Opening a Hobby Shop?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Myowngod, May 27, 2007.

  1. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    However, there diesel selection is great, if you like diesels.
  2. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Very good idea, I'm busy sorting myself out to start my own one.

    If you can, definately have an Eshop, people from everywhere can then see what you have in stock and the quantity.

    What we do is we mark the stuff at a lower price than normal- so instead of selling, for example, 1 item at 100 bucks we sell maybe 3 items and get the same profit at the end of the month as the guy up the road. Plus people always like bargains.

    I would suggest also building up a database of all your customers to serve them better. All you have to ask is for:

    A Name and Surname
    A Postal Address
    A Contact Number
    An email address (To inform them of any specials you might be running)
    Whether or not they do digital/ would they consider switching?
    What scale/s they model
    What country/ies they model

    They don't need to fill it out if they don't want to. It will help you to keep this in Exel format or something. We go a step further and ask their birthday-day and month.

    I noticed you said it was in a rich area. I must state that just because it's a rich area doesn't mean that you'll get most hobbiests from there.
    We have more of the middle class people buying from us than "richer" people. (I hope this doesn't sound like I've got an attitude problem- I don't mean it in a funny way).

    Also, keep your promises- to your clients. Don't promise them something will be arriving in a month and it arrives three months later- or not at all. (Let's just say someone I know does this- that's why I want to leave).

    And here's a pschological tip that I learnt- Try to "touch" your client, i.e.: a hand shake, the customer feels more of a bond to you (in a good way of course) and will be more likly to buy something. When choosing colours and a design for your logo go with maybe something red or blue or green and preferably a round design. Also- if ya give the guy a cuppa jo today, offer it to him tomorrow if he comes again- be consistant. (Maybe this is a bit more than you need to know, but it certainly helps).

  3. stripes

    stripes Member

    MadHatter, That was great advice I will be building up a database of customers to serve them better. Thanks for the ideas
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One other thing I would add to Mad Hatter's list is to get to know your regular customers, particularly what their preferences are for railroads and time period they model. Then when a new model comes out that fits their era and theme, you can advise them of it and its availability. At my local hobby shop the train guys know me by my first name and have my phone number on file. They also know I model Santa Fe in the 1950's and LAJ in the 1990's. If something appropriate comes in, they let me know right away.

    COMBAT Member

    We do indeed shop at the same place. There are a few other people here on the forums that shop there too. We even get together every so often. The only time I ever buy something from there is if its in the Walthers Catalog onsale or they have it discounted. I do buy a few odds and ends there too when the one item I need plus shipping cost is more then they want. They are all about MSRP there. The other bad thing the one guy, I think hes the owner is very rude! Ever listen to him talk to the employees?

    Combat :)
  6. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    Yeah, I think I know the guy you mean. Its so hard to find a good shop these days.

    COMBAT Member

    Thats why I am doing my shopping online. If you do DCC this is the best hands down! I have not heard anyone say anything bad about him. :)
    DCC University
  8. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    One last thing on the database- keep it up to date!

    People don't always let you know about address changes (Both area and email) and I've already phoned people that arn't alive anymore!

    Also, remember that not everyone that fills out that questionnaire will be visiting often- we have people come once every three years!
    Evnetually you'll see who of the customers come often and who don't and then you can make the list smaller as time goes.
  9. stripes

    stripes Member

    Data base

    I can see where maintaining an acurate data base would be difficult. The shop I am openeng is 1 block away from a VIA Rail station. The train stops for 45 min. to an hour to fuel up every day and you always see them wandering around town with nothing to do. So I may never see them again! :cry:
    But I will give them a card and they can go to my web site from home! :thumb:

  10. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Yeah - a contact / business card is a great idea!!! Make sure the logo is Huge!!! Make it as large as you can on the card. When anyone I know looks far a card the first thing they say (and i admit i think of) is:

    It's the one with the blue circle with the R on it - on the left top corner!!! ... now where the heck did it go?????

    It's like an icon on your desktop.. How often do you look at the program titles?? Or do you just click on "that icon"???

    Eye candy is great - you remember a lot more if you have a picture to go by :)
  11. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Here is ours: (For those of you who can't make it out, it is a TZ).

