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  1. #1
    AraTidwell's Avatar
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    The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    Guys,

    I just spent 30 minutes giving my peace of mind about the situation here, and the IE spell check didn't work and erased all my data.

    Here's the short version:

    I just found out, one of my favorite hobby shops, Model Works, in Tulsa, OK is going out of business. This was an aircraft only hobby shop that did not sell any "general hobby" items, that frequently keep shops in business.

    I have some idea about the hobby business because I worked at a really good hobby shop near Austin, TX for several years.

    The hobby shop I worked at was a very good hobby shop backed by an owner that was an international 767 captian for Delta. I'm just guessing it it took him about 5-6 years to turn a profit, but he had a really nice shop in a good area that earned a lot of very loyal customers. He shut down the shop about the same time he retired from Delta, I'm thinking he just didn't want to mess with it anymore.

    I don't know the Model Works story, but while its pretty admirable to open an aircraft only shop, but from my first visit I really wondered in the back of my head how they didn't lose money.

    Now, this may not be the direct cause, but the beef I have is with Hobbico/Great Planes/Tower Hobbies. Margins on popular RC products are very slim. Subtract 25% from the street price of airframes, radios, servos and eletronics, that is about what your hobby shop pays for the item.

    Horizon in the past actually advised customers in their publications to support their local hobby retailer first and order from Horizon secondary. Tower Hobbies never did this. Now seems to be worse than ever. I frequently get emails for huge temporary price drops in products that are far beyond the 25% margin local hobby shops work on, and on almost a weekly basis offer discounts of up to 15% as well as free shipping on orders over $99.

    I personally boycott all Hobbico/GP products I possibly can for this reason. I don't like the company and you wont see me say anything good about them. It really bothers me when they pick up exclusive distrobution rights and play their games. There are some great manufacturs out there, say Thunder Tiger for example that in my eyes are getting blood on their hands by partnering with GP/Hobbico. It is an accepted practice among the RC community for distrobuters to have retail online businesses... I personally think they should pick one or the other, but its probably does the hobby good because it gives the parent companies more R&D capability. Horizon does a pretty good job at this if you ask me. They set their street prices and you can get the same deal at a local hobby shop as you can from Horizon Hobby, always. Hobbico/GP/Tower goes out of their way to compete with local hobby shops by offering deals and discounts that are impossible to match. I really think this is a pretty unethical practice for a distrobuter. And ironically, the Horizon R&D team to me appears to be a lot stronger!

    Just my opinion, I would like to hear others too. And sorry, no spell check, it deleted all my text last time I tried it.
    THIS PILOT OBEYS THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
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  2. #2
    scale only 4 me's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    You session probably timed out,, get in the habit of Copying and re-pasting when making long posts.

    about shop closures??

    You know,, I may get flamed on this but the shops around here have nothing in stock for me ever, so unless I need some very basic items, glue, hardware, etc I drive the 20 miles to the shop just to burn gas.. Last time I drove over because I needed a new fuel pump and a 13-8 prop. A pretty basic items right?? Nothing. Now if I want a RTR car/truck or a parkzone RTF foam POS they have plenty of those. But very little for a modeler/builder,, they've become overpriced Toy Stores for the most part.

    I called the same store over a week ago to ask about getting a Club 40 racer ordered, the lady said the Guy in Charge of that would call me back, they haven't called me, He should have called me the next day,, what do I have to beg??

    It's sad and maybe just the evolution of the hobby,,, but I make 99% of my purchases online now,, Better deals and I don't have to deal with the disappointments on what I need never in stock. And no crappy customer service to deal with.

    Believe me, I'm with you in spirit,, I wish there was a decent store near by I could support
    You're so smart,, you figured out how to read this!! Or maybe ya just got lucky??

  3. #3

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    The main reason hobby shops, particularly those that deal in mostly, if not all RC aircraft products, are going the way of the Dodo bird, is there simply aren't enough folks in the hobby/sport. The more hobby shops that go out of business, the more business mail-order will get. Then there are those who see they may save a penny (or dollar) or two by buying mail-order and can't figure out why their LHS closed. Then they have no choice but to buy from Towers or Horizon.

    BTW, speaking of Horizon, I run a small hobby shop and tried to get Horizon's account. They told me I would have to buy $15,000 worth of products from them and GUARANTEE $500 of monthly sales to get their dealer account. Guess I won't be dealing in Horizon products. lol Locally, 3 hobby shops that dealt in Horizon products recently went out of business.

