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Hobby Shops... Are They Viable Today?

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#1 Tom Geiger

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Posted 16 December 2013 - 07:31 PM

I read a lot on the boards about hobby shops closing. Doom and gloom. Is this the sign of the times... bad economy with people not having disposable income...  internet purchases cheaper than at a hobby shop...  younger people not interested in hobbies...




are the shops closing due to the shortcomings of their operators,  bad circumstances such as the death of the owner, taken over by clueless relatives and run into the ground,  or bad business decisions?? 



Is there room today for well run hobby shops with smart owners who cater to hobbyists?


Let the thoughts run...

#2 Joe Handley

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Posted 16 December 2013 - 07:38 PM

I think it can be a of any of those as a stand alone, or even in multiples combination.

#3 chevyfever2009


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 07:47 PM

My local hobby shop caters to more of the ho train stuff he carries a few kits but there older issues and priced kinda high and doesn't order the newer kits I mean there's only so many times u wanna build a 57 chevy or a Ford mustang

Edited by chevyfever2009, 16 December 2013 - 07:47 PM.

#4 jeffs396


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 07:51 PM

My favorite LHS stocks & sells more automotive kits now than he did before Hobby Lobby moved in down the road. I think since he lowered his prices to compete and has a MUCH better selection than HL, this has really helped him move kits. He also buys collections and resells them pretty cheap! B) Top shelf guy too...

#5 Randytheroadrunner


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 07:54 PM

I had a storefront for over 15 years. I closed because I couldn't compete with the Walmart down the street.


I must have not been a "smart" store owner. I find that statement to be a little insulting Tom.

Edited by Randytheroadrunner, 16 December 2013 - 08:01 PM.

#6 Mercman


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 08:01 PM

Our LHS is great. he can order something for me on Monday, and I'll get it Friday. Also very knowledgeable in all the catergories he carry's. I shop at Hobby lobby, and Michael's also but only for paints( Craft acryllics), and basswood.

#7 martinfan5


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 08:31 PM

Is the LHS still viable , to point, yes, and to a point no,  before the Internet, the LHS was the only place that us modelers could a lot of our supplys,  and maybe if you had a decent ran LHS, even get aftermarket items,( not forgetting about the imagine adverts) but not every modeler reads model magazines.   But now we have the Internet, where 24/7 365 days a year, we can shop for everything we may need for are modeling addiction , even do it in our undies , there is no need to get in the car, and drive to nearest LHS, a few clicks of the mouse, and in a short time, your stuff is being delivered to your door( probably shouldn't answer the door in those undies) .


And most of the time, you can get everything you want for a little cheaper then what the LHS sells for, and in some states, plus sales tax,  and most LHS can not compete with the cheaper prices that can found online, not with the over head it cost to run a LHS .  And I think that might be the downfall, just like with a lot of other small mom and pop business's.  


I do think in some ways that the LHS is still vibale, there are things that are more cost effective to buy locally , like paints and things of that nature. 


But then not every LHS is equal, there are some great LHS out there, and there are some not so great LHS ,  some are well stocked, and will bend over back words, and there are some that act you are bothering them when you walk in the door, and have never heard of restocking, so its going to I think come down to a survival of the fittest , and the ones that cater to their customers, and keep a well stocked store, and will go out of their way to make the customer happy, might have a better to chance of keeping the lights on for a while longer.   Of course there are always variables so we have to keep those in mind to , and I am just talking about from the running a business side of things.


The other thing that might and most likey will keep the LHS viable are the ones that cater to other hobbies, like R/C, but the down side is , R/C seems to always take priority over static plastic models(not at all LHS) , and I think in most case's that for a LHS to stay viable, its gotta offer a little bit of everything to keep the doors open, as the days of just a plastic only hobby store are being coming very numbered, of course, this is just my opinion and I could wrong.


I dont want to say that one day they may no longer be viable, but I think the writing is on the wall for a lot of them, but again, just my opinion

#8 ScaleDale


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Posted 16 December 2013 - 09:10 PM

I shop local out of principal, having grown up in the hobby with a local shop. I buy on-line for stuff I can't find around here. In the Tacoma area, there are three local shops and they survive by having a different focus and referring customers to each other. Hobby Town, which was in existence before the big chain, does RC aircraft and models. Fantasy World has a good model car section but does a strong RC car business. Tacoma Train, well...guess... Between the three, and Discount Models, a small shop that buys kits from private individuals, I'm OK.



