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I haven't been in O scale for as long as many people on these forums, and I know many of the concerns Ive been having have probably been stated before...    but does anyone else feel that the 'new' MTH companies are off to a real rough start?



  • Killing the traditional catalogue in favor of e-newsletter.
    • I know its a different approach but if your not already into MTH trains, then it might not really matter too much, but I would image a lot of parents buying trains for their kids (train sets) will stop by a hobby shop rather than online to save on shipping.  For example: These are parents who, looking for handy information, will pick up those catalogues to make quick comparison on prices and products.  They are not going to sign up for a newsletter and wait months for the bigger picture. 
    • Catalogues also build excitement for products.  Everyone looks forward to the new catalogue for months.  MTH's little blurbs? I skip over in my email box (usually just some custom run by some train store doing a roadname I am statistically unlikely to buy, some of which I have never heard of).
    • Their (Ritch's) current plan (as of the Trainworld virtual live event OCT 18th) for people who do not know of the newsletter-only approach, is to 'pass it along' by word of mouth at York (timestamp 12:00).
    • Honestly when big department stores cut the coveted catalogue, that's usually the major sign of a steady decline.  Will MTH be any different?
  • Burning the library: selling off pick-of-the-litter tooling
    • Can anyone name how many tooling types were sold off to other companies?  Atlas raided the diesels, freight offerings, and large passenger cars.  Lionel made off with Railking steamers, wood-sided passenger tooling, and more.  Don't forget the rumors of the premier steam also having been partly sold!
    • I mean, what is left? The third-rate items no one wanted? Assorted engines that other companies already have an equivalent of?  Small passenger cars of lower quality that most experienced modelers usually overlook?
    • I mean as a Canadian in O, how many of these sold off tooling will we ever see in a Canadian roadname again?  What's the likelihood that Atlas or Lionel will make a Canadian National passenger car/set??? (much less VIA rail cars).
  • ITS not MTH, but 3 MTHs. 1/3 Company for the price of 1.
    • Employees that are now independent contractors (see Andy Edleman and others), lackluster website aesthetics for the parts/services, lack of warehouse space, smaller teams; adaptable, sure, but does not inspire much confidence.  A sign of a thriving company is usually planned expansion: bigger HQ, more staffing, more product lines.  The new MTH(s) are all the opposite of that with no stated plans for hope in re-growing after a "adjustment period" (if there is, then its not widely advertised).
    • When everyone is searching for a hopeful sign of "its all going to be okay", only the parts/sales part has anything at York October 2021.  Not even a small table or signage for the others.  Even if they are not ready, literally anything at all would have been comforting.  Especially when the plan to 'spread word of the newsletter at York is "word of mouth", and "glad-handing".  You know what would have been nice? Nothing new, but make a display of MTH's greatest hits! Like a museum exhibit of the employees favorite past trains!  Simpler, effective, establishes that things are steadily back on track to your biggest customer base.
  • Do not tell people "Be Patient" or "we are still adjusting".
    • Yes, we know the circumstances, but there's only so many times you can say "there is a shortage of chips!".  What's new? What's going on? Should we be investing in Legacy instead?  The covid pandemic provided an excellent case study of how a lack of transparency or satisfactory information can breed misunderstandings and fear.  Just ask your local Anti-Covid-vaxxer!  You don't need to say everything, but a game plan going forward would be nice.  How about "under our current projections, we are planning to release x number of offerings of freight cars in 2022, and y types of locomotive offerings over the next 2 years"?  Even if things do not go exactly as planned, it would be nice to have an idea of what to expect (heck even film studios do this years in advance!).  I would rather see ambitious plans partly fall through and be disappointed, rather than kept worrying if the company will still be around in 3-5 years.


The new MTH fragment will need to grow to survive the new few years.  Like all train companies, they need to cater to the wants of their existing customer base, but also promote their products to 'new' folks entering the hobby (who are not familiar with 'newsletters' junking up the mailbox).  Fears about the companies direction will only encourage existing O scalers to reevaluate the motive-power on their layouts for something seemingly 'more stable' (like a competitor or a different scale entirely).

