressure raises as I leave without spending a dime.

    This place is normally expensive anyway (20-30% above online dealers at least, some items 100% higher) so I politely said no thanks and left. Their book selection is great, by the way, provided you like NYC or Nickel Plate. meh.

    Modern kato diesels folks. Keep em on your shelves, they sell. 1st gen diesels (especially one like the GP9 that everyone and their mama used) sell. SP&S 40' boxcars may be a tough sell in Ohio. Ditto for all those CN 36' reefers (I wish I was making this up) But they cant figure out why N dosent sell for them.

    So yeah, only recourse is the internet. Id rather pay more for something and get it, than have to wait weeks (or months) for a online dealer to get around to sending it. But, apparently the LHS around here just dont want our money. Two hobby shops, one of which is a train specific store. Not one 1st gen diesel, not one item with Western Maryland on it, not one item in N with UP or NS on them.

    Gee, could this be why N isnt selling well for them?

    I really envy those of you near hobby shops that are actually useful. Ordering my stuff online from now on (and not by choice)
    Amanda
     
  2. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    Something to keep in mind (IMHO) for LHS inventory is that they can't keep things stocked that don't sell locally to their customers. They will also tend to stock what they find will sell. So, if there are not much for N Scale modelers in the area, that shop won't/can't carry it. I'm lucky that my LHS is HUGE and carries lots of invertory; but, I rarely shop off their shelves. I do place online Pre-Orders with them all the time and pick up my orders as they come in. Not paying any more then what I would have piad shoping off their shelf but doing the advanced orders I'm more likely to get the item and spend less time looking up and down the rows of models I don't want looking for the one I do.

    So, I would suggest working with them getting the items you want and if they want your business they will work to fill that order quickly and at a fair price. If you can get it cheeper/faster via a online dealer show them that and see if they might change their way of doing business to get the sale. If not, stop shopping their and let them go out of business from the lack of sales.

    Money Talks, More now then ever...

    :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin:​
     
  3. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    We used to have a pretty good LHS, including N scale, but I rarely bought anything there. It isn't just trains for me. I buy media from Amazon instead of stopping at Best Buy, Walmart or Target (all within 3 miles of my house). I buy clothes from Lands End instead of going to the mall. I buy trains from several outstanding on-line shops instead of anything local. I've received priority mail packages from several western on-line shops in two days (free of tax and with very reasonable shipping). Perorders from these and others often arrive before they hit any local shelves. The reason we can obtain (demand?) outstanding service, low prices and quick response from on-line shops is summed up in one word - "competition." Even if we have a LHS, unless they're one of the on-line heavies, that variable will likely be missing. As the percentage of households lacking internet access shrinks, so will the customer base of the LHS. Just one opinion....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2010
  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'm in the Puget Sound region right now. Every chance I've had to stop at a hobby shop, I've been looking for a Kato switcher which should be available. Most shops have had really nice diesel inventories. Except for Kato NW2 switchers. They must be selling like hotcakes, or not being ordered. :confused:

    Boxcab E50
     
  5. Coalman

    Coalman TrainBoard Member

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    My LHS is three hours away and I am guessing it is the same one as yours, Lion. When I am in Denver I always stop in to browse and usually pick up a couple of items. Most of my ordering is online but I use the LHS as one of my five usual online stores also.
     
  6. BlazeMan

    BlazeMan TrainBoard Member

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    I wonder if the local shops with slow moving inventory (because say CN locos don't move in Oregon, or Black Widows in Boston) might use these forums to PM other owners that are members and move inventory to the parts of the country where they may move?

    I know years ago when I was in Northern Cal on business, I carried with me in the luggage, some brass GS-4's in Daylight scheme that didn't move in the east for a friend's business. Walked into a store in Sacramenton, intro'd myself to the owner, showed him what I had and told him if he was interested, call my friend at his store and make a deal.

    Went out of there with a PRR I-something to take back to my friend. Everyone was happy.
     
  7. 3DTrains

    3DTrains TrainBoard Supporter

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    Eh - say what?

    I fail to see the purpose of this thread, except to complain about something outside of your control (and perhaps to generate a heated debate). Even the title of this thread is leading. Are you trolling?