    Like I said, I run a small hobby shop and recently, a new customer came in and commented on how small my shop is. I said, "I guess I should be as big as the local HobbyTown USA". Then went on to inform him that the very large local HobbyTown USA recently went out of business.

    With apologies to Smokey the Bear, The hobby shop you save, might be your own. lol Or, SUPPORT YOU LOCAL HOBBY SHOP SO IT WILL BE THERE WHEN YOU NEED IT. Of course that won't mean much to the penny pinchers in the hobby. I do give them some slack as that the public isn't aware of the abysmal (10%) profit margin all hobby shop owners have to deal with. That, and the fact the tiny, tiny, customer base in the US, as compared to the 320,000,000 population. It's a wonder that there are any LHS's still in existence. I love the customer who comes in with their Tower's catalogue and demands that I match or better Tower's prices. Towers/Great Planes/Hobbico is my supplier and my competition. If I dare charge more than my supplier/competiton, I'm accused of "ripping off" customers. I'm just lucky that I don't have to make a living in this business. lol

    fliers1
    www.abchobbyshop.com- information

  4. #4

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I agree to an extent, I'm not that far from three Hobby stores one five min from my house the other two are a half hour away. I do love to support the LHS because there is nothing like going into the store and talking shop, and finding other hobby materials that you may need. hey i can pick up the latest magazine while im there to.

    "But" one hobby store i have spent lets say LOTS of monies in there they know my name, i can even go behind the counter when hes busy and get the key to the case when he's busy with others. the draw back is when you order some stuff and i usually order a few at a time, he checks stock/availability.. and proceeds to tell me in about a week they will be in could have done the same online but no person to person contact right? well in more cases dealing with this LHS the part does'nt get ordered for a week and it takes 2 weeks to arrive and i paid for it when i ordered it,

    The LHS right around the corner really like five min away great place little indoor track smaller pan cars 1/18 scale stuff cool winter racing same deal they know my name i dont go behind the counter but i know my way around, really freindly, but there's a down side if i need an item thats not in stock i have to bring the part number so they can look it up in the system, hey i might as well buy it on line myself. "man... i'm here to soak up some customer service" and there comming up short there i do have to say the parts do come in on time.

    The lastest one was started here not far from my house but have grown and moved a half hour to 40 mins away started going out there for my latest projects parts. They did a very nice job out there a few different tracks hey dude even let me use his laptop to get part numbers. they had plenty of people on hand to help out, very cool place.

    I think that's the direction our hobbystores need to go into making sure your complex can provide a space for customers and passers by to go purchase and play with good customer service. Now thats the ticket. Its too bad you guys are going by the wayside but with some of the deals and different aftermarket parts available online how can we support the non-functioning LHS.

    Dude hang in there!! we are out here there may not be many of us in one location but we are out there RC is'nt going anywhere.
    A stop your belly aching and pull the trigger and kick some assfault

  5. #5

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    Thank you on behalf on US. It is a constent struggle to stay open. I do it because I love the hobby and this is a avnue for the new people to learn. I build in the back so my customers can see what I do, and tell me what I do wrong LOL. Coffee is always on and a table for lunch. You don't have to buy anything to spend time here.
    I help anyboby that come thru the door even if i didn't sell it. ie: Banana hobby, red cat racing. What I want is to see a new pilot learn to fly. I spend time with the schools in the area teaching.
    I know i can't carry everything all i ask is a shot at it. Even if I can't get it I will find out where you can and at the best price.
    Let me tell you a story one of my customers related to me.
    while he was on a trip he stoped in a LHS and told me how big it was with stuff fllor to cealing anything you whated and kits he hasn't seen in years. He told me he spent hours looking around and wondered why I didn't have more like him. When I asked him how much he spent he said "nothing" when I asked why? he said "I couldn't find anything new.
    you buy stuff and it sits to the point you need to dump it at a loss to make room for othing things. So me wanted to me load up the store with things that won't sell just so he could look. when I could have it here in 2 days with no shipping.
    What I can do that no other webstore can do is call for you. I've been here long enough that i know all the tech guys from both companies and most of the time they will take my word and ship the part right to the customer without them sending it to them first. Thats a service only i can do ond it's FREE.
    I even helped here with problems by making phone calls for RCU members I don't know.
    I could go on but I'll stop now. Dennis
    DadstoysRC. I fly what I sell
    CD Vette City Big Bird

  6. #6
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    Would you ever open a grocery store that only sold fruits and vegetables?

