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I decided to post this as a topic as I noticed it in another thread.

It seems to me that many of our shows and exhibitions are slowly losing the small trader who for many years was the main reason for many of us attending shows.

Is this due to internet trading or are they being forced out of the exhibitions by the organisers having to pay massive expenses to some layouts which means only the big dealers can afford to attend?

This has, to a degree, led to the demise of a large number of small model shops as well.

If we do not support the smaller traders we are going to lose them.

What are your views?

Regards

John
 

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This is an interesting topic and if we loose the small corner shop trader we only have ourselves to blame.

And Hornby, Bachmann, Dapol, and Peco probably would not be too happy either.

So what can they do about it?

They currently only supply to traders with a physical shopfront or wholesalers and both may or may not sell online.

Time to be controversial...

They should further restrict this and only supply directly to traders who do not sell online.

Howls of protest!

If traders wish to sell online they should be invited to approach a wholesaler for their entire inventory.

Hornby sell online. Not an issue as they only sell at RRP plus shipping and I cannot think of one trader that sells for more than this combined cost.

On the other hand...

...traders who sell online have probably helped to reignite interest in the hobby.

Hornby, Peco, Dapol and Bachmann should not permit items from the current years catalogue to be sold on Ebay by traders.

Its pretty much a small trader v. big trader thing and you get the impression the big trader is winning. Ebay can make small traders big traders one solution is for the small trader who wishes to increase business to set up an Ebay store and go into mail order and expand and compete with the big boys.

Happy modelling
Gary

PS a birdie has told me one big online trader is having a hard time at the moment and shifting stock at cost and taking in no more secondhand stuff as it is not shifting fast enough for the sort of money required to make a return.
 

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Its not just Railway Modelling where retailers are feeling the pinch. Borders bookshop is apparently offering its 17 UK stores for sale because the book market is increasingly being dominated by the internet.

Restricting product to non internet retailers is not the answer. I think the only way that retailers will survive is to embrace the internet and sell on the web as well as through their shop.

The one advantge that they do have is in service and the abilty to see /test run the model before purchase. To me this is a big benefit. I know Hattons etc will replace product if faulty but its just too much hassle posting goods back. For this reason I am always prepared to pay a few £ extra to see the model first.

I am very interested in the model railway retail trade and have been investigating some possibilities. However it is leading me to conclude that you cannot rely on model railways alone - diversification is the key! You really need throughput, something to increase turnover. The ability to commission Limited Editions may be a money spinner. However as a modeller I really hate Limited Editions as in my view they limit choice - worst case example the Bachmann First Barbie 158 which was available for about 6 hours before it sold out! A good profit for the retailer but not good for the modelling community as a whole. But thats another argument!

Russell
 

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I cant go to my model shop even if I wanted to. Reason? Him and I work the same hours. The same for a lot of other traders I would like to have done business with. Therefore I do most of my shopping online. Good prices, no crowds, no parking etc, and I have the whole world to choose from. I have a good neighbour who takes my deliveries for me, so all in all internet shopping has been, and continues to be a very positive experience for me. It was forced upon me in the beginning, but now the internet is my shop of choice.
 

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QUOTE (Gary @ 28 Mar 2007, 19:27) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>This is an interesting topic and if we loose the small corner shop trader we only have ourselves to blame.
Happy modelling
Gary

PS a birdie has told me one big online trader is having a hard time at the moment and shifting stock at cost and taking in no more secondhand stuff as it is not shifting fast enough for the sort of money required to make a return.

Very, very true Gary.

I don't think that the manufactures and/or wholesalers could legally enforce restrictions under EC law - I could very well be wrong though.

Regarding the "big online trader", if it's who I think it is they do tend to flood eBay with secondhand stock on occasions - crazy thing is the prices people pay for it - ofte more than discounted new price !
 

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QUOTE (rb277170 @ 28 Mar 2007, 20:08) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Its not just Railway Modelling where retailers are feeling the pinch. Borders bookshop is apparently offering its 17 UK stores for sale because the book market is increasingly being dominated by the internet.

