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RIP... the Local Hobby Store?

12438 Views 122 Replies 56 Participants Last post by  sealevel
I just want to share some recent experiences with regards to local hobby stores (LHS).

We dropped into a local hobby store a couple of weeks ago ... if you call a 30 minute highway drive local... (Langley, for those from BC). In talking to the owner, he said he was dropping slot cars in the new year since they were not selling. I could see why... he had stock for the Scalextric RMS system selling for 2x the price units similar ones are selling on eBay. But he was retaining the model railway and plastic model kits.

In further conversations, he mentioned that another LHS (in Ladner, BC) had closed its doors last month due to poor sales (even though they were mainly a model railway store, they carried Scalextric stock).

This past summer, we stopped at another LHS in Victoria, BC, and the owner, who has "race night" every Sunday, said he stocks Scalextric parts, track, borders, and cars only because he likes to supply his buddies who come over to race. "I only sold one set of borders and barriers in July" he told us. And he was charging US prices which were less than the Canadian MSRP. (Footnote: years ago, he WAS the distributor for Scalextric in western Canada... from his shop!)

And yet, after some searching on our motor trip this past summer, we found a gold mine of slot car supplies in Sacramento, California... only the second good stockist/retailer south of the Canadian border.

So is this a trend? Are the local hobby stores dropping out of slot cars over here? By the pricing I can see why they would (you can see the recommended retail prices from our local distributor online - roughly 1.5x the USA pricing when our dollars are nearly at par). I can bid for cars and accessories at auction from the UK or US for a lower cost DELIVERED than the LHS can supply (and can barely match on the annual 25% off sales). And our closest LHS keeps minimal stock... prefers to order what we wish to buy.

Maybe some fellow Canadians and our American cousins can provide some insight...
You folks in the UK don't know how lucky you are to have local stockists! You may pay more, but you certainly seem to have the service!

I look forward to your comments...
(Whew, that feels good to get that off my chest....)
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QUOTE You folks in the UK don't know how lucky you are to have local stockists!

Actually we don't or at least I don't. Ten years ago we did, Lincoln the city I live in had countless, well three shops that sold slotcars plus a few toyshops that added to the mix but now all the toyshops have gone, we still have one model shop who specialises in trains like you say he has some slot cars but at silly prices and its all old stock.
I can buy my slotcars online cheaper, with a lot less fuss than bothering to drive into town, I know what I'm going to get, I can get the most recent releases, on the day of release.

This is not just Slotcars either this is life today, I blame the major multinational Toy Giants for the initial demise of the "in town - Local" Toy shops but also the trends has meant a drift away from the traditional toys of the past, it's all computers and electronic toys as decided on TV, society in general has changed.

As far as is it a good thing or bad thing well that's up to you to decide at least the new online stores can provide everything you need all at the click of a button.
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I can see another worrying trend that is sure to smack another nail into the coffin for the traditional model shop. Manufacturers have for sometime been biting the hand that feeds them by actively selling on their own online stores, sometimes at cheaper prices than the independent stockists can buy. I'm sure that several on here have also recently purchased Scalextric Start twin packs from Toys-R-Us at less than trade prices. Nice sweeteners from the manufacturer to stock a wider range - perhaps? Not nice for the toy shops that now have worthless stock on their shelves.

I also noticed that Argos, a major player for Scalextric in the xmas set sales market now supplies track, cars & accessories. Traditionally many model shops have lived in the shadow of Argos, Toys-R-us etc but at peak times such as xmas have survived from the after xmas market demand for additional cars, track & accessories. If that after sales market disappears then so will the independent toy shops.

OK so what if the independent disappears? Manufacturers won't feel the pinch as the majors will make up the difference.
Majors won't provide them with any service or advice though.

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..... and Majors will only stock what they can sell quickly and what Scaley can off-load.