    FWIW, it comes down to basic Business 101 - you sell what's in demand, and dump the stuff collecting dust. Regardless of what you may believe, and with respect, the shop owner understands this. You however, do not.
     
  8. markwr

    markwr TrainBoard Member

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    I'm pretty lucky when it comes to having a local train shop. "my LHS" is about 30 miles from where I live. It's nice being able to go in to a store and actually see and test what you're buying. Plus the sales people are helpful and actually know something about trains.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2010
  9. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    Lets not use Store Name / URL's please as that is stepping over policy on retailers...

    :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd:​
     
  10. 3DTrains

    3DTrains TrainBoard Supporter

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    Mark, I'm so jealous! The store you refer to (the online part anyway) has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I'm on the left coast, but certain that if I get to visit MD again, I'll most definitely pencil-in a trip to their shop.
     
  11. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    I think the OP's point is that the LHS seems to be doing exactly the opposite, perhaps due to a lack of focus on marketing trends in a scale they're not interested in. They appear to stock things that make no sense for their market while not having any of the stuff that generally sells well. And then wonder why they don't sell any N scale.
     
  12. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    ... and Business 201 tells you to find out what your customers are wanting. In this case, those LHS might be failing to do that step and thus might cause them to fail. Many a business has failed by having a clerk behind the counter that fails to help keep the business running. The owner might not even know that they have N Scale customers because of the lack of feedback they needed to adjust their business model. If they are seeing N Scale sitting and not selling, is it the scale or the item on the shelf that is the issue.

    :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd: :tb-nerd:​
     
  13. 3DTrains

    3DTrains TrainBoard Supporter

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    IMHO, I don't believe so. She claimed to have found a car and a bottle of paint that would be useful, yet said later in the post that no money was spent there. Stormed out in a huff, and nothing to show for her 40-mile effort. What a waste. Seems more likely that the post was to generate a heated debate rather than offer or solicit insight on where the problem may lay. The post did skirt around the latter, however. Perhaps it only needed a rewrite, or maybe I misread the post?

    True, but the OP inferred that the LHS owner was out of touch - how does she know this? I would suggest that anyone interested in the ins-and-outs of retail phone Kalmbach and see about obtaining a demographic list of what's hot and what's not. Without this information, at least as a starting point to form an educated guess, speculating on the reasons her (or anyone else's) LHS isn't carrying "useful" items is known only to that retailer, and not to the OP (or anyone else).
     
  14. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member

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    We all love the eye candy and the drooling, but of course, no LHS can keep everything on the shelves. But, somehow, we keep thinking the LHS is the way to go and I have been thinking for a while that they are not, for such a small, onesie twosie type business.

    In my perfect world, there would probably only be one major LHS per region, obviously in a big city, and we would all order on line from them, and they would be big enough to stock virtually everything. Heck, maybe they would even be the distributors, and eliminate the middle man by becoming the end guy too (over time, I know several have, including Walthers, Bobbye Hall, etc)

    It seems to me like the market is brutally efficient, except in the MRR world where the suppliers speak in reverent tones about protecting their suppliers. I understand that, but as the market shrinks slowly, they may end up having to protect themeselves by protecting their customers. And do that by eliminating the inefficient parts of the supply chain and making their product more easily available.

    I could be way off base on this, but as I said, no LHS has ever stocked everything (some seem to come close) yet we complain about them and continue to look back, rather than face the facts and look forwar for a solution to the inevitable problems of distribution via mom and pop shops.

    Of course, I realize there are problems with bigger and fewer stores, too. But, sooner or later, dollars will drive the system towards that, IMHO, just like it has in many other industries.
     
  15. 2-8-8-0

    2-8-8-0 TrainBoard Member

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    I apologize if my post was unclear; I managed to find something (a bottle of paint and a 60' car that cost 10$ due to markdown, that I can conceivably strip and repaint to something I can use. Would never have paid MSRP for it) to buy there, in an attempt to salvage the trip. I stopped at two shops, the first is where I made this purchase, the second, I purchased nothing. I did NOT make a 40 mile drive for a bottle of paint and a auto parts car. And yes, I feel it is within my realm to question the owners of these shops in this case; you stock next to nothing, and wonder why you sell next to nothing. Mysterious.