Looking at the way the big retailers (the book trade is a prime example) have squeezed out the smaller traders with their corporate greed I, for one will not shed any tears for them, when they get into trouble. It's a shame for the people that work for them (not the overpaid executives though) but they have to think of the people who worked for the smaller outfits who lost their employment before the multi's squeezed them out.

Personally, I often buy locally (for any goods) & pay a bit extra, just to help the smaller business'. I know people often have to shop around for basics, but when there is only T**** & a few others left what do you think will happen to the prices ..................
 

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QUOTE Is this due to internet trading or are they being forced out of the exhibitions by the organisers having to pay massive expenses to some layouts which means only the big dealers can afford to attend?

Neither , I think.

The killer is our old friend rising property prices, manifesting itself in the very large sums of money the organisers have to pay for a venue. For a medium sized show I understand this is often well into 5 figures. What the figures are for venues like Alexandra Palace, or the NEC (where exhibitors meals have to be bought from a catering contractor with a franchise at commercial prices) , I shudder to think

Large layouts require larger numbers of operators and a large lorry - sometimes a 7 tonner , and bringing something like Gresley Beat or Ambergate to a show isn't cheap. At the same time these are crowd-pleasers and big draws , and criticism of a show's content being weak or not as good as last time often means (in my experience) that said show is one or two big centrepiece layouts down in the year in question . This translates into reducitions in gate which means thinner pickings for traders...

Discussion of the "right kind of trade" is also a tricky one. There's a lot of criticism of "box shifters " being present at shows - meaning anyone whose stand features lots of Bachmann and Hornby . But at the shows on my patch the "boxshifter" traders are - the local model shops. I'm fortunate to have a model shop about 10 mins walk away , but he definitely does several of the local shows with a stand heaped with red and blue boxes. The shop is in fact under a degree of threat at present as the proprietor has health problems . I'd be dismayed to lose him - is he really someone to be banned from local shows as that wicked thing a "box shifter" ? (And yes he does swapmeets)

Come to that is there anything wrong in being able to buy a Hornby Pendolino or a Bachmann 9F at a show? I think the attitude that RTR has no legitimate place in the hobby is about 40 years out of date.

Is online trading any different , fundamentally , to mail order? Are Rails of Sheffield and Signal Box any different to the Guy Norris, Railmail of Watford, and Fratton Bargain Shop of 30 years ago?

It is arguable that the smaller trader can now make himself available to all via the internet - putting his catalogue on line without further effort - and therefore does not need the exhibition circuit in quite the same way. And many traders are now into their 60s and getting up at the crack of dawn to drive 100 miles must be getting unattractive. Some clearly are retiring. The situation with Fox Transfers is perhaps a straw in the wind

Certainly the banks and accountants are not supportive of retailers who don't turn their stock over fast. And high property prices and retirement bear heavily on the smaller shops. But I don't think exhibition layouts'expenses have much to do with this
 

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I don't want to be too controversial here but if we live in a capitalist society then the market must take its course. If yor local shop has to close then that is a sad fact of life. The manufacturers cannot restrict and they should not be able to manipulate the market; I'm sure EC rules are the same as the rest of the world and won't allow this.
If you can afford to support the corner store great but many modellers have a limited budget and understandably want to stretch it as far as possible. Many large internet houses have good service anyway (it's not price dependent). I presume the derogatory term "box shifter" applies to them but they'll get the majority of my business. I cannot help but get the feeling that I am contributing to the small shop owners retirement fund as the ones I have dealt with wont budge one cent/penny in price. People like to have at least the perception they are getting a good deal.
Resourseful shops could form a purchasing alliance to compete with the big boys. Someone has already suggested diversification....there is one model shop on the Gold Coast and he doesn't cater for UK modelling but he has three "stings to his bow" as it were. ( Model trains; Christmas items; dolls house miniatures). Yet I am able to obtain all my requirements through the net and the same goes for advice.
So in summary if Joe Blogs wants to work out his garage he should be able to do so. A vacuum will always be filled but not necessarily in the way we expect!
 

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QUOTE (Ravenser @ 28 Mar 2007, 22:33) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Neither , I think.