  • Thoughts from a younger guy
    • Satisfy the customer base: have a much smaller catalogue of the "best of the best" of your offerings still to have something in train shops (and be collectable). Fill up the lack of space with a magazine worthy 'fold-out' poster inside featuring a blow-up of your nicest artwork.  Cheaper and less time consuming than a full book, but still advertises that its basically 'business as usual' at home.  People like catalogues, people look for catalogues, and some people even expect catalogues.
    • Promote the DCS/protosound system: Atlas already has a license to use the Proto-sound system now, and it shouldn't stop there!  Its a great system whether its a cheap model, or more high-line quality, trying to get other companies to offer proto-sound 3.0 locomotives (even just one or two), or work to get Atlas to shift completely over can easily be considered "growth" for that fledgling fragment.
    • Advertise production of new replacement tooling: When your library has been decimated, get new books! Show that your in production of new things to replace what you lost!  Even if its only a handful that's years off, letting the customer know that they can still eventually get their heavy-duty passenger cars with MTH is important (and not have to look elsewhere). 
    • Do something new (and up north):  MTH wants to do things differently? Start over the border! Why do many companies still treat Canada like no one can afford trains and we all live in igloos? The largest train show in Canada happens annually in Calgary (SUPERTRAIN) but there is really no showing of the manufacturers that actually produce the trains!  Send someone out with a small booth (and some tv monitors) to advertise that O-scale is a thing!  Want more Canadians to buy your trains?  Maybe find a way to try to somewhat ease the eternal issues somewhat of expensive shipping of trains for Canadians (when shipping costs as much as the product, that's kind of a barrier to the hobby!). 
    • Do not treat your customer-base like Facebook:  For a company like Facebook (+Twitter), whos number of customers hit critical mass years ago, their goal is simply to retain their existing customer base (literally impossible to grow more).  MTH is not Facebook, there is obviously room to grow.  Relying solely on word-of-mouth and your existing (aging, moving to fixed income/space) customer base is a slow death sentence.  If your trying something different and the customer hasn't heard about it, Lionel/Atlas/other wins.  If the new customers can't afford the new product, Lionel/Atlas/other wins.  Getting complacent and assuming you'll be fine with just a fractured company because of a large existing customer base, is bad business.
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All of this has been beaten to death,….they’re all just starting out on their own trying to figure out what’s gonna work, and what’s not gonna work,….why not give them a chance?…..if they slip up, they slip up,…..have any of you had a catalog printed??….do you know the costs involved??…..it’s easy as pie to be an armchair quarterback, it’s another thing to be out on the field……at least they’re trying,…..would you rather them fold up camp altogether??…….good grief!!…..another thread full of bellyaching,…..

Pat

@DylTrains posted:

but does anyone else feel that the 'new' MTH companies are off to a real rough start?

The new MTH fragment will need to grow to survive the new few years.

Advertise production of new replacement tooling:

MTH seems to be doing OK with all the dealer custom runs, but I do wonder how long that particular business model will remain viable.

If Mike Wolf's goal is to sell off the remainder of the company, he's not going to make investments in new tooling.   Otherwise, why bother selling off the assets in the first place?

Expansion of the remaining tooling inventory will not be rewarded with an increased purchase price.  It may even discourage potential buyers into thinking that MTH will remain in direct completion.

Rusty

I think the answer is at this point it is what it is and whatever it becomes, it becomes. That doesn't mean people shouldn't have concerns. Mike W wanted to retire and get out of the business and what we see is the outcome. Ideally as we have beaten to death, someone would have bought the company and keep going forward with it but that simply wasn't there (for example, a private equity company, like the one that owns Lionel, could theoretically have bought MTH). Lionel and Atlas bought what they wanted of the tooling, what fit their product line, MTH parts spun off, MTH DCS is its own entity, and what is left of MTH product seems to be a custom run shop for hobby stores and some relatively low BTO runs they are doing themselves.

It is unlikely they will ever be a mass market firm (well, what passes for one in this hobby), the train sets, the accessories, are likely gone from what I can tell, so the idea of mom and dad buying a train set, etc, just doesn't seem to be in their future (I could be wrong, again I don't have an inside source).
Is this model workable? All we can do is hope that it works out, whatever they do is still better than if MTH had simply shut down, I try to look at it that way.

BTW MTH parts is a work in progress, and all I can say is that given what I heard Mike R saying at York and seeing a demo of the parts lookup, I don't think that is a concern going forward, he seems pretty determined to make it work and given how intense he seems to be, I wouldn't bet against it being a smashing success.

