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With so many SKUs available, how do you decide what to stock in your store?

In June, we asked hobby retailers how they decide what to stock in their stores. To read more, check out the August 2012 issue of Model Retailer.
Published: July 16, 2012
Bill Kleinschmidt of ABC Hobbies, La Crosse, Wis., said:
You have to go by what your customers are asking for. I would love to have a store full of everything out there but you always end up with boxes full of "butterfly nets" you can't even give away. The best thing to do is see what people want and try to stock those things with a few odd things mixed in just to see what happens. It always comes down to what moves the best, and we all know cash flow is what you need to make this work, not shelves of stuff people won't buy.

Chris Merseal, CRM Hobbies, St. Louis, Mo., replied:
Follow what is new and ask customers for advance orders. This seems to help, and you have some solid sales before you place the order.

Rick Chin, Uncle Bill's Hobby, Calgary, Alta., said:

We used to stock every one we can get, but right now we will only stock whatever I think will sell depending on local interest, or deposit required.

Carl Dann, Smoky Mountain Trader, Cleveland, Ga., had this to say:

The retail business is more of an art form than a science. I peruse the latest "what's new" magazines and hope new hot item that catches my eye will also catch the customer's eye (and wallet). After 16 years in the hobby business, we've learned to spot trends vs. long-term staple SKUs and try to balance both about as well as a monkey balances on a basketball. Okay, maybe with just a little science thrown in thanks to Model Retailer!

Don Dietz, D&S Hobbies, Florence, S.C., responded:
I picked up a lot of great ideas at the NRHSA show in Las Vegas. Some will work out and some won't. Also, talking to other people in the "biz" will spark some ideas. It all comes down to what I think will sell for my market. If it doesn't sell, you try something else and move on. I sold Buckyballs at Christmas, but I knew as soon as Christmas was over so were the Buckyballs. I bought enough to sell out just before the end. I could have sold a few more, but I would have been stuck with some inventory.

James Pentifallo, Ridgefield Hobby Center, Ridgefield, N.J., said:
I keep my rack full and try to bring in a few new products each week. I have the computer on for special orders at all times.

Joyce McEwan, On Track Hobbies, Porty Moody, B.C., replied:
We talk to our customers to see what they are looking for. They are more apt to be up to date on what's coming up with all the different departments to keep current. There are not enough hours in the day to read all the magazines. We try to get customers to preorder items, but are not successful as they don't know whether they will still want it or be able to afford something that is six or nine months away. They are afraid to commit.

Tim Foster, Hobby Town USA, College Station, Texas, said:
We keep track of what is selling and then reorder those items. We also take suggestions from our sister stores in our region. We also take some customer suggestions into account and try to visit a few shows a year to get our hands on new items and see what looks promising. Staying up with what is trending in the magazines and on the Internet helps us decide too.

Jerry Anderson, Jass Collectibles, Red Deer, Alta., said:
I order by customer wants most of the time. At others, just a gut feeling about if it will or won't fit in the way my store has grown. Again, I mostly buy customer wants.
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