#9 Joe Handley

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Posted 16 December 2013 - 09:31 PM

I had a storefront for over 15 years. I closed because I couldn't compete with the Walmart down the street.
I must have not been a "smart" store owner. I find that statement to be a little insulting Tom.

The HobhyTown I work for ran into that issue when we've tried to carry Legos, the Toy's "R" Us I worked.at prior as well as Walmart and Target all sold them for less than our cost and we were all within a quarter mile of each other. We literally couldn't compete, same happened with Dremel stuff, the one of the big hardware retailers were selling them for around what we paid to bring them into the store.

#10 kataranga


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 01:13 AM

Around these parts we had a LHS that was run for years but closed down about two years ago because the current owner (who bought the shop after he retired from his day job) wanted to retire and probably couldn't keep the doors open any longer. He had all genres of plastic models, trains, scratchbuilding supplies, paint, glue, magazines, etc. We also have a new hobby shop that has opened in the past 10 or so years that is doing quite well. The recipe for him, I think, is that he runs the business out of his home (no overhead) and has an online store as well. He also carries plastic models of all genres in his store along with paint, glue, magazines, and what not. He has some scratchbuilding supplies but anything you can think of, he can order. I actually live 1.5 hours away from his store, so some times it is cheaper for me to order something online and have it shipped than it is to drive up; that being said, my company's regional head office is in the same city as his shop so I am in that town fairly regularly.

#11 Eshaver


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 01:36 AM

Tom, our last "Real " shop closed on account of the remaining owner simply wanting to retire . he was on par price wise and wasn't afraid to special order items he didn't ordinarily carry. The place seemed to have all the latest kit issues and was on top of Lionel trains too. Granted , he was wise in leaving the R C crowd alone as there is a "Stand alone R C store which calls itself a Hobby shop here and a Hobby Town which I reserve judgment over today .

#12 Doobie


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 01:57 AM

Here in the UK a lot of model shops are closing simply becuse its cheeper to sell on the net . You have to take into account the running cost of a shop rent electric gas before you even get some models to sell!

#13 2002p51


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 02:23 AM

I think the common idea that kits are cheaper on the internet is a little inaccurate. I can only speak for myself, but the nearest Hobbytown USA to me has kit prices that are, at first glance, higher than the popular on-line kit sellers. Until you factor in the shipping that is. Then the price is just about the same. The situation improves slightly if you order multiples of the same kit on-line, but not by much.


The real difference is in inventory. No brick and mortar store can possibly carry the inventory that is available on-line which is literally everything! Again, speaking only for the store near me, the kit selection there is minimal and they are slow to re-stock supplies that run out. 


And there lies the big advantage that the internet has over at least this one local shop.

#14 Deano


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 02:41 AM

I had a storefront for over 15 years. I closed because I couldn't compete with the Walmart down the street.


I must have not been a "smart" store owner. I find that statement to be a little insulting Tom.

I guess I missed the part where Tom said Randy Earle was not a smart store owner.  I've always found the"LHS can't compete with Walmart" thing to be kinda confusing.  My local hobby shop is located right across the interstate from a Walmart; was for the bulk of the 13 years I worked there and still is.  When Walmart actually carried models and supplies they were never competition; we went on giving exemplary customer service and carrying a full line.  Meanwhile, Wally carried a dozen or so kits and a basic Testors paint rack.  If you can't compete with that ... well ...

#15 Jantrix


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 02:59 AM

I think being flexible and diverse in your inventory is the key. We have a Hobby Town USA here in Tampa, that is one of only two hobby shops in town that carry model kits. He does, RC (all sorts), railroad, dollhouses, models (all sorts), hot wheels, gaming, tools and supplies for all of it, and keeps in a good stock of everything. The owner has about six part time employees. Kits run $22 to $26 bucks and I'm happy to pay it.

