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How healthy is our hobby? (check the stuff that's healthy)

  • Locomotives

    Votes: 14 40.0%
  • Rolling stock

    Votes: 15 42.9%
  • Structures

    Votes: 9 25.7%
  • Track & Switches

    Votes: 11 31.4%
  • Electronics

    Votes: 20 57.1%
  • Manufacturing means

    Votes: 7 20.0%
  • Literature / info

    Votes: 12 34.3%
  • Community / communications

    Votes: 21 60.0%
  • Tools

    Votes: 16 45.7%
  • Materials

    Votes: 14 40.0%
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I'm more positive about it.

I see a fair number of appealing new models (well, many are just new paint work and maybe modest detail change, but that's still better than nothing.) I want the LGB Alpine Classic crocodile locomotive and cars, an HSB 2-10-2, I like the FO rack locomotive, and I've been adding wagons to my roster this year (and I'm already running out of room!)

LGB looks to be adopting one of Marklin's strategy, of offering wagon sets. A few cars, often with a load included in the cost, sold me many wagons. This type of "extra value" marketing can only help, I think.

I still need to make the move to digital control, and here LGB appears to be about to migrate to Marklin's far more sophisticated system. Could be a 2016 purchase for me. Phone / tablet integration, onboard video, all offer new ways to use and share one's railway. Social media and You Tube make "how to" information more widely available, without waiting for the right topic in a magazine.

I'm saddened by the loss of community hobby shops, and while I like the large selection and delivery of online, I really miss not being able to wander and browse inventory, and have conversation with a shopkeeper and others.

There's very interesting manufacturing developing, like 3D printing and laser cutting, that seem poised to greatly expand product offerings. I spoke with a manufacturer and examined a neat 450 ton, multi axle (sixteen, if I recall it right) depressed-center flat car at this years ECLSTS; bit too costly for me, but an appealing kitbash project.

Over on the steam side, we have Roundhouse's Darjeeling Garratt, Regner's Mallet, and I'd read Accucraft is doing a Garratt too. Accucraft has coal US narrow gauge, and is coming out with a coal Chinese QJ. (Seriously, how many coal locomotives have been simultaneously on the market?)

The bad news, as I see it, is pre-ordering and cost is often still a problem. Pre-ordering I could understand for a buyer who gets every Aster kit sight unseen, but as a newish consumer unfamiliar with the intricacies of large scale and the manufacturers, I have no interest in paying or committing prior to seeing a product. (Heck, in the old days, a hobby shop had a test track, so you could operate a model before taking it home on the spot.)

Locomotives and wagons are expensive, as is track. I'm also bugged by package and retail decisions, like catenary poles sold in packs of one for $12. These should be sold in packs like 100, for a much better price. Same for seated passengers - I'd love to see a manufacturer offer 100 people with good detail and realism, for an attractive unit cost.

I think weird, non scale models do more harm than good. Large scale got committed to 45 mm, and just built stuff without regard to common sense. Consumers got stuck in mis-matching models, toylike characteristics to accommodate tight radius, and the hobby went into micro-niches without enough commonality.
 

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Dennis,

In my opinion, if you have an opportunity to take a dealer's inventory at a sufficiently attractive price, and you can market it for less than the going prices and still make a return on your investment, I'd see it as a decent risk.

At train shows, for instance, there will be bargain hunters and people willing to buy on impulse of there's a deal to be had. (I'll get something I want at a show, if I want it and judge the price as attractive enough to buy it now, compared to waiting a month for TrainWorld to have a sale.)

I'd say - speaking for myself personally - that I'd need to see new items at 20% under the big internet dealers, and that is assuming the seller appears to be a professional business and takes credit cards.
 

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For me, a seller who isn't a dealer needs to be under the cost I'd pay to a dealer. A dealer generally accepts returns of a defective or broken product, may have better access to the manufacturer's service and warranty functions - and if that fails, reason to want satisfied customers (word of mouth, repeat business, etc.)

As a piece of advice to Dennis, my suggestion is that he should plan on being able to price the merchandise attractively enough that buyers choose his despite the advantages of authorized dealers, and induce buyers to jump on an opportunity that may not come again. My personal thought is that is at least in the range of 20% - however the little experience I have in trying to clear inventory rapidly, is that the deal needs to be a lot better than that (mine is not train hobby experience, though.)
 
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