    I dont know the demographics, but then I am not an owner of a LHS. I know I am part of a customer base, and the shop dosent have what I want. Its their shop, and if it dosent move for them, perfectly understandable. People open a business to make money. The issue is, stocking a bunch of trash and then wondering why no one buys it isnt a good way to test the N scale market, now is it? If I opened, oh, a car lot, and only sold Dodge Omnis between the years of 1982 and 1985, then wondered why they didnt sell, does this mean no one wants to buy a compact car?

    As far as the accusation of trolling, I do not appreciate attacks. 3Dtrains, you TWICE make direct accusations concerning my conduct, and also question my intelligence. If you dislike my post, move along. The identity of the troll in this thread is very obvious. If you had reason to question my purposes for the thread, report it and let a mod handle it. You are not a mod.

    I apologize if this seemed inflammatory or trollish; that wasnt my intent. I wrote it when I was irritated, but I have reread it now four times previous to writing this reply. I dont see what I wrote that was so wrong, but I wont write a thread like this again, ill just stick to babbling about prototypes and models.
     
  16. dieselfan1

    dieselfan1 Guest

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    I agree with 2-8-8-0 on this. The LHS has to get with the times. ''I can order anything you want'', like they have some magical power to order something, is not the answer I want to hear either. Do they think you are stupid? I can order it too, for a lot less. The reason I'm there is to buy it now. If they want to make sales , they have to have a decent amount of stock and stock that sells well in that particular area ,(for example, Milwaukee Road sells very well in Wisconsin and nearby states, for one)and it has to be competitvely priced or I'm going to buy it online.
     
  17. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    My local LHS is great, and yes, they don't always have what I want and they do offer to order it for me.

    Oftentimes, the price difference I might have gotten by going online gets eaten up by the shipping, and in Oregon we have no sales tax so that's not an issue, and I don't have to go online every time I need another 3' piece of flextrack so there are benefits that way, too.

    My favorite LHS has a lot of N scale stuff. They built up their N scale offerings over time and they are the go to place for a lot of N scalers in the area now. They have a lot of HO, too. Someone in G scale would be more likely to go to one of the other LHSs in my area.

    I have ordered things online. The vendors here on TrainBoard that I have used have all been very good. I've had mostly good experiences the few times I have been on that auction site, but I tend to be very picky about my sellers so that may be why.

    My local LHS has a lot of good advice, too, and the community that has built up around that place has proven to be a valuable resource.

    One reason I do most of my buying at the LHS is so that I don't end up where so many others find themselves - the nearest shop being 50 or 100 miles away and only stocking a couple Bachmann train sets in N and that's it.

    Have I been to bad shops? I've been to one that was really not helpful at all, and I don't bother going back there much.
     
  18. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Folks,

    Let's drop accusations of troll-ism here. This is meant, I believe, to be a provocative topic but not an explosive one.

    Best,
    Adam
     
  19. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Such a source would only be a starting point for an educated guess, and no more.

    A discussion such as this does not warrant slams about trolling.

    Boxcab E50
    TrainBoard Administrator
     
  20. 2-8-8-0

    2-8-8-0 TrainBoard Member

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    Provocative, yes, was my intent, didnt mean to be inflammatory. I hope everyone in this thread can remain friends, such as it were, I didnt mean to get personal.

    For things like track and other materials, I can see a LHS being much more beneficial than an online retailer. I wouldnt want to wait a week or two for a few pieces of track. For their part, they both do carry track and such (I believe the one will stop carrying ALL n scale inventory shortly, however) and the other, as I mentioned, is expensive enough that the online price + shipping is still comparable, if not less. Its just the wait time, which I would happily pay more to get around.

    As far as being helpful, I would think some are, and thats a great service. Neither of these is very helpful, but I am wrong to try and make a blanket statement, and paint all hobby shops with the same brush. They are probably a great deal of help to the people in their main market, being RC and HO trains.

    Hopefully a good shop will open nearby someday; the closest place for me to even get paint is, you guessed it, one of those shops, 40 miles away. Until then, I will peek through the vendors listed here and see if they have what I am looking for.

    My apologies again,
    Amanda
     
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