Modeling in General
General discussions about modeling topics.
HobbyTown USA, another bites the dust!
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California, United States
Member Since: March 13, 2010
entire network: 67 Posts
KitMaker Network: 11 Posts
Posted: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 06:24 AM UTC
Hello Esteemed Armorama'ns,

As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, it is with sadness that I announce the passing of another hobby store in the geographical area. The period of 2010 to 2011 must not be a good year for HobbyTown stores as all of the ones in the South Bay are now closed.

The store in question is the big one in Fremont, CA. Funny, I kinda expected this store's decline from a plastic modeler's perspective.

Let me preface by stating that I have been to almost ALL the major hobby stores in California from San Francisco to LA to San Diego. I have also visited hobby stores in other nations where they are appreciated. As such, I have developed a feeling of what makes a "good" hobby store and why some stores fail.

First of all, let me state that I found this store about three years ago despite living in the general vicinity. When I first came upon it, it was a plastic modeler's dream with kits and books that other stores in the South Bay wouldn't have in stock, it seemed as if the owner knew what he/she was doing.

The decline started around middle of 2010 when plastic model prices were marked up dramatically. What would cost $10 elsewhere costs $20+ at this HobbyTown. From just looking at the price tags, it seemed as if the owner really didn't know anything about the business, cheap things being very expensive, expensive things being cheap.

The final death spiral when they had a massive sale of the plastic model kits in Christmas 2010. Of all the kits on the shelves, 1 out of 3 will have a 50% off sticker slapped on it. Kits were flying off the shelves due to the immense savings. Still, this caused the shelves to be understocked. What used to be full of models now looked barren.

I asked a teenager behind the counter whether they were closing and her response was classic, "We had way too many models and needed to sell them to clear the shelves." When further prodded on whether they are going to restock back to the previous levels, the answer was "No."

Rule #1, model shops need to look busy. The more stuff on the shelves the better as modelers love to gawk and make impulse purchases. Busy shelves attract customers in this business.

Another sign of the decline was the attitude of the employees towards the products on the shelves. For some reason, this HobbyTown needed to change the way stuff was displayed on each and every aisle for no obvious reason. They dumped all the models on the floor and started rearranging them. The employees reshelving the kits started tossing the kit boxes around and stepping on them while giggling like they were engaged in a pillow fight.

Rule #2, model shops need employees who were passionate about the hobby. Passionate employees love to talk shop and by doing so, attract hardcore customers. These "employees" were clearly immature idiots!

Maybe the shop had a change of owners somewhere along the three years. Clearly though, the last owners of this store didn't know squat about running the business and eventually got shut down because they alienated themselves from their core customers.

Rule #3, don't sell everything under the sun in a hobby store. Specialize at something. The HobbyTown in Las Vegas is doing VERY well because they know exactly what they are doing and focuses ONLY on plastic models and R/C stuff. The Fremont one tries to be a toy store and a hobby store and fails at all of them.

In some ways, while it is sad we lost another hobby store in the Bay Area, I do not lament its passing due to the incompetent management. It was a matter of "when" not "if".

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California, United States
Member Since: December 24, 2002
entire network: 4,105 Posts
KitMaker Network: 251 Posts
Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011 - 03:53 PM UTC
Exellent points, Y.C.

The Christmas sale shows that there are indeed people who buy model kits and who do visit the hobby shop. Therefore, this hobby isn't "dead" per se because people out there still do buy model kits. Seems like the price is the main factor as to why hobby shops have so few visitors.

Somehow, someway, word got out that there was a Christmas sale and people came a-flocking. Did the store have a window banner to annouce this?

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Milano, Italy
Member Since: July 13, 2010
entire network: 3,845 Posts
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Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011 - 10:05 PM UTC
YC I agree with your 3 points, but anyway...

Quoted Text

The Christmas sale shows that there are indeed people who buy model kits and who do visit the hobby shop. Therefore, this hobby isn't "dead" per se because people out there still do buy model kits. Seems like the price is the main factor as to why hobby shops have so few visitors.

In my humble opinion our Hobby is still alive but nowadays people tend to buy his stuff on internet. It isn't just a matter of lower prices. Buying on the net allow to have an infinite list of items, a lot more than even a huge hobby shop can offer.
That's the reason why paradoxically kit modelling is alive.... but lots of hobby shops has been putting out of the businees...