Can you remember the sports shops before they became trainer outlets?
Thought long and hard before responding to this and then could resist no more, In britain we have no LRS, hence the popularity of scalextric, we have several scalextric/carerra retailers who have little or no knowledge of slot racing, only a few slot racing retailers Shaun (pendle), Nic (slot32) and Gary (mre), and I am aware that we lost Slotcity last year, and there are others that run club shops, these guys do a sterling job for the slot racers in this country and abroad if they can but I do think they are struggling, there just arnt enough 'slot racers' in this country.
Ebay is a nightmare for these guys as well, especially as certain importers are selling surplus stock at prices lower than the trade cost to them.
Zen, just to correct you regarding Slot City.
The ownership may have changed and the Slot City website has changed its focus and now concentrates on Scalextric & Scalextric spares parts.
It is providing an invaluable service supplying Scalextric spare parts, something that the majors will never do. It still has a long way to go but the developement of the spares catalogue is growing on a weekly basis. At the last stock count there was well over 1000 different Scalextric spare parts available to order.
Well said Sean, spoken straight & told us how it is.

Unfortunatly the slot enthusiast in the UK will buy where it's cheapest. Read other posts on the forum where the subject has been broached. "welcome to the world of capitalism" is one quote I remember. We all like a bargain but some people cannot see how the industry is suffering for their short term gain.

Every new model purchased from a major like Argos or from a "Hobby Seller" on Ebay or at a swapmeet is another nail in the independents pocket but until the back up you guys offer is not available I can't see it changing.

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People don`t know what they`re missing used to be the highlight of my weekend going into Josephs of Sunderland to buy some slot swag..The way the stuff was displayed in cabinets really got your imagination going.
I`ll still buy from a shop where possible, but times change & as someone else said, money talks.
Bookshops seem to flourish despite Amazon.
I'm sure you'll find books in every household in the UK.

Don't think the same can be said of Scalextric.

No, bookshops are not flourishing Scott... they still exist, but fewer and fewer independents, and even some of the big chains are in trouble.

We're lucky to have two slot car specialty shops in Paris, but it ain't easy for them! And a few others have appeared and disappeared in the last few years. I think they survive also by selling online in addition to store sales.

As for the local toy/hobby shop, going, going gone... I'm afraid. But maybe a few will survive.

When all the slotcar specialists have gone we can still use Amazon as there are some on there too. Just don't expect any support if things go pear shaped.
The encroachment of Big Boxes (like Toys R Us) or Discounters (like Wal Mart) into slot cars is very frightening. They will promise the manufacturer great sales and for a while they will succeed. They will squeeze out the independents through wickedly low prices. They will also become so significant a sales channel that they will soon be dictating the terms. One of which will be a limited number of skus (model variations) so that they can minimize inventory. They will also squeeze down prices so low that the manufacturer goes bankrupt. This has happened in everything from garden tools to cookies.

The only upside of big boxes is that it exposes slot racing to many, many more people. Look at the growth in electronic games.

The future is up to the manufacturers then. (Are you listening Scalextric, Slotit et al?) Sell the big boxes entry level products in vast quantities but deny them the good stuff. Send that to the independents like Pendles, Electric Dreams, etc.

With respect to independents, we had George's Trains down the street from us. It was a Toronto landmark for something like 50 years. It was the store where I saw the first Fly Porsche 908/3 and it got me back into slots after a 30 year absence. Now their is a Subway sandwich shop there and their new store is in the burbs. They dropped slot cars completely due largely to the internet I think.

I think most of their business is internet now so moving out of the city gave them more space on which to build that side of the business. Fantasy World in Tacoma, WA is a great slot car store but when I was there a while ago they actually had two locations, one for retail and one for internet sales. I can see this as a trend since retail rent is so much higher and not necessary to run a internet business out of.

