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Bill S

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Mismanagement and indifference is a far greater threat to local hobby shops than ecommerce. A couple of weeks ago I needed paint to finish up a project. Rather than order online, I decided to favor the local guys with my money.

The paint racks were half full. Most critically, they were out of white spray paint. White spray paint! An inquiry at the front counter about the possibility of additional stock in the back room was met with a suggestion that they could "special order" it for me. That's right, a special order on, of all things, white spray paint.

That's not competition from online sources. That's poor business execution.

I'm done with that noise. I'll just order online and plan ahead.
I've had that happen plenty of times; they don't stock what I need at the time, and they say they can special order it for me. I tell them I can order it too, but I wanted to give you first crack at it. Thanks anyways. I get that sometimes things go out of stock and new stock hasn't arrived yet, especially these days of Covid, but when its a normal item they usually carry but didn't bother to stock it... tough noogies.
 

Funkworks

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Yeah, sure. But gloss white paint? That has to be in the Top 20 SKUs for any retail hobby shop.
That might just be bad luck. If it happened to me, I might ask them if I should get my paint at the nearest Walmart instead.
 

Funkworks

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Then maybe bad luck in having a poorly managed hobby store in your neighourhood. I say that because many hobby and hardware stores I know of seem to be doing great. I wouldn't know anything about management trends in general, or whether things have improved or not in the last ten years.
 

SpaceDog

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The Hobby Stop in Rockhill, SC was an amazing place. I used to live about a half hour from there and would stop in an buy something about once every 6 months. They were an amazing RC Car shop which also had railroad, rocketry, airplane stuff etc., but no question, they were known for the RC Car stuff. I could never afford RC Cars, but would buy repair parts for my outdated junk and occasionally even run on their tracks (note there were 3 by the time they closed) on non-race times.

Here's the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Hobby-Store/Hobby-Stop-160811150611196/

To make this a long and drawn out post (not intentionally, but I guess its what I do), I had purchased some old, used up Bolink 2wd Asphalt 1/10 cars from a co-worker. I messed around with them in the cul-de-sac to figure out what did and what didn't work, made a list and headed to the Hobby Stop. I bought new batteries (Ni-cad, so probably 1996 time frame) and a few of the missing parts. I brought the cars with me so I could make sure things fit. After spending, maybe $50-100 on the various stuff I got, I started to leave. The guy at the counter said "Wait, you're not going to run those cars tonight?" and I said I might once I got home and he said to go on out to the oval track and make some laps. He handed me 2 'house' batteries that were charged and helped me replace the tires that were dry rotted foam. He remembered the guy who used to race them there from the body paint. I asked how much was it to run 15 minutes (came from a slot-car background where you rented the lanes) and he looked at me kind of funny and said you can run on the track whenever there's not a race.

I ran for a while and spent more time spinning and crashing into the outside wall on the high-banked oval than one should be proud of. He jokingly said that I should probably practice at home a bit more, but I should really come by and run the track for a while and then come to a race, as they added a class called 'classics' (or something like that) which used older technology, bodies etc., so people didn't have to always upgrade to the best thing on the market that day. I attended an event, but after seeing how intense the racing was, I bailed out completely. I wasn't going to crash people with my bad driving. . . they were amazing.

Anyway, when COVID hit, I (like everyone else) got back into some retired hobbies. One was backyard 4wd RC trucks I bought from Horizon Hobby after I moved. The NiMH batteries were junk and so I decided to go to Hobby Stop to buy some Lipo's and maybe bring the trucks to their real offroad track. I checked to see if they were open due to COVID and found that they had closed the year before. Why? People like me that bought online instead of in the shop.

