Sunday, July 21, 2013

Support your local model shop

ModelShop Cat

I've just finished reading The Bachman Books written by Stephen King under the pen name "Richard Bachman. The subtitle is "Four dark visions of a terrifying future."

The name amused me, being one "n" from the model train manufacturer. The destopian future thing though, well that's a lot closer for modellers than you would hope.

A message from a friend on Facebook alerted me to the news that Bobs Models of Solihull has closed down. The little cat on the counter won't be getting any fuss from the painty hand brigade any time soon.

Of course this comes hard on the heels of the Modelzone chain of shops shutting their doors.

Bob's Models closure both upsets and annoys me. It was a cracking shop with an excellent range. The staff were knowledgeable and helped the buyer. Despite this, it's gone. Presumably there will soon be another charity shop in the row.

Why is this?

Well, it's not because there is no money around. People are happy to spend over a hundred quid on a RTR diesel and then take to someone who will fit it with DCC sounds and lights taking the bill to nearer £400.

Checking out the prices of modern RTR, they are going in only one direction and its not downwards.

So how come there aren't thousands of happy modellers out there getting gluey and painty building layouts? How come the model shop isn't thriving.

My suspicion is that the answer is simple. The models being bought arrive in the post. They are ordered online from whoever is cheapest. With all the overheads of a physical shop, that probably isn't your local guy. So he might see a punter who wants to chat. Possibly one who buys a few odds'n'sods. The big ticket items - the ones that keep him in business - they go to the web. When they arrive, they get a quick airing on a length of track and then go back in the box.

Sadly, I'm a bit of a lone voice. I don't buy many RTR locos and when I do the local shop gives me a good price and service but 1 every 5 years isn't going to help much. When I suggest they others might like to support their shops I'm told that they can't compete on price.

I wouldn't mind, but this isn't always true. More to the point, they can (if they want) compete on service. What do you do if your new toy is faulty? In many cases, rush to the web and moan on a forum. Then demand that the manufacturer sorts it out. What do you do when the new washing machine doesn't work? You get the shop to sort it out but then you didn't order it by post did you ?

Anyway, judging from a small number of comments on various forums, there are a band of "modellers" who will be delighted when all the shops are gone. They rejoice in the closure of yet another one. I suspect they also enjoy reading that the local pub has closed as they open another can of beer sold below cost price bought from a supermarket and drink it with only a computer and pile of boxed chuffers for company.

Right. Once I've finished this, I'm off to the local model shop. And I'm going to buy something.


Iain Robinson said...

I agree with everything you've said. I've seen those forums where the tight-wads are complaining about the price of this and that loco...I was reading something about modelling magazines the other day and folk who obviously can afford to buy the latest loco releases were boasting about how they never buy a magazine, they just sneakily read them on the shelves of the newsagent. Time to wake up, gents. The magazines, the newsagent and indeed, the hobby itself is on hot rails to oblivion as long as this attitude prevails. We're lucky enough to have two local model shops, where I buy most of my raw materials. They are available right away, you can see what you are getting and you don't have to pay postage or have things damaged by the royal mail. You do, however, have to put up with the occasional halitoidal gasbag droning on to the hapless shop owner, but since they never buy anything (or ever finish any models) I take pleasure in gently pushing them to one side as I present my purchases.

A said...

We have the same problem although I think it is more advanced in the UK.

One very unpleasant phenomenon we see is that people go to the local shop/craftsman and spend half an hour asking questions about what they want, then say "I'll have to think about it" and go and get a cheapo product from a big box store. Obviously they planned this all along but needed some advice to help them choose.

And the reason we find out? because the cheapo has now broken and they want us to fix it.

What I don't understand though, is how some shops end up winners and some losers in the new world of internet shopping. For some plases (like H*tt*ns of Liverpool) have expanded beyond recognition from a small shop to a massive online store, whereas others have folded.

And let us not forget the reason the cheap products are cheap is that some poor sap in China is being paid a crap wage to make it in the first place...

Jackofallhobbies said...

I urge everyone to support their local hobby shop. In my area (near Toronto) most of the shops have closed down, and others have had to move out to the suburbs to survive. I wouldn't say the future is bleak, but it isn't rosy either.
I agree with everything said here. Go to your local hobby shop, recognize their knowledge and service as part of the price, and then you will see how much things really cost.

James Finister said...

Sadly the presence of "halitoidal gasbags", including the owner of the shop in some cases, is one reason I don't frequent model shops as much as I should. Another is the simple practical difficulty of getting to one. I'm actually quite lucky in that I sometimes happen to be in Coventry when Antics is open.

Why are H*tt*ns popular? Well they do a good job of keeping me informed of what is available, and every time I've interacted with them their customer service has actually been very very good.

And to be honest when I want specialist items I find dealing directly with companies like C+L and MSE less stressful than a trip to shop that might not have what I want.

Jackofallhobbies said...

Good point. If you aren't getting good service at your local hobby shop, you might be better off with the alternative.

The shop that I think has the best service in my area is more than an hour away. I don't get there often.

Phil Parker said...

I can't disagree on the service issue BUT I'd rather have a shop with a grumpy and even smelly proprieter than no shop at all.

While much of the material we need can be obtained from specialist suppliers, paint and glue can't go through the Royal Mail. It's also not worth ordering a single pot of Humbrol or 1 sheet of plasticard when you need them.

Richard Huss said...

Bummer - Bob's Models was very close to me (about a mile and a half). Being a 16mm garden railway man, my purchases were mostly oddments of plasticard, brass, wood, paint, adhesives - nothing too expensive, which I guess is the issue. But very sorry to see them go.

Anonymous said...

Only just found out about Bob's Models, such a shame. It does upset me, they were there for a long, long time and always seemed busy? I bought a Tamiya re-release Sand Scorcher a couple of years ago because their price was better than the mail order outlets! Mr Models in Bearwood B'ham is still going, bit of trek for me but worth supporting

andyrowlands50029 said...

I went to junior school with Julie Albutt who ran the Hobs Moat shop after the original Coventry Road shop closed after the death of her father Bob. My parents & Julie's were friends for a long time. I was often in the Hobs Moat shop buying Humbrol paints & Plastruct parts from that rotating dispenser for scratch-building model projects. It is a shame they have closed down & I think the reason is because of the internet.