Discussion of the "right kind of trade" is also a tricky one. There's a lot of criticism of "box shifters " being present at shows - meaning anyone whose stand features lots of Bachmann and Hornby . But at the shows on my patch the "boxshifter" traders are - the local model shops. I'm fortunate to have a model shop about 10 mins walk away , but he definitely does several of the local shows with a stand heaped with red and blue boxes. The shop is in fact under a degree of threat at present as the proprietor has health problems . I'd be dismayed to lose him - is he really someone to be banned from local shows as that wicked thing a "box shifter" ? (And yes he does swapmeets)

Come to that is there anything wrong in being able to buy a Hornby Pendolino or a Bachmann 9F at a show? I think the attitude that RTR has no legitimate place in the hobby is about 40 years out of date.

I have no problem with "box shifters" at a show, but to be worth me visiting I also want some representation from "specialist suppliers".

At a recent exhibition I attended (only 14 layouts and 9 traders) there were a couple of small traders and at least 1 specialist trader.
I know because I paid 3 visits to his stand and bought quite a few bits and pieces. I spent a total of about 25 minutes with him and gleaned some useful tips.
There was also a "box shifter" in the form of one of the leading retailers in the region. Now I know that this retailer supplies "forest in a box" at his shop and I wanted some. When I asked, I was told "Oh no, we don't bring that sort of stuff to exhibitions, you'll have to come to the shop". Now in my case, that involves crossing the Severn Bridge (£5.10) and fighting through the Bristol traffic, parking in a multi-storey car park and walking a fair way to the shop. Needless to say I will not be making that trip. I will also make sure that I never buy a boxed item from him again either.
I didn't like his attitude, I didn't like his approach to exhibition sales and I didn't like being dismissed as someone not likely to spend bundles of cash on the day (and yes I did hear him dismiss others in the same way)


No problem with "box shifters" per sae at an exhibition then, just arrogant retailers who spoil exhibitions by treating them as "cash cows" and have no time to be civil and helpful to the paying public.
 

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The Internet can be a blessing or a curse - it depends on which side of the fence you are on.
One Hobby shop group here in Australia is getting out of model rail due to the net.
Hornby in Aust is good prices compared to UK while Bachmann is at least 33% dearer than UK even taking into account postage.
Sometimes postal service from UK is extremely good - it has been known for goods ordered from Mainly Trains in Watchet to arrive down under in 4 days. That beats even local postage.

While the local hobby shop maybe disappearing for many reasons, when I went into one here ( who has now closed) & hear the dealer tell a modeller that bearing cups as used in rolling stock kits are no longer made, I had to interject ( both the dealer & modeller are friends) & say that they are still made & readily available. When questioned by both, I advised that they are obtained from one dealer that we both know in Australia but takes about 3 weeks to process mail orders or get them direct from UK. The dealer did indicate that this maybe true but they could not afford to keep lots of little items that may or may not sell - he was only interested in big sellers.

Many of us modllers of UK who live in Australia know that to obtain the many small pits & pieces ( not RTR) , Mainly Trains is our saviour. Heavan help us if that firm closes down.
Exhibitions here in Australia tend to have traders who "box shift" - , not all of them but the big majority.

To my knowledge, there are not many dealers/traders in Australia who can/could match Mainly Trains for UK bits but there are a few who do very well it for USA modelling.

Ron
 

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QUOTE The Internet can be a blessing or a curse - it depends on which side of the fence you are on.
One Hobby shop group here in Australia is getting out of model rail due to the net.
Hornby in Aust is good prices compared to UK while Bachmann is at least 33% dearer than UK even taking into account postage.
Sometimes postal service from UK is extremely good - it has been known for goods ordered from Mainly Trains in Watchet to arrive down under in 4 days. That beats even local postage. Thats very true. Most non-Australian outline here is sold at prices far higher than the source country. I find UK outline is up to 50% dearer here and German is close to 100%. Australian outline is dearer anyway because of the small runs of models.

I have actually been round the main model shops here in the last couple of days and three in particular are worth looking at here in Melbourne.