Going back to the Facebook link: First, look at the background picture and see what a cool place it was. Second, know they modified the off-road track every few years adding different challenges/ensuring it was a great venue. They added a twisty/turney concrete course in the tri-oval track for flat track 4wd road-course racing. The big tri-oval was practically big enough to run racing karts, not just RC cars and the banking was crazy. Lastly, if you scroll through the posts skipping the first 4-6, you get to their closing statement and comments. Reading the comments they basically say that internet sales shut them down and it will do the same for a lot of other shops. They were in the business, ran a great store, held awesome events and that is their opinion, so it counts more than mine, for sure. Having said that, I think its practically common sense that the big box stores killed the brick and mortar shops (hardware, electronics etc.) and Amazon is doing the same to many big box stores (excepting items that aren't practical to ship).

Support your on-site vendor if you fly at a club. If not, they'll go away too. This shop was amazing and had awesome tracks you could run on. Those tracks are now gone forever. I wish I understood this earlier. I would have been fine with donating some cash for 100% profit every now and then to have the option of running those tracks from time to time. Instead, I bought my trucks online, saving a few bucks (probably $20-60 out of $500) and this cool place is now gone.

Sandy.

[edit: DoH!!! I completely forgot the thing that relates this to rocketry. . . When I was at the shop one time, looking at stuff, I saw a flier with the little cut paper tabs at the bottom saying something like: "Would you like to fly with a rocketry club, join us at ROCC, flying from Willaims Farm in Midland" and I tore the tag off. When I got home, I made the phone call and then climbed into the attic for the ragged box that I had to get out of my room where I grew up that said 'rocket junk.' That is my BAR story, started at an amazing RC Car LHS.]
I drove by the Hobby Stop last weekend. The building has been torn down and the tracks are gone. Nothing left but an empty lot with some construction equipment. I shopped there for years. Very sad indeed.
 

icyclops

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Hobby shops, bicycle shops, hiking/backpacking/mountaineering shops, book stores, motorcycle shops both sales and pro-shops, the list goes on and on with regards to "Retail that is disappearing".

Much of this IMO has to do with changing demographics. Us old farts are dying off and the younger generations are not participating in the same activities as we did when we were their age.

Motorcycle sales, with a few notable exceptions, have been in decline since the late '90's high point.
Bicycle sales are even worse and when you go to a mall and there are six stores selling the same athletic shoes and apparel along with half a dozen stores selling discount women's fashion shoes . . . and no bookstore; you know the writing is on the wall.
This is what happens when you don’t support your local Hobby Shop...etc. there is something to be said about going in and looking around. Do people really just buy bicycles online and never try them out first...guess so as some people buy cars and never drive them first....crazy but as shops disappear, so will another generation’s opinions...is it progress? Decide for yourself. :)
 

mooffle

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Just a guess on the bike thing, it's a huge used market and if you treat a bike well they will pretty much last forever. There's tons on Facebook marketplace right now for under $100, so why spend a ton?
I have 2 myself. One is a bike my mom bought new and never used, the other my sister found in the garbage and needed a new tube and tuning.

This doesn't explain rockets and hobby supplies but generally speaks to consumerism as a whole.
 

AfterBurners

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Hate to break the news but I rarely support local hobby shops. Its not practical when I can buy what I want online and if one online store doesn't have it I can shop elsewhere. I have the items shipped to my door and I don't waste my time or gas driving around looking for what I need. I may have to wait a few days and spend a small amount on shipping, but that's a reasonable trade off. I went to Home Depot to look for some attachments for my Micro Dremel tool and they didn't have the items I wanted so I was able to get them on eBay. Again I wasted of my time. It may not have been a hobby store, but same principle applies.
 

Antares JS

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Hate to break the news but I rarely support local hobby shops. Its not practical when I can buy what I want online and if one online store doesn't have it I can shop elsewhere. I have the items shipped to my door and I don't waste my time or gas driving around looking for what I need. I may have to wait a few days and spend a small amount on shipping, but that's a reasonable trade off. I went to Home Depot to look for some attachments for my Micro Dremel tool and they didn't have the items I wanted so I was able to get them on eBay. Again I wasted of my time. It may not have been a hobby store, but same principle applies.
The thing you need to keep in mind though is that a hobby store provides more than just a place to shop. Some other people here have mentioned RC racetracks to hold events and knowledgeable staff who can help you with questions about a particular hobby. In my particular case, I wish I had a place to buy E16's and F15's without incurring hazmat fees.

