Modeling in General
General discussions about modeling topics.
Potential future Hobby Shop Owner........
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Massachusetts, United States
Member Since: April 07, 2008
entire network: 803 Posts
KitMaker Network: 132 Posts
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 12:16 AM UTC
I am considering a move to start a new Hobby Shop in my area of Southeastern Massachusetts, and I would like to hear from any current hobby shop owners, former owners, and the general modelling public. What do you like in a shop? What DONT you like in a shop (aside from prices of course). What would draw you to one shop versus another. I have no hobby shops within an hour of my location and I would really like to give this a try. Few more questions would be where are the US distributors who would work with a hobby shop for shipping.

Thank you in advance for your advice!

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North Carolina, United States
Member Since: June 06, 2006
entire network: 4,691 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 01:08 AM UTC
What i'm saying is with no knowledge of how difficult or feasible it is to do,but ibn a perfect world paint and supplies would be great.All of the major brands of paint,Tamiya,Modelmaster,Vallejo,Mr,Lifecolor,and Humbrel.Also the pigment and weathering lines AK and Mig.

Again,I know nothing about finances of a business,But this would be a perfect world.

Perhaps some airbrush parts.

Research material,magazines and guides

And best wishes on whatever you can come up with,just having a modeler running the business would also be a great plus.Hope it works for you.
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Arkansas, United States
Member Since: June 29, 2009
entire network: 11,610 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 01:23 AM UTC
I'm not a shop owner or operator and never have been. However, I do have a few suggestions. Selection plays an important role. Something I hated about most of the shops I have visited is that they pander to a specific genre. For instance; one shop had a vast selection of model aircraft, trains and rc vehicles but only a few shelves dedicated to other aspects(armor, cars, ships sci-fi). Keep consumables stocked. A huge selection will do you no good if you don't re-stock, often. If I were you, I would put out feelers in your local market. Let's face it. A business won't survive, without listening to what possible customers want. Try to compromise between selection and demand.
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Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain / Espaņa
Member Since: July 04, 2013
entire network: 1,288 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 01:38 AM UTC
Hi Brian,
Long reflection below, so take seat and feel free to read if you want.

First, I have never owned nor worked on a hobby shop. So my view is strictly from a customer (and mostly on line for the last years).

You will have to focus on Added Value. As I am afraid you can not compete in price nor in range with big on line shops, you have to have something that makes people pay more at your shop (but not *much* more -keep the margins tight and you will sell more: 30% more is not acceptable).

The chance to open the box and see, have it immediately instead of waiting for the postman and avoid loosing it are evident, you do not need to do anything else to have these advantages.

Now what you can do:
Create a community, or join an existing one. If there is a club, explore ways of cooperation, if not, make your shop a club. We all like to meet other modellers and talk, if you have room for us we will go often. The more we go, the more chances to sell us something.

Promote workshops, courses and contest. And do not try to make them another source of revenue, you want to have as many (happy) customers as possible. Maybe in the future you can make some money with that but for now you need to spread the hobby and create a community around your business.

Gifts are very powerful but they have to be true. Give something to your customers from time to time, without expecting anything in return. *Do not* give promotional items, this is advertising and is different.

Should not need to mention a first class customer service. If you are not alone there, ensure your employees give the best service and are motivated.

And last, read Purple Cow from Seth Godin. Tribes may help also.

Good luck!
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Wisconsin, United States
Member Since: April 05, 2007
entire network: 2,023 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 11:14 AM UTC
Brian you have gotten some good advice so far. The best is, "creating a community". My LHS is fairly new but seems to be growing even after the long time HS closed. He hosts group builds, seminars, speakers. Has an area set aside with tables and good lights and encourages people to spend a Saturday BSing & building. Passes the hat or sometimes not for pizza. offers cans of pop if you're hanging out and kibitzing. Offer a frequent buyers program. Discount older kits that aren't moving to make room for the latest & greatest new kits. Involve the kids/ Cub Scouts with make & takes events, Pinewood Derby father & son construction evenings. And a used kit section. They buy collections and re-sell them (after inspection) with a mark up but nowhere near list. That makes people come in more often to see what collections have come in and get that OOP kit you always wanted. Work on establishing a good Email list and a web site.
Good Luck in your endeavors !
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England - East Anglia, United Kingdom
Member Since: April 14, 2015
entire network: 188 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 01:27 PM UTC
I ran a shop in the UK and loved it (apart from some of the suppliers).

I aimed my shop purely at Modelers (ie things I would want to see in a shop)

These included of course as many of the new ranges of kits as possible (I dropped a lot of the Dragon Kits as they were perceived as to expensive)and made sure I had a range of suitable starter kits.