Trainworld, Branchline and Hearns Hobbies are all fairly good. They have a reasonable stock of small bits and pieces but for locos and coaches I always buy from the UK or Germany. I too have had packages in four days from Rails and Harburn Hobbies.

In short you have no option but to buy from the internet if you live here. It's too small a market so prices are very high.
 

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I couldn't survive in this hobby without being able to shop online! Number of shops here that sell model trains.... 0

However, when I do make it to UK (or any other country with a shop selling trains... found a great little shop in Hong Kong last year, and another one in Victoria, BC) I can't think of anything better than going to a corner shop and looking at the real thing... so much better than a photo on my laptop... you get to see the other side!

The biggest plus for me with the corner shop is the (normally) friendly staff who know all about what they are selling, often offering a wealth of advice and expertise beyond what I would think of asking myself. It's a bit like the difference between watching a football game on TV as compared to actually being there. The atmosphere is something that the internet cannot replace. 'Box shifters' tend also to know more about the box than they do about what's in it!

Finally back to the plus of the internet... when I have a problem or when I need advice... I can always ask you guys!


Bigdog
 

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QUOTE (Ravenser @ 28 Mar 2007, 22:33) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>But I don't think exhibition layouts'expenses have much to do with this

Don't know what it's like in your part of the world, as you don't state where you are located, but most exhibition managers I talk to tell me that generally the cost of layout expenses = cost of rent from traders & they often feel that some layouts have more operators that required, even taking into account breaks & time to look round the exhibition.
 

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One of the reasons UK high street traders may be finding it increasingly difficult is because of the twin effects of rising property values - increasing rents and business rates. I used to live near a small market town where much of the town centre was owned by a couple of big landlords - their response to dwindling returns was to ratchet up the rents which led to further closures and relocations and the town centre is now just a dead zone of bistros and boutiques, banks and estate agents. The market has changed and traders cannot rely on footfall alone.

60134
 

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Just to folow up on 60134's comment - our local high street is increasingly moving towards fast food shops and restaurants. We've lost our only toy shop, the hardware store and a host of other 'standard' high street shops in the last few years. It is a problem affecting all small traders.

Regards,

Dan
 

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QUOTE QUOTE(Ravenser @ 28 Mar 2007, 22:33)
But I don't think exhibition layouts'expenses have much to do with this

Don't know what it's like in your part of the world, as you don't state where you are located, but most exhibition managers I talk to tell me that generally the cost of layout expenses = cost of rent from traders & they often feel that some layouts have more operators that required, even taking into account breaks & time to look round the exhibition.

As far as local model shops closing , I don't think it has much to do with exhibition layouts - I'd agree with 60134 and Dan's analysis , with an additional factor being aging owners shutting up shop but few new retailers starting up to replace them , certainly in the South (BritHO's final comment did seem to juxtapose shops closing and exhibition layout expenses , which I felt was stretching it a bit far)

As far as the vexed subject of shows and costs, I think a straight equation that "every penny on layout expenses is a penny taken out of the small traders' pockets" is misleading

In terms of show managers' "rules of thumb" , presumably the takings on the door are expected to pay for the venue, the layout expenses equate to the income from the trade, and the profit to the club is basically the club second hand stand + the ladies on the teabar + (if you're lucky) a few hundred quid? At a larger show you might hope to do a little better ...

But the punters won't come to see an empty hall. I appreciate BritHO's feeling that the smaller traders are his main reason for visiting shows and the layouts are something of a sideshow. Certainly some people do feel that way, but for most visitors to the show the layouts are the main attraction and the trade the secondary attraction. We hear a lot about the need to provide entertainment for families and the kids at shows - I'm a little sceptical about the reasoning myself , but that's another thread - but whatever little Johnny wants from the show , I don't think he's there for the specialist trade. A "weak" show is generally more a complaint about the quality of layouts than about the trade (though both are issues)

Basically the layouts are not simply a cost centre and a burden - they generate a large part of the gate. And big layouts with numberous operators are commonly the headline attractions. There is a standing complaint about the smaller terminus/FY layouts that they don't provide much action and are therefore poor value . Again I don't necessarily agree - but it is the big continuous circuit layouts that a lot of folk seem to want

The thing about dbclass50's rough costing is that it suggests to me the level of stand rate isn't the big issue. Cutting layout expenses by 10% would only reduce the traders' total cost by 4% - marginal and unlikely to make any meaningful difference to the equation. And as some of the expenses are fixed (eg van hire, petrol) that sort of cut would probably mean 20% fewer operators. That's a big big cut with very little benefit to the trader's bottom line . Especially as exhibitors are likely to spend with the specialist trade - more so than the general punter

I just don't think that alleged "overmanning" is a significant factor in the cost equation.