My other big hobby is tabletop gaming, and game shops (also disappearing) provide places to meet people and play games. Sure, I can buy that latest expansion or miniature online, but what good is it if the place where I go to play the game goes out of business? Back when I played Warmachine regularly, I made sure to make at least a small purchase at the store who kindly hosted my games at least a couple of times a month.

Side note, At Ease games in Mira Mesa (near San Diego) is my favorite game shop. Toss them some business too if you're so inclined. They might also still have their attached bar with a selection of craft beer. Lovely thing to have during a long evening of gaming.
 

Donnager

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Hate to break the news but I rarely support local hobby shops. Its not practical when I can buy what I want online and if one online store doesn't have it I can shop elsewhere. I have the items shipped to my door and I don't waste my time or gas driving around looking for what I need. I may have to wait a few days and spend a small amount on shipping, but that's a reasonable trade off. I went to Home Depot to look for some attachments for my Micro Dremel tool and they didn't have the items I wanted so I was able to get them on eBay. Again I wasted of my time. It may not have been a hobby store, but same principle applies.
Very little shock on my part. You definitely are a "me first", "right now" and "it better be cheapest". If not you will trash them on internet message boards.

You do you.
 

Peartree

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There are several things that brick and mortar hobby shops, mom and pop hardware stores, good aquarium stores, and others offer that online can't. One is "I need it TODAY." Many times I have been working on a project and I need this doodad, or that thing-a-ma-bob or everything stops. I already have sawhorses and lumber out, I have my wife's car in the street and tools all over the garage floor, and I need one more thing that I thought I had, but it's the wrong size, or I broke one, or something. A trip to the hardware store keeps me moving. Otherwise, everything gets put away, an order placed online, and the project stalls for another month... or another year. I've had it happen with woodworking, aquarium projects, model trains, and other things. But usually not rockets because I've never lived near a hobby store that much of anything. That said, it's been super nice on those few occasions when I have been able to stop at Hobby Lobby on the way to a launch and buy motors.

Second, expertise. I've ordered camera stuff online but I've also returned it because it didn't fit (even though the description online led me to believe that it would). It would be awesome if I had a camera store near enough to me where I could tell them what I needed, take my camera with me, get their advice, and leave with the right thing. It is invaluable to have a knowledgeable staff that will tell you not to buy those two fish for the same tank because one of them will kill the other. I'm starting to convert my analog model railroad locomotives to digital control. There are literally dozens of options. Online you are on your own, or you post a question to a model train forum and hope you can sort out the good advice from the ten responses you get. But at the local shop, with a knowledgable staff, I can tell them what I'm doing, he understands my level of expertise, points me to the best option at the price point he knows I like, explains the process if I don't understand, and will take the thing back if it doesn't work. Do I pay a little extra at his store? A little, but honestly not much more. And that convenience, and that expertise, is worth a LOT more than the little extra that I'm paying.
 

Dugway

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We are lucky to have a LHS that looks to be thriving. I asked the owner how he does it when others are failing, and his one word reply was "Gundam". He gets regular shipments of mountains of models, most already paid for as pre-orders. He also carries Warhammer minis, Funko Pop toys, etc. etc. etc. None of those are my thing, BUT it allows him to have a nice wall of rocketry stuff from Estes and others, and a complete selection of Estes and Quest motors, including the newest Q-Jets. I get regular Facebook updates from the store showing newly arrived items, and he even sends out locally produced videos with employees actually building products from the store. I'm sure none of this is cheap or easy, but it seems to make all the difference. I make every effort to buy stuff from him before checking at Hobby Lobby and ordering online as a last resort.

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mjennings

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I have 3 in my area one that I've been buying rocket stuff from for close to 30, sadly they've just been hanging in there for years now. The other 2 are doing better but are further away.
 

Blast it Tom!

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I'm at work, so just a quick note: Retail pad space is VERY expensive. Space in a warehouse on the other side of the tracks, not so much. I wonder what that has to do with it?
 