In addition a range of popular paints - Tamiya/Humbrol and Vallejo all sold well. Weathering sets and individual pots also went well.

Paintbrushes - some cheap ones and more expensive ones go down well.

Airbrushes/Compressors - I used to do deals on these as a combo - steer clear of cheap imports- go for Iwata Range from the cheapest up to the dearest and make sure you have a demo area to let people try before they buy - I introduced a club so I could show purchasers how to use and especially clean them - also run a service dept on airbrushes (majority of issues were down to the customer not cleaning the brush.

One other thing I did was build models in the shop -always a good talking point when a customer comes in and means you can demonstrate methods of painting and weathering - you can always sell these models on as built projects.

Christmas wish list - wives girlfriends/boyfriends etc will always come into the shop with no idea as to what to buy - ask the customers to fill a wish list out you have to hand.

Club- as said before a club is great way to get to know customers - if you can have it in the shop even better as the monies will flow if your surrounded by the hobby.

Good luck with the venture.

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North Carolina, United States
Member Since: June 06, 2006
entire network: 4,691 Posts
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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 04:00 PM UTC
A big thing around me is the wargaming,our LHS also caters to them with their kits and paints and magazines.He also allows them to have gaming nights and days.Not my thing,but maybe something to think about
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Massachusetts, United States
Member Since: April 07, 2008
entire network: 803 Posts
KitMaker Network: 132 Posts
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 04:25 PM UTC

Quoted Text

A big thing around me is the wargaming,our LHS also caters to them with their kits and paints and magazines.He also allows them to have gaming nights and days.Not my thing,but maybe something to think about

You brought up an interesting point here... I DO have a shop not far from me that caters to wargamers as well. They had a poorly stocked set up of model building and paints when I was there, but 75 % of the place was open table space for the gamers....I have NO CLUE about that kind of thing and I often question the value of space usage. Something else to ponder I guess!
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Singapore / 新加坡
Member Since: May 29, 2007
entire network: 119 Posts
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Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 12:53 PM UTC
Do you have enough customers to support the shop in your area? Some of the LHS here also have to deal with toys and collectables to keep the shop running.
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Vermont, United States
Member Since: July 21, 2002
entire network: 3,569 Posts
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Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 06:00 PM UTC
The local guy here in West Lebanon Nh, is a walking talking ad for how NOT to run a shop..

He puts a 'recommended price' sticker on items, usually MSRP + 20% and then and 'our price', at MSRP +15%.. makes things seem like he's doing you a favor. Even with the 10% discount for the local club, it's not a great deal.

I had an AMPS medal winning kit on display in his case, emphasis on had... left it there a month or two, went to pick it up for a show.. no kit, just the resin base and the one wheel pinned to the base. Either the kit got dropped or someone swiped it.

Owner could not or would not even apologize, much less make any offer to make good.

I don't even buy glue there any longer. He's lost hundreds of dollars of my impulse purchase mad-money because I am still mad at him.
Satisfied customers tell their friends, pissed off ones tell EVERYONE!

So, don't be that guy...

As for what to do, pretty much what other folks said. Connect to the local club, have a good range to paints and tools, be behind the counter building a kit or two, build a community of folks who stop by, lock your display case, be willing to order kits/accessories for folks, and don't be a douchebag.

My US$0.02, your mileage may vary.

Let us know when/where you open, my inlaws are in that neck of the woods and I'll swing in.
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New York, United States
Member Since: June 19, 2015
entire network: 74 Posts
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Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 - 12:07 AM UTC
I will second create a community. Host build days and get people involved, Quarterly contests are good. Have a good selection but not an outrageous amount of stuff. Have aftermarket parts for the models you sell and use that to up sell the model.

Organize nights on a meetup.com board. My local game store has one and he spends a lot of time organizing and getting people down.

If you have a few buddies then try to promote the business and have all people enter contest and make sure they mention your store when they sign up and maybe win. Definitely try to get a small table at a convention and offer specials.

Be prepared to shift your stock based on what people are buying. If you need to double up on WW2 stuff because a movie just came out then cut you sci fi orders for a little while. Maybe have a preorder list so people can get stuff the day it comes to your store

Also keep all your inventory in a POS (point of sale) system. That way you can easily see what you have in stock. Some e-commerce platforms have great and simple built in stock and POS functions (www.volusion.com).

Wargaming stuff game be hit or miss but those people will by paints, woodland scenic stuff, buildings. 1/72 scale ww2 games are somewhat popular.