Sunday, January 31, 2021

Support your local shops!

It's been an odd week on various social media. Three posts on different forums had a common theme that troubles me. 

Example 1 - Someone asks about glue spray for scenic work. I suggest hair lacquer to which they reply "Good idea, I'll check what the missus has and if not head to Amazon."

Example 2 - I've demonstrated a simple continuity test in a video sponsored by Squires Tools. One response, "Thanks Phil, I've always wondered how those work and have no ordered one off Amazon."

Example 3 - A post about a compressor and airbrush uses Amazon links to point readers at the model under consideration.

The common factor is Amazon. Now, I use them myself occasionally, but it seems that the web behemoth has become the default option for a lot of people. While convenient, and possibly cheap if you buy the Prime service anyway, I'd love to see a bit more imagination. 

For example 1, I pointed out that hair spray is available from every supermarket and chemist. Your corner shop will have some and it's going to cost less than two quid a can. Even with free postage, I doubt Amazon can beat that. 

The tester is trickier. I really like Squires, but you have to ring them up - the website isn't very good. Plenty of people prefer to avoid all forms of human contact, clicking being easier than speaking. You are also limited by opening hours too. That said, once you do talk to them, the service has always been excellent and I don't believe you can stop at one tool costing a fiver. I can't anyway. 

For airbrushes, I'd normally recommend Airbrushes.com, especially since we were looking at a Sparmax compressor and Iwata airbrush. More excellent service both before and after sales. Their price is slightly lower too. And Mick Bonwick agreed with me and he knows a lot more about spray painting than I do. 

For lots of people, Amazon or eBay are the go-to destinations for anything and everything. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but that's a shame. Our hobby has loads of small businesses trying to keep themselves going and offering more than just a buying experience. What do you do if you have a problem or question about your new Amazon purchase? Head to a forum, 'cos you are on your own. 

Partly, this is about cost. Modellers will trade pretty much anything for the chance of a bargain, but as many eBay auctions prove, neither they nor Amazon are always the cheapest, it's just that people think they are and that's enough. 

I'm not sure this is anything other and thinking out loud. I can't change anything. I can't even say I don't use big stores, because I do. The lack of taxpaying send me to local shops where I can, but sometimes convenience wins. Just like I eat McDonalds when I should seek out local cafes. 

All I can say is please support the specialist trade. They need us and I think (I might be wrong), we need them. 

What do you think?

15 comments:

Bernhard Beck said...

I made it a habit to check with my local hobby shop for model railroad purchases and supplies first. If they don't have and can't order it, I'll get it online.

John Fletcher said...

Well said, Phil. I actually closed my Amazon account several years ago in response to to their exposure as utterly unethical in the treatment of their staff and their unwillingness to pay proper taxes.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer to use local shops, but they need to get their act together. I don't have a local shop and don't want to travel long distances to reach one so they need to offer a good on-line service. They need a good website, with good descriptions and pictures and prices. They need to accept Paypal They need to keep shipping costs to a bare minimum at cost. They need to despatch goods in less than 24hours of ordering. I have not found many local suppliers that do all of these.

Phil Parker said...

Fulfilment is a tough job. Many model shops are tiny and setting up that level of service would mean more space and.more staff, all of which has to be paid for.

There are those capable of this. Kernow Model Centre is expanding in just this way and of course Hattons has done this for years*. Both have physical premises you can visit and both support our hobby in a way that Amazon never will.

*other shops are available. Feel free to post those who you have had good service from.

Paul B. said...

I have an Amazon Smile account, which means that they donate a percentage of the money from your purchase to charity, in my case the local Mountain Rescue team. But, I still prefer not to use the big A whenever possible. I used to get a lot of my music from there, but now I try and buy directly from the artist or use Bandcamp, that way more of the money goes to the band and not to the big A, important when you're into smaller bands (metal) that don't make huge amounts anyway.
I'm with you on Squires and The Airbrush Company, both have given me excellent service over the years. Eileen's should be mentioned as well, a very useful resource for us modellers. However, none of them are local, perhaps you should be talking about specialist rather than local suppliers (your local chemist could be classed as such regarding hairspray!).

Nick Brad said...

I like using model shops where possible, my taste in HO American stuff means it's not always possible as it doesn't make sense for the smaller shops especially to cater to this market. I did have a happy, albeit strange experience last year with Digitrains.
I was looking for an HO Oxford Diecast pickup truck, I could have ordered online and had it within a couple of days, but as I was in no hurry, I decided to try both B&H Models and Digitrains in Lincoln. Now granted, this isn't a big ticket item, but firstly, I went to B&H and the response was "We had one with flames on it, but we sold it a while ago." End of conversation, no attempt to see if another could be ordered, he just looked past me to somebody else in the store, who wasn't even looking for assistance at that point.