AfterBurners

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Go **** myself......

I'll hold my tongue, but you have proved my point.
I don't deny anything I say. I don't support local hobby shops or vendors who charge ridiculous prices. So where you going with this? What's your point? I'm cheap and I spend my money wisely and not throw away and not pay extra to support a cause. That's right!!!
 

Donnager

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I don't deny anything I say. I don't support local hobby shops or vendors who charge ridiculous prices. So where you going with this? What's your point? I'm cheap and I spend my money wisely and not throw away and not pay extra to support a cause. That's right!!!
Enjoy your life.
 

dr wogz

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We had a local florist / garden center go under. his complaints were that the local Home Depot was undercutting him.. he complained that many locals would come to him, ask advise, then disappear.. (to which he assumed) when to the big-box stores & bought form them..

We went to him for some yard work when we first bought our house in the neighbourhood, and to keep it 'local'.. mainly to build a simple fence, and to give the backyard a positive slope for drainage. (or is that negative.. to get water away from the house!)

1st complaint we had: Uh, we asked you if permits are needed in our area. You said no, the city says yes, so we now have a permit. And with the permit, we need a dwg of what the fence will look like, materials, post spacing, etc.. and since we ere having a bit of levelling done, ad before & after topo dwg to show teh gradient changes. He (his daughter actually ) did the fence dwg, I did the top dwg..

Then, while teh work as being done, broke a limb off a tree, and proceeded to dump about 2" of topsoil on our entire back yard. The fence took about a month to put up.. and put a nice hole in the neighbour's cedar hedge.

Them while we were away for a week-end, they came & put grass seed down. We were away.. So, the seeds roast in teh sun, and was eaten by...

We complained about a ew things: the time taken, the seeds issue, and finally, that there was no positive grading in the back yard. (he didn't seem to understand this..) and came back a few times to 'add a bit' of dirt in obvious low points..

Moral of the story: Despite being local, and in business for years, he offered us little / sporadic service, complaints / griping against the city (why do you need permits) and the fact he didn't know what the city required for our borough / district (of which he serves..) Shoddy service is shoddy service, and that is likely the reason why many didn't come back..
 

tab28682

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Yeah, sure. But gloss white paint? That has to be in the Top 20 SKUs for any retail hobby shop.
True for some hobby shops, but not for all.

RC aircraft and car oriented shops sell so many ARFs, accessories and parts that something like white spray paint might not make the top 100 or even 200
most active SKUs. Folks that build or paint stuff are probably not the majority of LHS customers these days.

Add in the fact that Rustoleum discontinued producing the Model Master line of paint as another possibility factor impacting overall paint supplies.

I worked at a large hobby shop from 1975 until 1980 and was there when the owner had a financial setback that caused a lot of things to not be restocked regularly. This was not mismanagement.
 

modeltrains

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I'm starting to convert my analog model railroad locomotives to digital control. There are literally dozens of options. Online you are on your own, or you post a question to a model train forum and hope you can sort out the good advice from the ten responses you get.
Yep, I understand that. This little county seat farm burg fortunately has a small and slow-moving model RR club with a couple members who have shown that they really know DCC.
Between 2008 and 2013 there was a fellow who retired from the restaurant business and tried a brick and mortar hobby shop for a few years but there just wasn't enough business volume to keep it going.

I think someone mentioned HobbyTown USA; several years ago the one in the closest city went OOB. I remember news saying they had something like twenty-five-thousand dollars worth of RC car and truck parts in stock at the time and were still having frequent happenings of not having that one part people needed right now.

Having been a hobby shop employee and assistant manager I understand that; you only have a finite amount of money you can have tied up on the shelves and pegboard, so you try to stock the most commonly needed replacement parts for the most common RC vehicles.
We did the math once, and trying to stock every part for every RC vehicle available at the time pretty much instantly hit government-spending levels of money.

It takes a certain volume of customers buying things in order to have the cash flow to keep things in stock.
Some distributors have a minimum dollar amount of order they will allow.

