The recent news story about a bookshop owner asking people for a 50p entry fee to his shop has appeared at a time of interesting comments on the Interweb.
I first heard about it on the Radio 2 phone in. The host mentioned how he had seen people browsing books in shops and then firing up their smartphone to order said volumes cheaper online. I can well believe this happens, something confirmed by the following days TV news covering the story. A retail expert was explaining how this is becoming more and more popular, a phenomenon known as "showrooming".
Well, we get the same in the modelling world. Take this comment from a Facebook model railway group:
I usually contact Olivia's Trains in Sheffield for advice, then go shopping around for the best price.
So Olivia's are expected to provide free advice to people who take it and then decide to buy from a vendor who can afford to offer lower prices because they don't employ staff spending time answering questions from numpties.
Then a few days later, there is a thread about the closure of another model shop on a model boat forum. It contains the following discussion (edited for length):
Lots of people on here are just pleased with the very low prices they
can get from China. They are not willing to spend a bit more to keep the
UK trade afloat whether retail or internet/mail order. - C
And when said local model shop sells items from China at a big mark up .
All people are doing is cutting out the middle men ,no harm in that. - J
I suggested that ALL products are sold at a mark-up, that's how the shop earns money to
stay open. Along the way they take the risk of stocking stuff that might
not sell, having it to hand so we don't need to wait for shipping and
offering advice and assistance.
Cutting out the middle man is
fine if you are happy to see the demise of the model shop. Just don't
complain when the middle man isn't around to sort out problems and the
man in China couldn't care less about you.
Apparently though, it is wrong to make a mark up on products above a certain (not defined) limit and the poster had worked on a model shop so he knew. Presumably this is very well paid work with all that rampant profiteering.
Along side all this there are people moaning they don't have a local shop and it sometimes seems, delighting in the closure of another place they can't visit. I remember a corespondent to a magazine gloating that he didn't care as there wasn't a shop near him. He lived on Shetland.
It will be no surprise that I really like model shops. If I see one, I go in. Once I'm in, it's very rare that I don't buy something, partly because I know they have overheads and if I don't, they won't be there next time. That and I love the occasional bit of retail therapy, especially if it involves a dusty box found at the back of the shop.
But little bits aren't enough. We need to buy the big ticket items. I'm pleased to say my Peckett came from the local shop. I didn't test run it, but I could have. You can't do that on-line.
So, please support your local model shop, whatever they may be. I know a local outlet spends £500 a year on the business rates for the space occupied by the doormat, the Airfix range only just covers the cost of space thanks to recent margin cuts by Hornby and yet people still walk around taking photos of items that they will then go away and buy on-line.
And we will pay money to go into a toy fair or swapmeet, so does 50p refundable on purchase, seem so bad if it keeps the shop viable?