Digitrains, however were different. They didn't have one in stock when I enquired, (this was back in 2019, both on the same day in possibly August?, but I was told that they would enquire as to if one could be ordered in. I phoned a couple of weeks later, to be told they would look into it and I heard nothing more, so assumed they'd either not bothered, or it had been forgotten. 2 weeks after the first lockdown ended though, I got a cheery phonecall, my little pickup had arrived at the store, did I still want if after all this time. Needless to say I went and collected and paid for it the next day!

James H said...

I think wholeheartedly agree about Amazon. I don’t even buy new books from them anymore. I think with eBay, the chance to have a large marketplace is not a bad thing, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a modelling specific service of the same nature, like Etsy for railway models... linking customers directly to small suppliers for a modest 2-5% surcharge depending on scale and service...

Stuart the Gooner said...

Just think about it like voting with your £££ - we will get what we vote for. As someone who worked in retail for nearly 40 years, it currently feels like the grim reaper is airbrushing my CV into oblivion, one retailer at a a time. Some lost the plot and needed to go, some fell foul of the behaviour Phil is describing. In the end, the customer is always right - so let's all be aware of how we shop - e.g. Anonymous, why do you need EVERYTHING despatched inside 24 hours? Really?

Phil Parker said...

James-etsy for railway modellers? Interesting idea.

Colin said...

My immediate thought was why not pick up the hair lacquer while doing your normal shop at the supermarket. But I suppose some men never do the normal shop, that being, in their view, their wife's duty.

Paul B. said...

My other bugbear is China, or rather those that will buy from there to save a few pennies rather than source things in this country. Yes there will be a mark up but isn't it better to support businesses over here where possible than send our money over there? And, why buy 200 tiny screws (for example) just because they're cheap when you only need a few?

Christopher said...

I have an Amazon account, but I rarely use it as I am conscious that it only serves to feed a monster that will consume everything else in retail... I have used Squires for many years, and I prefer to choose specialist retailers and pay a little bit more. (I’m not sure where my closest model shop is anymore.) Amazon can’t possibly offer the choices and expertise that a specialist can. As someone else said, think of where your money ends up?

Anonymous said...

I used to buy my BRM from our local corner 7 - 11 shop. Of course i now get a digital version! Why well, its easy to store volumes of magazines digitally and i can cast the ipad on to the TV which makes reading the articles easy to do too.- He reduced his magazine section by 75% about a year ago - so print is really on the way out for a bricks and mortar retailer. I noticed that even the newspapers has reduced a huge amount (not titles but volumes on sale). Once they were very prominent with three huge piles of Daily Mails i had to step around to find my paper of choice. So the internet is killing lots of bricks and mortar retailing items. On the other hand i can find model railway specialists because of the internet. As i have a peculiar like for second hand or old stock stuff - Ebay is a useful tool to benchmark prices and to gauge availability - but there are many other online specialists who i purchase through. Amazon and the others win not just on price but also speed of fulfillment and delivery. The real death of specialists will be when manufacturers like HOrnby start reducing distribution channels. When you can buy online only through them, Amazon and a few specialists online like Hattons. Train sets they can pump out through Argos and supermarkets. The smaller online retailers will then feel the squeeze online too. Not longer to get product to compete on price and service.

Duncan Young said...

Well said, Phil.

I order online from local shops/ small/cottage industry specialist shops. Most of these have been doing online for years. Unfortunately like HOOVER which has become a byword for vacuum cleaning, Amazon has become the same for mail order and very different from the Grattans of old. Because of lockdown, we cannot go out to the pub/eatery so there's money saved. And that money can be used to pay the smaller retailers and help them stay in business when we do emerge from this not so pleasant way of life.

I'm not suggesting boycotting the big discount model shops or Amazon as we all like a bargain. But many of the smaller traders and artisans may no longer be present at any Post COVID-19 model railway shows because of the urge to get it cheaper; trade at shows would be poorer for it. I have not posted reservations on fleabay- yet- as some small traders are resorting to it as a cheap web to peddle their wares. So my comment is to think twice before you seek loco clas XZmk3 sub class 9m from AMAZON of the big box shifters, consider the small operators and artisans before reaching for the 'e' payment....

Michael Campbell said...

The thing with amazon is the convenience, as well as price (especially with Prime), and in these lockdown times - or just normal working week with kids - remote shopping in the evening is so useful. Reviews can be helpful too, and wish lists mean I get what I want for Christmas.

However I support the model trade if I can. I ran out of plastic weld, silly prices online, so went to Squires (I'd normally visit them at a show) and picked up a few other materials I was low on for free postage. I email a list in the evening and call the next day to pay, not as convenient as Amazon but better value and service this time, and hopefully they will still be there next time I need obscure modelling products!