    Attached Files:

    • TZ2.jpg
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      11.1 KB
  12. stripes

    stripes Member

    Custom train sets

    Opinions wanted! What do you guys think of a hobby shop offering custom train sets? Soup to nuts. Customers can get ideas from the Atlas planning book or bring in their own diagrams and we could draw up the plans in a track planning program. Then based on what size layout, what era and RR line they want to model, order and sell them the whole package. Using quality products like Atlas, Athern, Branchline etc.. offer them a package based on their wishes and budget???
    Any thoughts???
  13. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Hi stripes

    That's definately a good idea. My Train Shop will incoroperate layout designing and eventually layout building too. I've got a layout design program, I designed a layout for this one gentleman to his specs and he was so happy he said he's considering contracting me to build the layout too- my first customer by the way (soon hoping to open my own proper one).

    A lot of the time we have a customer phoning or emailing our shop (the one where I currently work) asking us to make up a custom starter set for around R500 (+/- $70) just to get them started.

    So I put together a set consisting of the following: 1 x Co-Co Diesel (R250); 3 x flatcars (R45 x 3= R135); an oval of track (Consisting of four straights and twelve curves = R65) and 1 x Model Power controller (Very basic, just back and forward and speed @ R50) = R500.

    Also, as a gesture, I give them a bag of free ballast which costs us just R15 ($2).

    So, you can even go a step further and, as you want to, offer them a complete package- I suggest having an example in your shop as to what you can do. I made a small layout in three days for the model shop where I work- it's value excluding trains is: R3500 ($485). It consists of an oval of track (12 Curves, 6 Straights), a few buildings, figures, cars. The price includes a special table that was made by my bosses CNC Router company, everything just clips or slides together (you can offer these as well, since the excuse these days from people is: I don't have time for a layout.)

    Who knew you could build the most basic of basic layouts in just three days?! Also, the more you are able to offer things according to their budget and wishes- as you're planning- the better for you and the more likely they WILL come back.

    Just watch out for the dodgy ones- we have one customer we call "Petrol George", he phoned my boss and asked if we had any nice S.H. Marklin. My boss obviously said yes. So he threatend that if he drove all the way to the shop my boss would have to give him petrol money- my boss thought it was a joke and just laughed.

    So this dude came to the shop and he spent two hours there, he found nothing of interest and said: "Right, I don't like anything, where is my petrol money?". My boss still thought he was joking. Eventually, after another hour, my boss gave him 100 bucks so that he would leave! And that's how he got the name Petrol George- needless to say he still buys stuff from us.
  14. COMBAT

    COMBAT Member

    I think if your going to offer this you have to also consider the time it will take you to build one of these for your customers. Who will run the shop while your doing this? :)
  15. stripes

    stripes Member

    I would stay away from layout building! When I was a plumber (retired now) I would bring over a sink or toilet, and sure enough the customer would say "Can you get a different style, color, etc...) So I got to the point where I told them to go to my supply house and pick their own.
    Well I can foresee the same problem with custom layouts! Let them build their own, I will supply the material of their choice!
    If they purchase enough I will give them reference books and printed tutorials free!
    Beside, Woodland Scenics sells mod- u - rail sets that I can offer also! Welcome to Woodland Scenics! Home of everything for Model Railroad Scenery!

  16. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    I was giving it from my perspective- I would like to eventually employ people to run my shop while I do other stuff. If you do build the layouts, at first, it would have to be in your spare time, but as I say, once I get a compitent person/s to run my store I will branch off to include this.

    Also, I wrote the reply assuming it was a new person who just wanted to get into the hobby not too strict about what they wanna do (Although I do drill it into new customers to choose a single thing as it can be just as much fun and you won't get caught in the middle of what you want to buy.)

    Perhaps you can offer it rather as an option, this is what I forgot to include- after all, the idea is to use your (the customer's) creativity, half the fun is building the layout- I don't think everyone can afford the luxury anyway of having something built for them.

    Unfortunatly, ya can't please everybody!
  17. stripes

    stripes Member

    Nope ya can`t please everyone! I already have one order from this forum, so I will email him the pictures of what`s available, and let him decide.
    But I do use a track planning program so the sky is the limit!!! I would just hate to build a layout and have someone refuse delivery. !!!!!

  18. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Well, firstly, you need to be sure of yourself.

    Secondly, you need to go all out and punt yourself as being-
    "THE BEST". I was worried about my planning of layouts and my first customer was quite satisfied as I mensioned earlier, so have a few of the people here on The Gauge for whom I've designed- though I do it more as a favour as a friend or aquaintance than charge. (I come here after all to relax and check out what others are up to, not work- hehe!).

    Regarding the layout- that is why I said do a sample for your shop, people can enquire or refuse. The only thing is that you need to put your heart in it (each and every layout that is), then people can see that they are not "just another customer"- people have an emotional need to feel like an individual, not just another person, or number.

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