One could argue that it is just progress. Thankfully next week I am making my annual pilgrimage to Professor Motor.
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perhaps we have more locals stores. But they have little stock left and order what you want........and for the price they charge nowadays I can order them better myself. I live 100 yards from a Railway shop. THey stopped years ago with the slotrace section, but started 2 years ago with scalextric only. The trains are core business and he told me he could shove some boxes around Xmas and our local hero StKlaas on the 5th of december. He does this because noone else in our town is a dealer anymore and people want to have seen the track first.
But he told me he couldnt compete with Internetsellers and Ebay. I keep buying train stuff there, and told him he was too expensive with the cars........he knew that, and that was that.

but lets be honoust: we created our own frankenstein, now its goes mad and turns against us. I hope the internetshops with real continuous stock, the ones I buy/bought a lot from , in which I know the owners personally will replace the lost ones as they did. And thats more than 70 km from here..........both.
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In this discussion what worries me is that the Pendleslot seems to be worrying too.

If a slot car store with the exposure of Pendleslot is having troubles, that is problematic. Stores like pendleslot that store material of several brands and have spare parts that we need (this happens because they know our needs) are essential to us. I hope they can find ways to flourish.
Whilst trading is difficult for everyone at the moment, it is the model shops that stock a wider general range of modelling products without specialising in one area that will be hit most severely from the practices detailed earlier in the thread.
Unless the bottom falls out of the slot car market - i'm sure Pendle Slot Racing will be trading for several years to come.
Where I live going to the internet is the only really good option for a 1/32 scale racer. In the Kansas City metro market I only know of 3 local hobby shops (LHS) that carry any slot car stuff. One is a slot car center that caters mainly to HO scale racers and has a 1/24 scale 8 lane raceway. They also have a 4 lane Carrera raceway, but the owner is considering taking it out for another HO track. The other two are full line regular hobby stores in strip malls that carry some HO & 1/32 stuff. No big box retailers in this area carry any slot car merchandise. Hobby Lobby (mainly an art & craft store) will bring some HO stuff in for Christmas - and this year some Carrera GO (1/43rd scale) also showed up. I buy mainly through e-bay from a number of trusted sellers that I have bought from multiple times. Most of these vendors also have their own stores and are supplementing their local sales via e-bay or their own websites.
In my lifetime, or at least since I had purchasing power, I have seen the number of hobby shops in Liverpool dwindle from approx 10 (that I frequented) to 2 (and ModelZone isn't that good, the other is exclusively model railways). Most of those stocked slot cars in one way or another. All of them stocked plastic kits.
If I want a plastic kit now that isn't mainstream then I use the internet and a well known company in Lowestoft. If I want a slotcar then 99% of the time I'll order from the nice chaps at Pendle (which luckily is only a 45 mins drive away on a good day, if I want to collect, but usually their mail order service is good enough).
Local is obviously relative, of the 10 hobby shops I mentioned, 4 of those were within walking distance, very handy if you needed a tinlet of paint of some glue! The others I knew were in the city centre or a bus ride away. Nowadays I have to plan my modelling in advance and make sure I have everything to hand before I begin, otherwise its an expensive (relatively) trip into the city centre. I know for others, even that sort of trip can be beyond them.

I still think we have it lucky here though. I've been the USA a few times in the last 12 years, in the city centres hobby shops are rare if not non-existent (3 visits to NYC have revealed not a trace of a hobby shop in Manhattan). I'm guessing Canada is pretty much the same (didn't really have a chance to check on my most recent vacation there).

It's the same all over, whatever the retail item is, whether its books, records or a dozen sausages, in cities the major chains have taken over and the local independent retailer couldn't compete. A sign of the times I guess

I just hope that we can continue to enjoy the service that the likes of Pendle provide for a long time yet, the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

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i use one local indie model shop and usually stuggle to get a 10c discount even when showing scaley membership card.

How ever on my recent b,day i got a mighty discount on the products i picked up.Then whent on to say foot traffic through the door has been very poor of late.I suppose it shows the hobby industry suffers first when money is tight.
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