Monday, January 09, 2017

Why do modellers hate model shops?

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? 


Mr Taylor Anthony said...

I usually buy from my local shop which happens to be the retail arm of the local heritage railway. As a member I get a discount on my purchases and get to support the cause. The fact that they have a fairly comprehensive range of railway stuff helps. The other one I use is Antics as their materials range is very good. I save online for companies like Pettite Properties.

neil whitehead said...

I love shops (except clothes shops) and a good rummage especially the small ones tucked away down side streets. My favourite place here (in south west France) is Emmaus which is an organisation which recyles all sorts of stuff that people donate. At our local there are two enormous hangars full of society's cast offs.

My wife and I make a point of shopping locally, Last autumn our venerable old ride-on mower finally decided to go to the great lawn in the sky. Looking online at various big retailers showed us a lot of different prices so we went into our local garden centre and one of the machines that was for sale was cheaper than the big retailer. So we bargained a bit for a couple of extras and the mower was delivered the next day. Any problems they will come and pick it up, fix it, and deliver it back to us. Same with a Pentax camera which was much cheaper on line but in the shop I was given a demonstration of the camera's features and a 32GB card was installed for free.

Nick Brad said...

I am very lucky to have 2 model railway shops here in Lincoln, something I won't/don't take for granted. Unfortunately I am not the best customer as I am generally not able to afford the big ticket items, my purchases are normally restricted to the lower priced stuff, like the tin of humbrol spray paint and length of code 75 flexi I will be getting today.

Unknown said...

Hi Phil, today's blog struck a chord with me. There are so many people who complain about losing their local model shop, yet do nothing to support it. Instead they purchase online but end up paying the same price once the cost of postage is factored in.

I tend to purchase from my local model shop where possible (Osbornes in Rushden)where I can view the product, have it tested, receive discount on the RRP, and if there are any problems I can easily return it. I will only source from an online retailer when the product is captive to that business e.g. O2 Calbourne.

Keep up the good work.


Rosspop said...

I`m now a fully retired old codger so have to watch the pennies. A modeller for 40years.
I hav`nt visited a model shop for nearly 20 years.
I do at least 80% of all my shopping (food/provisions excluded) on line.
So get real.
If model shops want to survive in `the modern world` they need to up their game and get in internet presence or they will/have been left behind. Just like the other high street shops.


Phil Parker said...

But how do you "up your game" when you have to bear the costs of a physical location compared to someone operating out of a Chinese garage? Bolting a web site on the business (as most have already done) won't solve that problem.

But, as a modeller, how do you order a pot of paint when this can't go through the mail? Or a sheet of plasticard, length of wire, yard of flexi track or anything else difficult to post.

My point is that I like model shops and so do a lot of other people. If we want to keep them then we have to use them, but there may also need to be a new business model which involves us paying for the benefits of being able to see before we buy.

Christopher said...

I think commenter "Rosspop" is missing the point. I like model shops too, and it is great that we currently have the choice in many cases to both visit the physical premises and order on-line. But if the nearest large shopping area to me -- Oxford -- is anything to go by, we are slowly losing all the small, specialist, independent and interesting retail businesses nationwide. Including model shops.

I will be the first to admit that shopping is not generally my favourite activity, but I get a slight buzz of excitement to go into a shop specialising in things I am interested in. Usually, the person (or people) behind the counter will know something about the products they are selling. (Sadly, the same cannot be said for high street shops.) I will regret it when this experience is relegated to my stock of memories.

There used to be five model shops in Oxford and Abingdon about 20 years ago, but this is now down to two if you include Howes in Kidlington (which I never visit). Yes, use them before they are all gone!

James Finister said...

As my modelling has changed over the years I've found myself making less and less use of model shops. They simply don't stock what I want. That isn't a complaint, why would I expect them to keep a stock of obscure OO9 kits, or EM gauge turnout components for instance? For much of what I do need I can go direct to the small scale manufacturers, like RT models.

Having said that if I go into one I'll rarely walk out without something, even if it is just replenishign my stock of Wills sheets.

Way back in the early '60s when Dad was running his model shop in Coventry he'd already worked out that they only way to amke it viable was to provide an extensive mail order service.