|For the January issue's What's Selling Survey, we asked you, our readers, why customers should do business with your store, besides giving them good service? Of course, we can't fit every response into the magazine, so here are some more of the thoughtful and thought-provoking answers.|
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Roy Ballard from Loose Caboose Hobbies, Napa, Calif., said:
If by “good service” you mean: a live, nice person to answer questions; remembering your name; a well-lit, warm (cool in summer) store; clean bathroom; products on hand to touch and try; different product options; professional repairs; troubleshooting; estimates and appraisals; special orders and changing special orders; bringing back a product even though there is nothing wrong with it for a full refund; minimum advertised pricing; deep knowledge of product; product line and prototype; access to manufacturers and distributor reps; firsthand experience with a wide variety of products; information about discontinued products; and directing the customer to where they can find what they’re looking for, then no. There is no reason why anyone should do business with our store.
James Corley, AAA Hobby, Marietta, Ga., commented:
Good service is the only reason. There are several factors at play here:
1. We cannot hope to compete with importers of foreign kits who sell well below retail on their own sites.
2. We cannot match their prices simply because they sell things so far below retail (15-30% usually) that there’d be no margin for our operation. How can they do this? They have paid less for the items they sell to me and then compete with me for the same customers.
3. We can offer the expertise needed to help the customer figure out what they need to accompany their kit and how to solve simple problems. The online sites do not hire people to give this sort of technical advice nor customer support. It’s nearly impossible to get parts replaced, which are either not included or malformed.
The end of this cycle will be the continued disappearance of the local hobby shop. I have made many friends among the people who own shops. Fewer and fewer are in business each month. In this economy, everybody is looking to save a few bucks. I get that.
What I don’t get is “distributors” who would rather buy model companies and sell them direct on their own site rather than have the hobby shops be the face of the hobby.
What I don’t get is “importers” who would rather buy the exclusive rights to import Japanese model companies and sell them direct on their own site.
What I don’t get is all the talk of expanding the hobby by the “industry leaders” at the same time they seem to be actively trying to kill the hobby on the local level.
Allen Fenton, Al's Trains & Hobby, Beford, Ohio, replied:
When it gets down to the modeler only being able to buy online, what will Joe Builder do when he needs a little extra paint to finish his model before the big show? Go to the local hobby shop that was driven out of business by its own suppliers’ business model. The combined aging demographic of our industry/hobby and the anti-local shop owner attitudes of the big guys will finish killing this industry and hobby. Whoever the last guy to close, please turn off the lights on our industry.
We carry a wide selection of items. Our prices are good, and we order the special items on a reasonable lead-time. I feel that these things plus the service factor are the most important things to keep me open.
Bruno C. Mary, Remote Control Hobbies, Aurora, Colo., had this to say:
Today with the World Wide Web, many hobby shops are closing doors. Customs should shop in my hobby shop as well as any other local retail stores. The implication of shopping locally is not just limited to the physical access to the product; it also involves the local economy. What goes around comes around. The benefit of earning an income in my store allows spending it back. What a customer spends in my shop becomes the dollars that in my turn will be spent at the local restaurant, maybe buy a new dishwasher at the local home improvement store, hire a computer tech and so on. Supporting your local shop by making your purchase there will eventually get you part of the pie.
Betty Skelton, R/C Addiction, Central Point, Ore., shared her thoughts:
Because we’ve been in business for 23 years. We listen to people and pretty much know what the customer wants and needs. Parts being one of the most important things to the customer, we have a lot of parts and will order the parts we don’t have and have them at the shop within four days. We also supply the customer with knowledge, and if we cannot answer their questions, we call the manufacturer and let the customer talk to them.
Carl Dann, Smokey Mountain Trader, Cleveland, Ga., said:
Unlike the big-box stores that “play” at having a hobby section, we are the only “customizable” hobby shop within an hour in any direction. We stock what our customers want, when they want it and at very competitive prices. They walk in, tell us what their hobby is and we stock it for them. And wouldn’t you know it, they like it! The Internet is real neat, but when buying hobbies “touching” still outsells a cold, hard computer screen.
Wes Turnbull, RC Pitstop, Langley, B.C., Canada, said:
We offer a good base of stock and can get items quickly for customers. We have a great loyalty program and Web forum.
Chuck Freeze, Chuck's Trains, Landis, N.C., replied:
Because we follow through after we sell. We can usually help a customer through a problem they are having with a product. We have a lot of knowledge about the products we sell unlike places like Walmart that just want the initial sale.
David Tregoning, DR Hobby, Granite Falls, Wash., said:
We try to keep our prices lower than the mail-order businesses. In our small town, that is very important. The largest city from us is 20 miles away. We do special orders every week.