If you don't have the customer volume and cash flow, you are done.
If you don't have enough cash on hand to meet the 30/60/90 payment terms to distributors, you are done.
If retail leases rise to untenable levels, you are done.
If your store gets burglarized enough times by by what was clearly a targeted smash and grab in the middle of the night, you say that's enough of this crap, I'm done. If someone's going to keep ramming SUVs in to my store in this strip mall to keep stealing stuff, enough, I don't need that kind of life.
 

High Desert Rocketry

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Hobby shops, bicycle shops, hiking/backpacking/mountaineering shops, book stores, motorcycle shops both sales and pro-shops, the list goes on and on with regards to "Retail that is disappearing".

Much of this IMO has to do with changing demographics. Us old farts are dying off and the younger generations are not participating in the same activities as we did when we were their age.

Motorcycle sales, with a few notable exceptions, have been in decline since the late '90's high point.
Bicycle sales are even worse and when you go to a mall and there are six stores selling the same athletic shoes and apparel along with half a dozen stores selling discount women's fashion shoes . . . and no bookstore; you know the writing is on the wall.
all the hobby stores in my area have closed except for Hobby Lobby and the speed shops I got nitrous for hybrids... In my younger days when I was a climber, we had several shops in a 50 mile radius but now just REI that is mostly clothing compared to the days when I worked there part time while going to school. The times have changed.
 

neil_w

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The nearest hobby shop to me is small, and not great on rocket supplies. And he doesn't carry any hazmat motors, which would be the biggest reason for me to make a trip there and spend money.

There's another hobby shop further away (https://fandmhobbies.com/) that is advertising Estes E and F motors on its website in addition to a bunch of Aerotech stuff; last time I was there (years ago) I don't recall seeing any of that. I don't know if I wasn't paying attention then or if they've expanded. I'll have to go back sometime and check them out next time I'm in the area.
 

Scott_650

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Our LHS closed a couple years ago due to the owner’s retirement, he made an effort to sell the shop on but evidently didn’t get any takers. It was a general purpose shop with a little bit of everything - primarily model railroading, slot cars, plastic models and model planes. There was a couple big for our population r/c oriented shops in the area so he was never heavy into that. He carried model rocketry basics - Estes and Quest sets, kits and motors. What he did have plenty of was hobby hardware - tiny nuts, bolts, screws, plastic structural stuff, wood, glues, paints, etc. Back when I did model railroading (very badly, by the way) I bought stuff from him rather than mail order because I was never quite sure what I needed to do what I planned.

He helped me out in a big way a few years ago when I needed an Estes C11 motor for a school demo flight.

I think our up-and-down economic situation along with e-commerce and the shift in demographics pretty much spells the end for brick and mortar LHS, at least in low-density population areas. Like the saying goes, the best way to make a million bucks in the hobby shop business is to start with two million...
 

modeltrains

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I think our up-and-down economic situation along with e-commerce and the shift in demographics pretty much spells the end for brick and mortar LHS, at least in low-density population areas.
Yep.
Demographics can do that.

Brings to mind this from several years ago, https://www.icis.com/chemicals-and-...try-crisis-fewer-babies-born-developed-world/
But the example of the global toy market highlights the paradigm shift underway:
  • In 1950, there were 83m children aged between 0 – 4 years in the wealthy developed regions of the world
  • They were 10% of the total population, according to the UN Population Division.
  • But their numbers then peaked at 89m in 1960, as fertility rates began to decline
  • Today there are only 70m in this age range, and they are just 6% of the population
Unsurprisingly, the world’s toymakers are now struggling as a result. Those children who are alive are certainly still playing with toys – many play with electronic games as well as traditional toys.

But demographics drive demand. So the market is already much smaller, and is continuing to decline. Thus profits at former high-flying giant ‘Toys-R-Us have halved since 2009, whilst Mattel is suffering due to lower sales of Barbie dolls.
Yeah, the author likely has a point there,

Its hard to sell toys to children who haven’t been born.
 
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