The Hobby Shops Are Dying!

This morning, I was browsing an old edition of FineScale Modeler and read a letter from a reader who was lamenting the closing of a local hobby shop (LHS) near his home.  The sign in the window said “Closing and Everything Must Go”.

The writer was suggesting that the ease of Internet ordering and our desire to use it killed off this small business.  And he was correct, to a degree.

Maybe all of us have contributed to the demise of the local hobby shop.  As a practical matter, specialty retailers of all types are in trouble.  They cannot possibly carry the range of stock that customers might be looking for.  They are small businesses, and therefore cannot take advantage of size to obtain goods at lesser prices.  And their cost of goods plus overhead means they cannot offer goods at a significant discount.

Years ago, I represented an LHS that specialized in R/C kits and accessories, not plastic scale models.  However, the thing that amazed me is the cost of much of what he sold.  His margins were tiny.  I don’t know how he stayed in business.  I bet one has to move a lot of merchandise to make a living in the hobby shop business, and when the customers come in for a few bottles of paint now and then, it is not going to be that profitable.

If I lived near an LHS, I would make sure I would be a frequent customer.  As it is, I am 27 miles from an okay LHS and 58 miles from a really great one.  If a major mail order house will ship me a package for $8.99 and I will know what is in stock, why spend more on gas (not to count wear-and-tear on the car) to go to the hobby shop where I might not find what I need?

Everyone says they enjoy going to a hobby shop and looking at the goods on display.  I am afraid the way things are going, that will be a simple pleasure we will no longer be able to enjoy.

So rather than hobbyists being sent on a guilt trip because we are not at the LHS everyday buying things, I would suggest that part of the solution would be for manufacturers and distributors to remember that it was not they who introduced most people to the hobby.  

It was the LHS.  Maybe they should look at sharpening their pencils and finding price points for their sales to the LHS that will help him/her attract customers and stay in business so that the LHS can bring new modelers into the hobby to buy the manufacturer’s products.

That is not all of the solution, but it might be part of it.

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