Decline of Hobby Stores

In my work I travel the Delaware Valley a lot.  You want to see success in the hobby shop field?   You want to se an extremely well stocked train store?  Nicholas Smith in Broomall PA.  Just stopped there today.  Wow, thousands of pieces of inventory (maybe tens of thousands).  Just tremendous.  Very  helpful staff,  selection over the top and  out the window!  Wound up picking up a bunch of stuff plus a pile of craft supplies from the toy store downstairs.  Each store probably 2k sq feet totally stuffed with stock.

In contrast I stopped in a tiny low stocked shop outside Camden NJ, a horrible smoke filled stinky experience.  I turned around and left.  Not sure he is still there......

It's all about being competitive and knowing what people want. My boss knows this well, one of the main reasons we're still in business. Not a huge store by any means, but you don't need a huge store to stay in business so long as you know what you're doing and provide good customer service. For those wondering, I work seasonally at Milepost 38 Toy Trains.

The story isn't that brick and mortar hobby shops will disappear entirely, just that they will be a lot further apart and lots fewer of them overall.  That has been the trend since the birth of the internet.  And it will continue.   Model train sales have slowly declined as well, especially O gauge.  While there is some new blood coming into O gauge it is not enough to change the pattern.  HO has some advantages that may sustain it for a long time.  But, really, why fret over it; things change.  And it will still be there for most of our lifetimes.

The same thing has been happening in the world of RC aircraft.  Fewer people flying gas or glow engine planes.  Hobby shops closing.  But the introduction of great electrics and drones has breathed new life into that hobby.  

Tom Tee posted:

....  You want to see success in the hobby shop field?   You want to se an extremely well stocked train store?  Nicholas Smith in Broomall PA. ...

Nicholas Smith is an online dealer who also operates a storefront.  nothing against that, but i believe this is the only type of store that will survive through the next few decades.

not sure if it's been mentioned... 20 years ago if you needed help you might have visited a hobby store to get some advice.  today i doubt if there is any subject not covered by a YouTube video.

"not sure if it's been mentioned... 20 years ago if you needed help you might have visited a hobby store to get some advice.  today i doubt if there is any subject not covered by a YouTube video."

That's a great point.  Expertise is just a mouse click away.

Waddy posted:

But, really, why fret over it; things change.  And it will still be there for most of our lifetimes.

The same thing has been happening in the world of RC aircraft.   But the introduction of great electrics and drones has breathed new life into that hobby.  

...which is why I'm eagerly awaiting () the impact of current battery technology advances to have a commercial impact on model railroading.   

We (LHS) have lines and crowds around the RC counters...cars, trucks, planes, small/indoor starter drones, medium-sized drones, large/expensive professional drones, helicopters, power boats, sail boats, etc., etc.....all pretty much driven by advances in battery technology.  And  (drum roll, please!) at VERY affordable prices....often far less than their predecessor technologies.  New blood, new enthusiasm, lots of interest/passion....what a hoot!

Same interest in new technologies for model railroading??........not so much.  Oh, sure, there's continuing interest in DCC/Sound, but even that is getting pretty ho-hum for as long as it's been around and as mature as it's become in the O2R end of the hobby.

And the O3R end of the hobby seems to be entrenched lately with 'lipstick' and a change of clothes for the same ol' wrinkled gang.  ......with often hefty price-creep to boot!!!!

IMHO, of course.

KD

I have enjoyed reading this thread; a lot of thoughtful posts with many, many insights. 

Retail has been competitive since the bazaars of ancient Rome and sellers opened their tents.  The WSJ had a recent article on how those expensive Swiss watches with names I can't pronounce, are being bought back from their retail outlets because they are sitting unsold. 

(https://www.wsj.com/articles/s...y-watches-1481209746)

The reasons for the decline in sales are many but basically many people use their phones as a "watch" while others are using the Apple watch or similar devise that can  track your workouts and do other wondrous things.

So consumer tastes change and retailers need to adapt.

