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What can hobby stores do to revive the hobby industry?

For the April issue's What's Selling Survey, we asked you, our readers, what can hobby stores do to revive the hobby industry? Of course, we can't fit every response into the magazine, so here are some more of your answers.

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Published: February 16, 2011
Steve Machan, The Whistle Stop at Machan Home Hardward, Goderich, Ont.:
Massive displays that make the jaw drop. A display that says which one do I want, not do I want one. Leave the customer planning the next trip. The customer must be entertained in the store. There are way too many distractions and other forms of entertainment in the marketplace. Give the customer something they can put their hands on. It's all we've got! Make an alternative to the virtual. The customer must leave with a souvenir; either a brochure, a token or great memory of our store. The customer must leave with a shared experience with the salespeople in the store, to want to come back time and time again.

James Otten, PopPop's Trains, Hobbies & More, Eminence, Mo.:

Offer demos and classes (help from manufacturers would help). Have age appropriate items available to get newcomers started and to sell a product to match skill level to prevent frustration and abandonment of the hobby. We dealers tend to sell what we get the biggest bang on instead of developing repeat customers. We also tend to overwhelm the customer with purchases instead of letting them build up to what they might feel they need. Let the customer know what they might need to complete what they purchased and what is available to complement it later on. We are looking for repeat business and we have to make a bond with our customers to make them feel comfortable shopping in our store.

Chuck Freeze, Chuck's Trains LLC, Landis, N.C.:
Not sure what hobby stores can do. I think the biggest problem is manufacturers. They play too many favorites. If they had a great deal or overrun on a product, they are bad to call their favorite dealers that flood the Internet with the product cheaper than most stores bought it for.  

David Tregoning, D R Hobby, Granite Falls, Wash.:
We as hobby store owners have to be able to demonstrate the quality of hobby products compared to the lower quality products that the big-box stores sell. Take helicopters, for example. The big-box stores sell them, they break, and the customer is unhappy because it cannot be fixed. They come to a hobby store, we show them how ours can be repaired if they break, and the performance is also much better.

William Romanowski, AAA Hobbies, Magnolia, N.J.:

More variety of car and ship models. People are looking for some of the old kits of Vietnam-era aircraft carriers. Also, modelers and fans are looking for drag racing kits. With ships we see a lot of veterans looking to build a ship that they were on, such as the Oriskany or Hornet. When they come in and it’s not there, mostly they give up. It’s simple. Having more variety gets more people!

Rick Chin, Uncle Bill's Hobby, Calgary, Alta.:
Better order control and knowledge of products. We have stores here that keep buying the same "junk" only to be cleared at cost or below cost every three months. They take cash from impulsive buyers, which results in "stashes at home" and "bargain hunting" and no time to build. It also frustrates dedicated stores like us who are only selling advice on "how to" and "what's new" to those who "cannot afford" to buy anything at regular price.

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