Hopefully Lionel and Atlas will fill the holes you are talking about and can keep pushing things forward.

Being predominantly a collector of O gauge product that fits into the "other" category I personally do not have concerns.  95% of what I am interested in that MTH has made is available on the secondary market.

If anything, Atlas's acquisition benefits both MTH buyers and Atlas buyers as it gives Atlas a factory that can hopefully deliver former MTH, Masterline, and Trainman product more efficiently than they have in recent years.

Lionel's acquisition of some of the Premier steam tooling gives them access to decent scale locomotives that can be offered at a price point that is below the Vision Line product and ultimately provide Lionel with a more consistent revenue stream in proven tooling.

DCS being a separate company may help alleviate some of the command turf wars that have plagued the 3 rail world forever as it does not necessarily have to be associated with any one manufacturer.

The reality of today's O gauge market place is there is no "large customer base" as mentioned in the OP.  I don't see that as a negative or a positive, just a reality.

Last edited by GG1 4877

MY CONCERN. I am not real happy with the new warranty. This is  funny that this topic came up today. I was in a hobby shop this morning that sells MTH. I found a railking MP-15 that I was ready to leave with. I was drooling over it in the glass showcase. It was discounted as well. A person walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I asked this person about the warranty. I told her that I have heard that MTH's warranty says that if anytime within a year I have an issue with the loco that I return it to this store and I am entitled for a refund. (since they do not do repairs). This person said let me go ask  "so and so" about that because "so and so" has a better answer and is more into the trains than anyone else in the store. I waited 20 minutes for this person to return. When this person returned, I was never given an answer. It is like I never asked. We made eye contact several times in the remainder of the time I was there. I never seen anything like it. I came home and verified I was right by reading MTH's warranty. My guess is that they don't want it back if it becomes faulty in less than a year. Would have been nice for them to tell me that. This new policy has to hurt dealers that do not do repairs. What a shame. I would have left with that loco but I have to protect myself ( at least for a year).

@jini5 posted:

MY CONCERN. I am not real happy with the new warranty. This is  funny that this topic came up today. I was in a hobby shop this morning that sells MTH. I found a railking MP-15 that I was ready to leave with. I was drooling over it in the glass showcase. It was discounted as well. A person walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I asked this person about the warranty. I told her that I have heard that MTH's warranty says that if anytime within a year I have an issue with the loco that I return it to this store and I am entitled for a refund. (since they do not do repairs). This person said let me go ask  "so and so" about that because "so and so" has a better answer and is more into the trains than anyone else in the store. I waited 20 minutes for this person to return. When this person returned, I was never given an answer. It is like I never asked. We made eye contact several times in the remainder of the time I was there. I never seen anything like it. I came home and verified I was right by reading MTH's warranty. My guess is that they don't want it back if it becomes faulty in less than a year. Would have been nice for them to tell me that. This new policy has to hurt dealers that do not do repairs. What a shame. I would have left with that loco but I have to protect myself ( at least for a year).

I’m confused,…so a second person came out, and neither of you spoke a word??…if you were that enthralled with purchasing it, why not open your mouth a second time?…..were you nervous?….to be sure y’all didn’t just sit there with the death stare??…..

Pat

@gunny posted:

Did you check the build date on the engine? Are they an authorized dealer?

Gunny

I did check the release date of the loco when I got home. It was FEB 2020 so I would be buying it without a warranty. It would have been nice to hear that from the store employees. This is my problem with the new warranty. Used to be MTH had a 5 yr release date cut off.

Last edited by jini5
@harmonyards posted:

I’m confused,…so a second person came out, and neither of you spoke a word??…if you were that enthralled with purchasing it, why not open your mouth a second time?…..were you nervous?….to be sure y’all didn’t just sit there with the death stare??…..

Pat

We did not speak a word.  The original person came out 20 minutes later and started stocking shelves. Another person also came out and started helping the first person to stock shelves. Not nervous at all..............just mad that I was ignored. I didn't open my mouth because I figured they didn't want the sale and I didn't want to give them the sale. My guess is that I scared them away when I told the employee that the store would be required to give me a refund if the loco needed repaired within the 12 month period.

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