In talking with friends who have run small businesses, its very hard, with a lot of local regulations to learn about and follow, especially, if you hire someone.  My local sports card shop, has done a great job to stay relevant, one thing Don has done for years is to have autograph sessions with local sports stars (Seahawks, Mariners, UW Huskies, etc).  You buy a ticket and can meet the star or you can have the shop get the autograph for you.  The vast majority of the tickets are bought ahead of time and he sold them that way as a method to track sales since you can only do so many autographs in a hour or 90 minutes.  Recently, the City of University Place determined that the shop needed to collect an admissions tax on top of the sales tax since these were "tickets" .  Don moved the shop to Tacoma a few miles away.

I was disappointed when Tacoma Trains & Hobbies closed in 2017.   George opened the store in 1985 and had a great selection of trains in many scales as well as model cars, race car sets, rockets, supplies and books.  He had a good selection of Lionel starter sets, many box cars, tracks, some engines and a test track that he could demonstrate Lionelchief.  He had a professional career prior to opening the shop; I believe his wife worked and he was able to be on her health care plan (which most people know is expensive). He was ready to retire, and had found someone to takeover the store.  First, the landlord had an issue with the new guy assuming the lease, even though sales at the store were very strong. George had to also work out how to handle the selling of the existing inventory, which was extensive.  The store hours were 9 to 6, six days a week.  In the end, the new guy could not make it work and George needed to hold a going out of business sale to close the shop.  I see doctors and dentists closing their shops because no one can afford to take over their practices.  

To start a new store or buy out an existing store requires working capital to buy inventory, I have no idea how much that would be for a train store, but I suspect that is a challenge for keeping the local hobby shop industry alive. 

Dave B, from Tacoma, WA, TCA #14-70330

 

Brewman1973 posted:

I was disappointed when Tacoma Trains & Hobbies closed in 2017.   George opened the store in 1985 and had a great selection of trains in many scales as well as model cars, race car sets, rockets, supplies and books.  He had a good selection of Lionel starter sets, many box cars, tracks, some engines and a test track that he could demonstrate Lionelchief.  He had a professional career prior to opening the shop; I believe his wife worked and he was able to be on her health care plan (which most people know is expensive). He was ready to retire, and had found someone to takeover the store.  First, the landlord had an issue with the new guy assuming the lease, even though sales at the store were very strong. George had to also work out how to handle the selling of the existing inventory, which was extensive.  The store hours were 9 to 6, six days a week.  In the end, the new guy could not make it work and George needed to hold a going out of business sale to close the shop.  I see doctors and dentists closing their shops because no one can afford to take over their practices.

I was saddened as well. I was even there the very last day he was in business, and bought my only On30 diesel on that day. Almost all my track for my On30 layout came out there, as did a lot of rolling stock, countless parts, jars of paint, glue, etc. Also bought lots of Magazines and books there. My wife bought me the gas station that I now have on the layout, for my birthday, at that store. Many of his prices were at or below mail order.

My wife never minded going there, as there is still a really nice birdhouse/animal related store on the same side of the street. Still, I haven't brought myself to go to the Proctor neighborhood since he closed. I don't want to see the place empty or with some other business inside.

It was ironic that the biggest item I ever bought there (the Bachmann On30 Whitcomb 50 tonner) was purchased on his final day.

I saw George at the Chehalis swap meet, with a table of stuff he's still trying to get rid of, recently. Really decent guy, I truly miss looking for reasons to be around Tacoma to hit his store (and then go over to the Sonic or Dickey's BBQ not far away for lunch afterward).

Yeah, I really miss Tacoma Trains...

Tom Tee posted:

Planes and boats already have their "layouts" built.   And they are BIG!!!   That is the lazy way.  We fools work for years just to build a small playground for our toys.

The best  part  of RC planes and boats is that they are help making RC control come down in price.

Until we can come up with a model of Dr. Emmet Brown's flying locomotive time machine, we are stuck to the rails!

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Alan MancusPopi


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