Jul 2, 2010
You said it. :tb-tongue:
What a cool shot.
Adam, I just went to Vics today, another on my list of "seeing every hobbyshop in the area) Nice guys working there, but almost nothing in N or HO. All Lionel. So, I'm going to stick with HobbySmith and mainline.
The sales tax is a very valid point of contention, especially in the example states with 10% or more tax. It can be a big difference in the decision to purchase, but enough, I will leave it be.
I had a long post typed up....then killed it. Here is a condensed version.
For those that have no local shop, I understand it is hard to support something that isn't there. For those that do have a LHS, think about what shipping and down time would cost you the next time you need some glue or paint to finish a project when your LHS closes from lack of support. Since we have lost 4-5 local shops in the past 5-6 years, the customers that have found us have been very appreciative that we are there for them. They now realize what they lost in the other shops that may have been closer to them at the time and are more willing to give us business so we will be there for them in the future.
If you do have a LHS that you don't frequent, then the shop owner doesn't know you are out there and what your needs are. He is not going to stock something for a customer base that he doesn't know exists in hopes that they do show up on that random occasion. If you frequent the shop, talk to the people there and let your interests be known, maybe some of the things you are looking for might start showing up.
Another of the guys that works in our shop that is into Heli's fed this argument back to one of the customers when he started complaining loudly about lacking a parts support for his brand of RC Heli.
To the original post topic line....Yes, there are many useful hobbyshops still around. I happen to work at one. If people continue their trend to shop price over value, then they won't be around for long.
Enough, time to get back to modeling.
Yes. We'll leave it be. When the posts stray into admonitions about who should be reporting their purchase to appropriate agencies, then we're way off course. That aspect of consuming trade goods is best left for another site. It's not of value in this discussion.
I'd argue that perhaps even more than the Verboten subject, The price of a gallon of gas has a significant impact on LHS.
As I've said, I can access 2 pretty good stores from public transportation easily.
If I HAD to always get in the car to go to a brick and morter store, I can tell you I'd be working out the fuel economy vs. Shipping costs and discounts and whoever won would get the business. Personal service is great, but these aren't great economic times and at $3 a gallon...
Also, as I've said, one thing that will always attrack me is a good Consignment/Used/junk selection. My favorite hobbyshops have such a section and I don't mean high priced brass. I mean odds and ends...failed projects half done. Estate sale stuff. Random cars. Sale tables of stuff that isn't selling.
I like going to the store to explore and perhaps find a treasure in the stacks. That is to me what local stores can offer.
The equation is a little more lopsided here in Australia. To give an example, in Australian dollars, a Spectrum H4 2-6-6-2 from an online U.S. dealer including postage halfway around the world $215, at an LHS $395. You can't blame the LHS as he's only charging what he has to but sadly it's no competition really.
For all the interesting comments on here why don't we, as very dedicated modelers, try and help these places out by maybe generating a list of stuff we, as regular consumers of train stuff, would like to see. I have another post already started for this in the n scale forum. Check it out and add in your wish-they-hads. Maybe we can help some of these folks out. Like many have mentioned here these LHS owners are out to make money, so if we could offer them some market driven research that may help them, I am pretty sure most would listen. Most being the key word. Having been on a hobby shop tour across AL, GA, and SC lately the owners run the gamut from open and helpful to the guy in the corner watching tv waiting for his lotto numbers to come up. Help make the list please.
Oh and I guess if we are doing market research we should figure out how to gauge the number of active model railroaders in a given area as well.
At the just past train show we had here my club set up our NTrak layout. I met 4 local modelers in Nscale that did not know our group existed and in conversation lamented the same fact as everyone here. All had large bags of stuff they had purchased at the show. So there is demand out there that is not being met by the internet that a decent LHS could pick up. Just have to figure out how to get the two together.
And while you are out there perusing all this out of area car stock I am really wanting to find some more atlas 90 ton hoppers in Southern livery. Pm me if you find some.
