Author Topic: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?  (Read 2801 times)

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squirrelhunter

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2020, 10:27:32 PM »
20-30 years ago, our standard Saturday routine was to make the rounds of the hobby shops that catered to us model railroaders. At that time, there were 2 LHS at a minimum, and as many as 4 for a brief period. As of now, we’re down to one LHS... ironically the oldest shop in town, and possibly Texas as a whole. It’s a full service LHS for most everything except RC stuff. They’re struggling, like most retailers given the current challenges. They’ve managed to avoid the “crazy-assed ignorant owner” syndrome and respond to changing customer interests as best they can without over-committing too much inventory investment to dead end markets.

G&G in Houston?

James Costello

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2020, 11:01:13 PM »
I almost hate to post this, but I have been struck by how depressing I find the LHS these days.

On one hand, most have dwindling stock, especially in N, my area of interest.

On the other, at the best (or largest) stocked shops, I now recognize most stock as unsold models from years back, which adds to "eye candy" but truly, if I didn't buy most of it (yes, we all have a few "must have items" that we missed, but are not likely to drool over yet another Sante Fe boxcar, or whatever.  I can't help but think of how much capital those poor LHS owners must have invested that is now close to worthless......

And Covid contributes - while the decline of the LHS started in the 1960s with mail order outlets, and increased with the increased ease of internet shopping, it has (IMHO based on a limited sample size of just one modeler (me!)) really increased with COVID, which will also impact shopping malls, office space, etc.   With so many closed, it just seems a matter of time, where even purchasing there would do little to stem the decline, no matter how much you like your guy.

Lastly, and really a separate topic from the post above, years ago on various forums, I argued that at some point, the mfgs would have to transfer (out of necessity) their loyalty to brick and mortar shops to their customers, who for a host of reasons, really need to keep their hobby dollars to a minimum, by eliminating the middle man.  You would think that might be wholesalers, but it turns out that shops like MTS, who are both and worldwide thanks to the net, basically eliminate the LHS.  And oddly, perhaps the LHS savior could be the same delivery technology - order across town and have the LHS deliver that last piece of flex track via drone!

The missing part of this is that retailers - of all stripes - can only sell product that is available. The ripples from AFFA are still reverbertaing across our pond. Aside from MTL and perhaps Kato, almost every manufacturer is still sufferring from production delays or scheduling issues that still effects product development and delivery today. We've only just seen some of the manufactures return to production this year - others haven't - but think about how hard it hit the likes of Athearn, Fox Valley, Trainworx, Wheels of Time, Intermountain and Atlas (who mitigated some of that with the Walthers tooling).

A decline of regular monthly delivery of product was one biggest reasons why Chuck closed down Feather River Trains.... the cashflow just hasn't been there across the hobby shops like it was.   

And then there's the direct to consumer model of Scaletrains and Exactrail not exactly helping their plight.
James Costello
Espee into the 90's

learmoia

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2020, 11:10:18 PM »
« Last Edit: October 28, 2020, 11:12:10 PM by learmoia »
Dear Intermountain.. Please cancel your N scale 4785s.. That ship has already left China..... Twice... 

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CRL

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2020, 11:11:43 PM »
G&G in Houston?

Nope... Dibbles in San Antonio.

dem34

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2020, 11:25:28 PM »
Depends on the energy of both the owners and Clientele. Going to a store in the middle of a Tuesday can be eh... Going to a store at noon every Saturday was how I discovered the Railwire and joined a lot of the groups I talk to daily.
-Al

Ghillieman777

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #20 on: October 29, 2020, 09:03:10 PM »
From my perspective, the LHS's in my area (Fort Wayne, IN) have been pretty lackluster for as long as I can remember. There is one shop that is still going, but they specialize in RC cars, planes, and slot cars. They have some model trains, but mostly HO and O scale. I ran in there today out of curiosity, and they had only a hand full (literally) of N scale cars and a few locos that were NOS. There was a shop that I loved going to, great discounts, 10 min away, could order just about anything, but they went out of business about 10 years ago. Today, I just order off of the internet/Facebook groups, or wait for the bi-annual swap meets (at least before Covid cancelled all of them :RUEffinKiddingMe: ).