There's another side to this. The trader expects to make a decent profit for his weekend (and so he should..) . What exactly do the layout operators get? They shouldn't be making any money - in fact in general they will be slightly out of pocket . (The complaint here is not that the expenses aren't actually incurred, but that if the operators kept their noses pressed to the grindstone the trade would have to pay for fewer of them and so would find more shows viable) They've given up their weekend , probably taken time off work, and put in a lot of time , effort and money to build the layout in the first place. The layouts arguably generate the majority of the gate revenue .

The only thing the exhibitor gets is a good day out. If he's to be tied to the layout for 6 hours or more a day tightly limited in number and viewed with suspicion as a cost burden on the show - that disappears and the exhibitor may start to feel the game's not worth the candle

And as I say , I don't think that a severe squeeze on the layout exhibitors would produce any real difference in the traders costs. To generate a significant impact on the trade you'd have to start halving layout expenses , which means the exhibitors subsidising their attendence out of their own pockets- in the case of large layout that might be hundreds of pounds a show

That said , in Kent and E.Kent (dbclass50's patch) , geography may well make shows like Folkestone and Chatham more reliant on layouts who travel from a distance and therefore accomodation and operator numbers may be more of a live issue

I do think though that the whole ecology of the "circuit" is under pressure. I've heard suggestions smaller shows face declining gates as people plump for the bigger shows which are felt to offer better value. At the same time rising costs of attending the bigger shows (not necessarily from the show itself) are making them more difficult for the trade. Traders are growing old and cutting back commitments, or are relying more on the internet and need shows less. There are fewer local model shops around

This means many shows are faced with rising venue costs and a gradually declining trade support. In some cases the gate may be falling. Club members may be aging. The number of shows has mushroomed in the last 30 years - I can see shows reaching the point where they decide to stop, especially when they hit a venue problem (Ipswich comes to mind here). I think we may now be stretched too thin and recession and contraction may set in
 

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I agree with much that has been said about the difficulties faced by exhibition organisers and the overriding need to at least break even.

The need for retailers attending the show to make a profit is also obvious, but does that excuse the attitude and policy of the "big shop stand" such as the one I mentioned in my last post


Doesn't the exhibition organiser have the right to at least ask trade stands to comply with a few basic "customer service" rules

Souldn't the organiser, in deference to the paying public, take some steps to ensure that the show caters for a wide range of modellers needs, as well as entertaining those marginally interested in "seeing the trains"
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
QUOTE (Gwent rail @ 29 Mar 2007, 00:53) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>There was also a "box shifter" in the form of one of the leading retailers in the region. Now I know that this retailer supplies "forest in a box" at his shop and I wanted some. When I asked, I was told "Oh no, we don't bring that sort of stuff to exhibitions, .............
No problem with "box shifters" per sae at an exhibition then, just arrogant retailers who spoil exhibitions by treating them as "cash cows" and have no time to be civil and helpful to the paying public.


Exactly one of the problems I was getting at, I have found in the past that if you help someone out or give advice they will quite often a) contact you again, or
spend more with you than they would have done otherwise.

By the way do want any seafoam? (AKA forestin a box)

Regards

John
 

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In defence of "box shifters", don't forget that large parts of the community are not near model shops (or an even more dwindling breed large department stores selling model railways). So the only exposure they have to Hornby and Bachmann may be at an exhibition. Having more than one "box shifter" at the exhibition usually succeeds in keeping prices down.

Russell
 

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Yes, Britho I do, but before I'll go to the shop of the exhibitor in question, I'll source it online. I'm dammned if he's having any of my money
 
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