    Your LHS owner has a lot to learn about business. It's wonderful if you can cater to one specific group, but you can only do that if that group is very large and spends a lot of money - Alas, we modelers are usually cheapskates.

    This is why most hobby shops also carry toys, games, trains, etc
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  7. #7

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    How do you end up with a hobby shop that's worth $250,000? Start with $1,000,000....

    Tower/Great Planes/Hobbico started about as small as possible - but with a new approach to the hobby business. When I was in college, they manned the phones 24/7. Tower stocked far more than any LHS and their catalog was a wealth of knowledge. Their customer service was exceptional, and is still very good.

    Local hobby shops are often staffed by kids and codgers. Generally, the kids are pretty sharp on the cars, and the codgers vary widely on airplanes - some of 'em seem angry at customers who want to buy an ARF, others only want to sell their personal favorites, many lack listening skills....

    Many local hobby shops are themselves hobbies, not businesses. They lack the financial backing to invest in both inventory and personnel. Why should I go there, with my list of part numbers, place an order, wait longer to get it, drive back, AND pay MORE for the experience? I can go online at midnite, place the order, pay the same or up to 25% less, avoid the 8.25% sales tax, and it'll be sitting at my door just about as soon as it would be at the LHS - which closes early.

    I recently priced out an order at Tower. Seven channel radio, couple of kits, engines, hardware, covering - a little over $1000 at Tower, less a $100 discount. Took the printout to the new LHS and asked him to compare it at his leisure. He called me back the next day - with the discount, Tower was below his cost.

    To be competitive in the hobby business today requires enough capital to be able to stock the store, hire and keep good people, and price aggressively so that volume will be high enough to qualify for the biggest discounts from vendors - which requires a large market, and taking business away from Tower, Horizon, Hobby People, etc. I've seen some folks be successful at it, but there are lots of ways to earn a better return on your money. Even the guys who are making money at it burn out.

    Trent Combs
    Fly \'em until the last piece stops!

  8. #8

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I would think the bread and butter of the local hobby shop is the small purchases, stuff you wouldn't want to bother ordering. I mainly buy fuel, hardware, props and wood at mine. I check out the consignments and would buy one if I wanted it, but to buy a new plane, engine, and flight pack from the LHS would cost me about $100 extra.
    No kid, I said break ground and fly into the wind!

  9. #9
    AraTidwell's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    The only hobby shops I have seen that have made it meet two criteria. Great location in a populated area, and a large dedication to "general hobby and crafts" on the other side of the shop.

    But with Tower frequently (always/) offering 15% discounts and two-day specials on select products at prices below dealer cost, it is even getting harder.

    If I owned a hobby shop, I wouldn't sell anything GP distrobuted. I would tell them if they really wanted it to get it from Tower, they have a good chance of snagging the item below dealer cost.
    THIS PILOT OBEYS THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
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    Science saved my soul
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

  10. #10

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I would think if you owned a hobby shop and refused to carry any products from one of the main hobby dist's in the country you would be doing yourself
    a disservice in fact I think a local hobby shop should carry all the popular products from all the hobby distributors in order to be sucessful.
    Ira d

  11. #11
    AraTidwell's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust


    ORIGINAL: ira d

    I would think if you owned a hobby shop and refused to carry any products from one of the main hobby dist's in the country you would be doing yourself
    a disservice in fact I think a local hobby shop should carry all the popular products from all the hobby distributors in order to be sucessful.
    Why would my customers buy those products from me anyway, when they can get them way cheaper via Tower discounts?

    The full line of Du-bro hardware and Hitec is distrobuted by Horizon also.
    THIS PILOT OBEYS THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
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    Science saved my soul
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

  12. #12
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust


    ORIGINAL: AraTidwell

    Why would my customers buy those products from me anyway, when they can get them way cheaper via Tower discounts?
    Well, let's see... I need a spinner and some MonoKote. I can call Tower and have it in a week, or I can go to my LHS and have it in an hour. So I drive to my LHS and the guy says, "I don't carry anything Tower sells. You're S.O.L. - Have a nice day"

    That's the last time I go to THAT hobby shop.
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  13. #13

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    What I do that my "competition" cannot do is offer literally everyone who comes through my doors the opportunity to fly my LT-40 and Raptor 30 helicopter. If they already have an airplane or helicopter, I offer them flight instruction. It usually only takes a couple of hours (same day) of instruction so they can fly safely on their own. I give everyone indoor heli instruction with my electric helis all year around. BTW, all of this instruction/promoting is free.