Rossford Yard

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2020, 09:54:26 AM »
Sorry, LHS, my apologies.  What I take from this discussion is that mostly, it's not you...it's me! :D

TLOC

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2020, 08:16:44 PM »
Sorry, LHS, my apologies.  What I take from this discussion is that mostly, it's not you...it's me! :D

It’s not you, it’s everything. Folks want quick satisfaction with buying experiences, quick in quick out and Hobby Shops are not set up for that. Folks want discounts and my experience is that online discounts are much better the the LHS.

I am fortunate being outside of Madison, Wi. we still have some very good shops and one great one IMO.

Hiawatha Hobbies is ok to walk into, tight aisles, much product, a couple well informed employees and good pricing. Online they are extremely good with up to date inventories and good shipping rates. 70 miles from the house and 15 minutes from TrainFest.
 
The LHS is 5 miles away, Lombard Hobby outside of Chicago is 2 hours. Monroe Hobbies is 35-40 miles but no online presence but if you are in N he’s the place in Wisconsin. The Hobby Connection is 2.5 hours and near Wausau which are the old stomping grounds. I am not a fan because of poor customer service in the Green Bay store. There are others that I am told are good but I have not been there.

But with all the closeness of these Hobby Shops and a 2.5 hour is fine the majority of my purchases in the last 2 years are from online, basically Hiawatha, Lombard and Spring Creek. Why, because I can see the inventories and I can compare pricing. I get what I want. My LHS guy is nice and will try his best to order from his distributors and gives a flat 20% discount. But, even then when he orders many times his distributors don’t deliver to him. Train shows are not a loss to me as I don’t find decent to me deals on modern equipment. I did miss Trainfest because I miss seeing the layouts.

Is the LHS depressing, not to me but not necessarily enlightening either.

TomO

EJN

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2020, 08:23:33 PM »
I live 8 miles from Des Plaines Hobbies, so no, not depressing. I guess I'm spoiled.

davefoxx

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2020, 09:31:04 PM »
MBK was depressing watching it wither before they killed the walk-in store.  But, my experience is good with two other LHSs: Yankee Dabbler and Nicholas Smith Trains.

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Rossford Yard

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #25 on: December 17, 2020, 01:22:45 PM »
It’s not you, it’s everything. Folks want quick satisfaction with buying experiences, quick in quick out and Hobby Shops are not set up for that. Folks want discounts and my experience is that online discounts are much better the the LHS.

I am fortunate being outside of Madison, Wi. we still have some very good shops and one great one IMO.

Hiawatha Hobbies is ok to walk into, tight aisles, much product, a couple well informed employees and good pricing. Online they are extremely good with up to date inventories and good shipping rates. 70 miles from the house and 15 minutes from TrainFest.
 
The LHS is 5 miles away, Lombard Hobby outside of Chicago is 2 hours. Monroe Hobbies is 35-40 miles but no online presence but if you are in N he’s the place in Wisconsin. The Hobby Connection is 2.5 hours and near Wausau which are the old stomping grounds. I am not a fan because of poor customer service in the Green Bay store. There are others that I am told are good but I have not been there.

But with all the closeness of these Hobby Shops and a 2.5 hour is fine the majority of my purchases in the last 2 years are from online, basically Hiawatha, Lombard and Spring Creek. Why, because I can see the inventories and I can compare pricing. I get what I want. My LHS guy is nice and will try his best to order from his distributors and gives a flat 20% discount. But, even then when he orders many times his distributors don’t deliver to him. Train shows are not a loss to me as I don’t find decent to me deals on modern equipment. I did miss Trainfest because I miss seeing the layouts.

Is the LHS depressing, not to me but not necessarily enlightening either.

TomO

"I can order it" was never a very satisfying answer to me, even back in the day.  With net shopping so much easier, especially with sites like MTS who keep real time inventory and great discounts (some net shops are still pretty backwards, costing them at least my business) it is now easier just to order it myself. And, it saves me a drive, not an inconsequential cost if your LHS is 40 miles away and when gas hit $4 per gallon and your truck logged less than 20MPG, adding $16 to every purchase. Even at $2 per gallon, gas costs even out shipping costs in most cases.