A corollary thought... If one o the problem is the shop in VA selling stuff that a guy in CA wants, and vice versatile, maybe we could informally share info about what we want and which shop has what to help connect buyers and sellers. So if I stop in a shop in WV and see a dusty Milwaukee Road car that isn't selling, I could post something and hook tha shop up with some guy in Milwaukee who will buy it, and so on.
We DO have a vested interest in helping these LHSs stay viable, to some extent.
You know, the "share inventory" idea is a good one. Junkyards have been doing this for years. A hobby specific "auction site" would be nice as well, they could post those slow moving items and get lots more exposure.
wish it weren't so ...
i went to my LHS just last week, knowing what i was in for, but ... i thought i'd try to patronize their store and do what i can to help keep them afloat. for such a 'famous' place in a busy location, they store has become really messy and dark [unappealing to browse around]. it's unorganized. there's used/old stuff mixed in with the new. they have a TON of n scale stuff in the glass cabinet. BUT ... all of it is completely covered by stuff on the top of the counter. it's a HUGE hassle for the sales guy to make room, take out the trays and stand there while i look, kind of 'rushing' me to pick something. on top of that, the retail prices don't just shock me, they offend me. for such a big store, there's NO n scale structure kits to speak of. you would think carrying atleast one line (like walthers or laser-kit) would be enough. you don't have to have it all, but have something good.
anyway ... i [like most people of my gen on trainboard] am a very savvy shopper. i don't need the help of a sales-person. i already know every product that exists in n, what variations their are, and the msrp and street price. in fact, i probably know more than any sales-person [who doesn't specialize in n]. what do i need? i clean, easy to browse space with REASONABLE prices. the problem is the generation gap: the guys who run my store don't know how to use a computer in the right way. they should be 'up' on the latest products as well as best prices. they don't have to match a price from an online retailer, but they could take that price and a few percent for a convenience fee that i would happily pay.
i've love [and have always loved since i was a kid] going to a train store. a lot of us do. but we now live in a world flooded with information. even ten years ago it wasn't like this. a really great LHS would understand this.
i'm sure lots of LHS owners/employees understand this and are trying like heck to keep things going and i'm happy they are! but it's just that my local place is really slipping...
That may be helpful with train stores (though like I said, we have great train stores in New Mexico), but not with the big box hobby stores that carry very little of anything and charge way over retail on what they have. I have found that national chain stores care absolutely nothing anymore about what some customer in some town wants to see in their local store--from grocery stores to "home improvement" stores to hobby stores. I have never been able to convince a single one of them to carry a single item for me, and believe me, I have tried. They operate off of regional preference lists. It isn't the managers' fault--they seem to want to help, and they would certainly like to attract business--it's the way the whole national chain systems are set up.
So to patronize a LHS I have to find a train store--a drive of at least 60 miles, something I can't do at today's gas prices unless I already need to be in that city for some other reason.
I'm really not sure generation gaps and computers are the problem. I've known some terrific train stores where the guys running it and hanging around are all creepy old people like me :tb-err:and don't seem to have any real familiarity with the web.
I'm just currious what a "Big Box Hobby Store" is? If you are talking Hobby Lobby and Michaels, they aren't a hobby shop. They are a craft store, catering to bored housewives and don't even belng in this discussion. Other than that, I have never seen anything that could be considered a "Big Box Hobby Shop".
The closest thing I have seen was a local shop that had a very good train selection (mainly HO), and carried a Toys R' Us size selection of bikes, toys, baby goods, and even a kids play area. Unfortunately that sales model didn't work and they have now turned the whole building into a kids play place, trains and toys are gone.
Skip, you work at the same chain as the one I was visiting that decided to stop carrying N altogether. Oddly, your store sounds night-and-day different than this one. Do the owners of these stores just carry whatever they want, or do they need to carry certain amounts of various things?
A couple of interesting points made since my last post.
First, its harder for the LHS to provide knowledge in this day and age, and I would expect more and more N scale customers to know more about what they want (specific product) via the net than the store could. If you are a B and O fan, you can find out what year, where it ran, et al before you place an order, but we couldn't expect a clerk to do that for all 10 roadnames released. In a way, technology takes another advantage down the drain.