    We have a very large and mostly unused flying field 3 miles from my shop, that way I can give anyone who comes in, whether they were looking to fly or not. Many come in just to look around and most either claim to have no interest in flying RC aircraft. I found out that claim was simply of fear of failure, i.e., crashing. If they are so reluctant to actually take the controls, I simply ask them if they would like to watch and not fly. Once I get them out to the field and the plane in the air, I pull their hands out of their pockets and make them take the tx. The first thing I tell them is to put their thumb on top of the aileron/elevator stick and NOT do anything. Trainers will fly very well on their own. Once they realize this, they tend to relax, which makes it a lot easier to show them that learning to fly RC airplanes is really not all that difficult, in fact, quite easy, for the most part.

    Once they realize that the airplane will not crash once they take the sticks, I made a new sale. If they want to eventually want to fly a scale airplane, I explain how I can help them with the transition to most any type of warbird. Often times, they will not only buy a trainer, but also a warbird, kit or ARF. This is how I keep my doors open. Works extremely well.

    fliers1
    www.abchobbyshop.com- information

  14. #14

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I live on long island,ny. I'm still baffled by the lack of a good shop anywhere. I've been in the hobby now for 20 years and for many of those years was lucky enough to have a great shop (Monroe, ny) that I spent all my money at. It was owned by a guy that ran it as a side business, he was the airplane guy and his son the car guy. They carried tons of parts and rarely wouldn't have your basic needs in stock.
    Since then, I've moved and lived all over the country and have found it is rare to find a shop that doesn't give me the ol' " I don't have it, but can get it for you" line. Well guess what, so can I without having to waste another trip. I'm sorry, but if you've got the stuff in stock, then your going to get my business. I'm not talking about a 3 bladed 21" carbon prop, I'm talking about an 8 oz gas tank, a supply of monokote, an assortment of props or god forbid even some latex foam rubber.
    Don't get me wrong, I know those shops exist, but it is far and few between. Since it's my money, I'm going to spend it where I get what I consider to be the best deal. I won't even go into the rotten attitude that is received at a lot of places if your not one of the regulars.
    I hate to sound so harsh, but I'm tired of this arguement. I've done my share of trying to support the lhs hoping to see an improvement, but it just doesn't happen.
    And as for not carrying a hobbico product, well you might as well just burn the money you were going to invest in your shop.

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust


    ORIGINAL: AraTidwell


    ORIGINAL: ira d

    I would think if you owned a hobby shop and refused to carry any products from one of the main hobby dist's in the country you would be doing yourself
    a disservice in fact I think a local hobby shop should carry all the popular products from all the hobby distributors in order to be sucessful.
    Why would my customers buy those products from me anyway, when they can get them way cheaper via Tower discounts?

    The full line of Du-bro hardware and Hitec is distrobuted by Horizon also.

    Long time Tower customers who purchase a lot from them can get some pretty good discounts at times but that isnot so for everyone. The regular discounts
    available to all just really cover the shipping while good I would not call it a deal breaker. Also shipping is a another factor there are times when I would pay
    a few bucks more and take it with me than have it droped on my door to set for hours. I like Tower and do purchase from them two main reasons are that
    I can know if a item is in stock before I deside to purchase I dont have to drive any anywhere to find out, Also the two well stocked stores in my area are 25
    to 30 miles from me and with the heavy traffic we have here in southern calif that can be a big factor at times.
    Ira d

  16. #16
    AraTidwell's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I get serveral emails a week from tower with "two day specials" that often have products marked down between 25-35%, in addition to free shipping on orders over $100.
    THIS PILOT OBEYS THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
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    Science saved my soul
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

  17. #17
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    Neither of them helps anyone who needs a roll of covering NOW!
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  18. #18

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust


    ORIGINAL: AraTidwell

    I get serveral emails a week from tower with "two day specials" that often have products marked down between 25-35%, in addition to free shipping on orders over $100.
    I dont get those I know people that do but as I said many dont. The guy that I knows that gets the real good discounts says he orders from Tower almostweekly, I order
    once or twice a year three or four timesat the absolutemost.
    Ira d