The most satisfying thing about going into an LHS (or train show, especially Train Fest and similar) is seeing lots of stock to browse in person.  I will say, last time I was in Hiawatha it had great stock, but so much of it was old, unsold stuff it made me sad.  Of course, I would have been happier if one of those old rolling stock or locos was just the one I would buy on impulse to "complete" my collection.

In many fields, including MRR, there was always talk of "eliminating the middle man" to trim retail costs.  Low and behold, with MTS and others, the end result seems to be trending towards eliminating the end retail store, beefing up wholesalers shipping operations to sell direct over the net.  I have been saying for a decade it had to happen.  Mfgs have been protecting their supply chain, but in declining markets, they really need to protect their customers in the end.  Covid does nothing to slow that trend down.

Traditionally there have been about 7-8 train wholesalers, only in existence because mfgs weren't set up to ship to over 500 stores.  But, for whatever cut wholesalers took (usually 15% or so) and the increased ease of shipping, there will probably be a time where just 7-8 wholesalers can double as retail operations.  For that matter, I have always wondered if at some point, Atlas, when they receive their shipments in Long Beach, could expand a bit and just send the various orders out from there directly.  For any given shipment, there may only be 500 customers, maybe 5000, and even that amount wouldn't be too hard to collect money and ship to, it would seem.  They may not be there yet, but I can envision a time when they will be.

As always, just tossing thoughts out, if you happen to disagree, no need to get mean about it!

glakedylan

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #26 on: December 17, 2020, 02:07:32 PM »
...
« Last Edit: December 17, 2020, 07:13:10 PM by glakedylan »
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Point353

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #27 on: December 17, 2020, 02:11:29 PM »
"I can order it" was never a very satisfying answer to me, even back in the day.
That was what led me to start buying from BLW close to 40 years ago.

Traditionally there have been about 7-8 train wholesalers, only in existence because mfgs weren't set up to ship to over 500 stores.  But, for whatever cut wholesalers took (usually 15% or so) and the increased ease of shipping, there will probably be a time where just 7-8 wholesalers can double as retail operations.  For that matter, I have always wondered if at some point, Atlas, when they receive their shipments in Long Beach, could expand a bit and just send the various orders out from there directly.  For any given shipment, there may only be 500 customers, maybe 5000, and even that amount wouldn't be too hard to collect money and ship to, it would seem.
The collecting money part may not be as straightforward as you might expect.
Can you afford to extend a line of credit to 500 or 5,000 shops?
What if they don't pay on time, or at all?
Do you ship product to only those customers who prepay their orders?

Rossford Yard

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #28 on: December 17, 2020, 03:48:31 PM »
glakedylan,

Well, I've never found an LHS THAT depressing.

Point353,

I understand there would be logistics problems.  My understanding is that wholesalers do extend credit to many LHS, offer incentives to pay quickly, i.e., a 2% discount for paying within 30 days, but that many LHS are just too small an operation or in good enough financial health to pay quickly.

I presumed that any mfg that tries to be its own wholesaler would need to bring someone in for efficient direct sales.  It won't happen until the cost of a second warehouse (Atlas receiving warehouse in Long Beach, and, say MB Kleins in Baltimore end up costing more than the selling/purchase operation run by Atlas.  And, my assumption was that they would ship for prepaid and/or paid upon arrival, much like our internet retailers do now, accepting credit cards or pay pal, etc.

But, it's more idle chatter than a serious biz proposal.

TLOC

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Re: Are hobby shops now more depressing than inspiring?
« Reply #29 on: January 01, 2021, 10:01:09 AM »
Is the Scaletrains.com an example/model of what you think Atlas should do?

Direct sales and a select network of dealers. The selling price minimum you can sell ST models at as a dealer are the same as what ST will sell direct. Their model of pre-ordering but not charging the sale until they notify the product is in does work for me.

I really like the Tangent method, announce the product when it had already been unloaded at the warehouse and no pre-ordering.
But eventually he will run into a product he can’t quickly sell out. Again, direct sales and a select dealer network.

I still believe we are in a golden age of model railroading. I believe the LHS will still be around in some locations but there will be less of them. (references to Mr Obvious r ok) Covid hasn’t destroyed the LHS like it has the food service non-fast food places. Fast food is thriving, fine and bar type dining is drifting away.

TomO