And, how helpful are the clerks, really? As noted the need seems to be for repair, not buying, and the days of clerks being able to do it right there (as opposed to take it in and ship it out to a contractor) are dying quickly at most shops. The customer can find the same repair guy or ship it to Atlas, etc. Another advantage down the drain.
Side Note: I have often figured that an LHS could add value by installing the couplers, or even building the structures if you buy them there, which would add value) Heck, maybe they could even weather your cars while you wait - I would pay full retail if it was done well. Of course, I know the risk that customers would demand a refund because they don't like the weathering)
For that matter, the increased reliability of the products we buy work against the LHS, since returns are so rare. Increased shipping reliability (using others than the post office, which in itself seems to be better now, too) works against the LHS. As noted, gas prices work against the LHS (as does the green movement, where we figure the carbon footprint to go pick up a magazine alone in a car, vs long distance shipping via truck with other parcels) is just too high)
Lastly, as to ordering, my LHS is fairly notorious for not ordering what we ask for on preorders (although I have special ordered some items and they always come through. But with even one bad experience with the old "piece of paper" system, if it has to be ordered, I am just as or more comfortable ordering it myself on line, to make sure the order is right. Another advantage down the drain for the LHS.
I could go on, but in the BIG picture, shopping is changing and it is, IMHO probably a losing battle to fight that change just because we like window shopping at the LHS. As suggested, the LHS that wants to survive will spend some on a web site, stock more, and go national to have a base of the whole world, rather than a 30 mile radius, which might have a customer base in the hundreds, even in the biggest town.
(MRR participation rate is a max of only 0.0015% of the US population, so even in a town of 5MIL, the customer base is only about 7800. A few years ago, MR pegged the average spending of a modeler at $530 or something, meaning one LHS has a max potential of no more than $4 Million, which is likely divided among several shops in that town) I would rather have a worldwide customer base of 500,000 customers and nearly $800 Million to shoot at, for what a web site costs these days.
Naturally, more will try that than succeed, but that is free enterprise at work.
Side note on net shopping - I wonder how regional shoppers try to stay? For example, do those in the SW support Wig Wag more, feeling some kind of LHS connection because of proximity? I know when I had lunch with some Ohio modelers a while back, they noted that they were reluctant to go too far west with their internet orders. (This ad hoc group actually met at an LHS and most would buy some little thing because of it, but all admitted ordering most online for reasons listed above)
HobbyTown is a fanchise. The owners are free to stock what they want. The fanchise gives them suggested inventory lists and bulk buying power but it is up to the owners to decide what works for them. The owners of our store have 4 others and it's amazing how some things sell at one store but not another. One of our stores sells an incredible amount of paintball equipement. We tried it and didn't sell a single item. We have a well stocked train department, in fact since we started doing well, the owners are copying what I order to the other stores, some of it sells, some doesn't. There is no magic bullet as to what will work in each location. So much of this is trial and error.
BTW - for those that think the LHS is doomed, our sales have been going up for 5 years in a row and have done over 7 figures last two years. This is a full line shop, not a train only shop. I fully believe that a one-hobby shop can't survive. It takes a full line shop with a knowlegeable staff to keep things going. Some days the MR section of the shop does good, some days we don't sell a single train item but make it up in the RC section. It is a ballance that keeps things active every day.
Now see, Hobbytown has a different problem with being a national chain in that, I would assume from the get go that they have nothing and not even bother looking.
The only way I would find out if they had a good train selection is if I went in there looking for D&D stuff or wanted to pick up a copy of a board game or puzzle and noticed it.
Good to know Skip, ty.
I own a Yahoo list I created for just that purpose. John Smith Trains in Oregon may have 5 PRR K4 steam engines he can't sell, and Bill Jones Hobbies in Pennsylvania may have several Empire Builder sets he can't sell. These could be listed for sale so people all over the country would have the opportunity to purchase these overstock units. I had many potential customers sign on for this, and you would think a hobby shop owner would love to move dead inventory. How many hobby shops signed up? Zero. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons, one may be many shop owners don't want to bother, with the theory "it'll sell someday".
The group still exists, though is not active.