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Indiana, United States
Member Since: October 16, 2002
entire network: 5,272 Posts
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Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 12:27 AM UTC
I agree with all three points. My "local" HTUSA is an hour away. Took a friend who was interested in setting up an N scale train layout (he already has the track, trains, buildings etc.) and the guy behind the counter treated him with utter disdain. The employee apparently did not have time for anyone who wasn't already as big of an expert on ground work as he is. Told my fiend in front of the guy "you will find way more help from people you will never meet on the internet and the stuff you buy online is 25% cheaper too."
Nuff said.
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Arkansas, United States
Member Since: June 29, 2009
entire network: 11,610 Posts
KitMaker Network: 3,657 Posts
Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 01:18 AM UTC
I agree. My lhs doesn't have anyone that knows a Sherman from a Tiger. Once every couple of months, I may purchase a kit from it. Mainly, I use it to buy paint and supplies. I even called one day to see if they had some stock styrene I was looking for. The guy on the phone told me to "please hold". I then hear him go outside, with the phone in hand, and start playing with an rc car. After about five minutes, he comes back in and tells me all they have is styrene.
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United States
Member Since: July 31, 2011
entire network: 472 Posts
KitMaker Network: 18 Posts
Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2011 - 08:30 PM UTC
I agree with having your shelves stocked. I just found a new shop in the next town called Brookhurst hobbies. Man I felt like a kid in a candy store, isles with kits jam packed from floor to the roof. Saw kits from companies I haven't seen in stores before and the pricing on some of the stuff wasn't bad. Had tons of supplies, PE/decal sheets etc. Went in looking for some Tamiya OD green/Flat black and walked out with a few jars of paint, thinner, and a few kits (T-62,Mi-24,Mi-28,KA-50). Had to hold back and tell myself " I'll be back for this one" as I put some of the kits I was looking at back on the shelf.
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California, United States
Member Since: December 12, 2007
entire network: 643 Posts
KitMaker Network: 109 Posts
Posted: Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 03:51 AM UTC
I live in San Diego and make some trips to Brookhurst Hobbies, by far one of the best hobby shops I have every been to. Also there is Pegasus Hobbies in Montclair they have a good selection of models and paints.
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North Carolina, United States
Member Since: June 26, 2007
entire network: 2,116 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 04:53 AM UTC
I agree with the points made here, all are valid. I love visiting LHS when ever I travel. But I have got to say that most of the Hobby Town shops that I have visited are set up as Overpriced Toy stores with very litte model kits in stock and employees who could care less.
Just my 2 cent worth,
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Illinois, United States
Member Since: August 30, 2005
entire network: 3,289 Posts
KitMaker Network: 592 Posts
Posted: Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 10:59 AM UTC
Interesting thread and well timed ... my local HTusa is moving...was about 15min away and now will be a solid 45min....something about the same rent but 40 or so more square feet at the new location. This will cut my trips down alot as I frequently used the current store for supplies and the occasional model...we all know how often HTusa puts models on sale!!!
Of all the employees there only one builds models...the rest are all RC cars or planes folks and know nothing much more than that.
I'm thinking it's time for me to start finding web sources.......
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California, United States
Member Since: December 12, 2007
entire network: 643 Posts
KitMaker Network: 109 Posts
Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2011 - 01:36 AM UTC
I do 95% of my shopping on the web. I vist the one main hobby shop in my area for small supplies. The kits are always way overpriced. Plus thier main comcern is all the RC Stuff anywy. You have to do your research and se who youi want to order from. You can't go wrong with Squadron, Great Models, Sprue Brothes and most of the links off this site.
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Florida, United States
Member Since: May 04, 2008
entire network: 757 Posts
KitMaker Network: 180 Posts
Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2011 - 07:36 AM UTC
The Hobby Town stores in the Tampa area used to be pretty good. They had terrific variety and prices weren't so bad. Then the prices went totally ridiculous and people quit buying the kits. You could tell because , every time you visited , the same models were on the shelf . The only time they would move is when they had their fifty percent off sale. Then the restock was either non existent or very slow. The stock is so low and expensive now , that the only thing I buy from them is some paints and a few dio supplies, and even that , I buy more of from a small mom and pop store that I go to. All they are interested in is radio control stuff and do no longer support other hobbies. They are no longer a true hobby shop as far as I am concerned and if they loose money and go out of business , it is their own fault for having screwed over a lot of their customers. They have hardly any model RR stuff and not much going in art supplies or crafts. To me , they are NOT a true hobby shop..............................
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Tennessee, United States
Member Since: December 21, 2002
entire network: 7,772 Posts
KitMaker Network: 802 Posts
Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2011 - 08:57 AM UTC
I'd love to own a hobby shop, and I'd hate to. It is so hard for 'Brick and mortar' to compete with 'click and order'. You have to be in a community that will support it.

You also need employees who are there for more than a paycheck. A few years ago I worked at a HTUSA and really enjoyed it. My 40 years modeling trains, planes, tanks, ships, figures, and a few years in fantasy really helped. The owner is a model railroader and R/C guy, and he had people working for him who were hands-on hobbyists. I couldn't care less about automobile models or R/C but I tried to learn the basics and always tried to be helpful to customers who asked me about those hobbies.

The owner/manager needed to be engaged and make sure his workers were engaged. Without that, no business can hope to survive.