  19. #19

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I support my LHS when I can, particularly with bigger purchases such as engines, ARFs, etc. But for the small stuff... it's just so much easier to buy from Tower. To visit the LHS I have to drive 45 minutes each way, use $10 worth of gasoline, and dedicate a Saturday morning for the trip. And then maybe he has what I need, maybe not. And if I need to return it for some reason then there is another 90 minute round trip. It's sad, but I'm afraid that the LHS concept has become obsolete.
    Glow Head #6

  20. #20
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    What I do is first I call the local shop. If they have it, sweet, 15 minute drive and it's mine. If not, I call another shop an hour away. They have it? I'll pick it up that wednesday when I'm in the area anyways. If not, to Tower I go!


    My latest purchase went exactly down that prodecure. Neither shop I talked to had a NexStar ARF in stock, so I just grabbed one off Tower.
    My stash:
    1 rally modded NTC3, 1 HeliMax Axe CX Nano, 1 Hobbico NexSTAR.

  21. #21

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    The LHS was really only a sustainable business model in the 50's and 60's. That's back when there weren't a whole bunch of other different pastimes/video games, etc, and you had to build each plane from a box full of wood. Nobody really does the R/C hobby anymore. Outside of your friends at the local flying field, do any of you actually know or have met another person (internet doesn't count) who flies R/C airplanes? I can probably thing of one, and he stopped flying like 10 years ago. Other than that, I'm the only one I know who does it. I'm actually really surprised there are ANY LHSs that still turn a profit these days, especially in this economy.
    The original Tommygun

  22. #22
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I like to buy from the LHS but I'm not willing to drive across town twice (once to pay so they will order, and once to pick up) for an item. If they were 5 minutes away, yes, but they are 30 minutes away if traffic is light. If they have what I want/need, I'll go there. If not, I'll order it myself.

    Neither of them (mail order places) helps anyone who needs a roll of covering NOW!
    I'm never in that much of a rush.

    I agree with the comments that it has to be VERY difficult for a hobby shop to make a profit. I think a lot of people overestimate the size of the RC industry. AMA has around 145,000 members. Even if the actual number of RC pilots in the US is 10 times that (and I doubt that it is) we're still a tiny spec of the population. I do not know how many RCers are in other countries but I'd guess they are a similar percentage of the general population.

    When I started the hobby I was buying stuff all the time. In the past 2 or 3 years I have bought very little.
    - Carrell

  23. #23
    AraTidwell's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust



    Using that number, you are about 8 times more likely to be infected with HIV than have an AMA license. There are approx 1.2 million US citizens infected with HIV!

    THIS PILOT OBEYS THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
    -
    Science saved my soul
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

  24. #24

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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    If it's just a shop whats the point. No difference than shopping online. Our local race track just has more to offer than parts and kits. The owner runs the track herself but what I see every time I visit is guys getting together and having fun racing, or flying heli together. Kids are welcome to come test stuff, she always has something new to try. Someone is always putting a kit together. Last time I was there picking up some basic stuff there was a local that was flying his parrot drone with his I-pad. The place has a huge slot car track and she has a spot for the micro scale stuff to race together. I can always go to the track and see the new stuff running or flying first hand. The locals that hang out and help make this track/shop what it is.

    I plan on trying to go up there once a week. If I can buy it from the track I normal due, but I also still shop online to. As for pricing for RTR, kits, its about the same as online minus the sales tax. The only difference in pricing is parts and basic's are priced a little higher.

    Shops that just have a room with inventory in it will most likely not get my money. I just don't see the difference with that and online other than online has a larger selection.
    TT Sparrowhawk XB- Castle SCT 3800kv
    Traxxas Slash-VXL, Evader ST Castle SideWinder 4600kv

  25. #25
    scottrc's Avatar
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    RE: The demise of the local hobby shop, another one bites the dust

    I've been to Model Works a couple of times. Also would shop at Wings and Things in Tulsa which is now gone. Both stores always seemed busy and up with the times as far as stock.

    Face it, operating costs have doubled in the past year and less people are spending on hobbies, so I expect to start seeing a lot more shops shuttering. Sucks too because I'm a hobbyshop-a-holic.
    If you love your plane, set it free, if it doesn\'\'t return, you should have checked the battery.


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