#16 Austin T

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 03:17 AM

Well the HobbyTown I work at now is almost done with it's store closing sale. A few of the things that hurt us enough to shut us down are places like amazon and other places were you can buy things cheaper,yes I know with shipping that it almost is even but sadly people don't understand that. Another big part is that a good part of the hobby industry is going down the hole, this means with quality and treatment of the hobby shops by the company. All of those big RC cars that everyone things make a killing for a hobby shop never really make more than 100 profit for the store,and that's for a decent Nitro that's 700 or 800 Dollars. Without toys or something to draw in non hobby enthusiasts a hobby shop will die fast. Going back to what I said about quality if you go to a hobby shop that does RC and look you will see more than half the selection of products are replacement parts, not upgrade parts. The company makes some of their money selling expensive cars and trucks but makes a killing selling replacement parts, after all why would you want something build with quality nowadays? One that I've seen recently is the smart phone shoppers, they can scan the bar code with their hone and have an app that tells them the place with the cheapest price.One customer was bragging about it to me the other day, it's just insulting.

#17 plowboy


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 04:33 AM

Personally, I couldn't do without a LHS and I think there are a lot of people that are the same way. There are things that I buy such as supplies that I literally have to be able to hold in my hands before I purchase. For a hobby shop to survive today, they must adapt to keep their doors open. My best and most local hobby shop moved to a bigger store. He divided the store in half. On one side is all of the hobby stuff: kits, supplies, model rail road and R/C. On the other side, he has his outdoor pool and spa business. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, he relies on the pool business mostly. In the winter months, he relies on the hobby shop mostly. It obviously works for him.

#18 Daddyfink


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Posted 17 December 2013 - 04:45 AM

Our LHS went out due to poor management, bad economy and a bad location. Sad,but true.


The next LHS is mostly an R/C shop and all the model car guys that worked there are gone.


And as far as the viable question goes, only viable if they are the best stocked and most encompasing one around. Little ones can not do it on charisma alone anymore. And the Wal Mart deal does not hold any water around here as they do not stock models anymore.


Our hobby is a shrinking demographic and it is hard to cater to folks who are not there.

Edited by Daddyfink, 17 December 2013 - 04:49 AM.

#19 Harry P.

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 05:03 AM

A local hobby shop is no different from any other business. If you can't handle the competition, you go out of business. The internet is HUGE competition... you can find anything you need, 24/7/365. The internet never closes.


I know a lot of guys look at the LHS with nostalgia, because they remember going there as a kid (including me)... and they attach some sentimental value to it, and insist that we "have to support the LHS" or the hobby will die, etc., etc.


Nonsense. I'm the consumer, it's my money I'm spending, and I will shop wherever and whenever it's convenient for me, whether that means the LHS or online. I don't see any reason to support the LHS if I can find a wider selection, or lower prices, or both, elsewhere, any more than I would "support" a supermarket that has less selection, higher prices, and fewer hours open than the supermarket down the street. Makes no sense to me.


And the final part of the "support your local hobby shop" argument... the "personalized service" part... that part I can understand, if "personalized service" is what you require. As for me, I know what I want when I shop, I don't need anyone to help me.


But that's just me...  ^_^

#20 Erik Smith

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 05:10 AM

I don't have any statistics, but I think the anectodal stories speak volumes...


How many LHS aer opening?  How many are closing?  That should answer a lot of questions.  The brick and mortar model is scaling back - I won't say dying because some find ways to diversify and attract different customers - but for all intents and purposes, they are declining.  


A few things to consider:


Commercial rent costs - check out the cost to rent a commercial building in a somewhat decent spot (location, location, location) and then figure how many model cars and $3.00 bottles of paint you would have to sell JUST TO PAY RENT!  


Labor - yeah, you can go for minimum wage, but it adds up.  That $8 per hour worker has to pay for himself/herself every hour/day worked - unless you want to be the only employee, which doesn't alleviate you from self employment taxes, healthcare, etc…That's quite a few more models to sell.


Your pay - yeah, you have to sell enough after paying rent, insurance, labor, taxes - to pay yourself - how much, or little, do you want to earn?  Do you want a job or a business?


Thinking of opening a store?


Upfont costs - you have to cover operating costs and inventory BEFORE you make any profit...


Your competition?  Among all the online sellers and other sources, customers are more savvy now - they can shop hundreds of places online that compete directly with you 24 hours a day, every single day.  





The HTUSA in Spokane does a good job sttracting youth into the store - but not for models.  Card games and Kendamas mainly - so many kids, in fact, it's hard to get around and it's noisy as heck.