At 12:53 PM 3/23/2012 -0500, you wrote:
Of course, this is just my opinion and I may be wrong (my apologies toI'm with you on this. Some innovation and automation are in order, and most of the larger manufacturers are stuck being the tail to China's dog. The decision to go there may have been a no-brainer in the beginning, but look how rapidly things have changed. It took the hobby industry less than a decade to completely convert to the China model, less than that for the China model to begin to put the hurt on, and it will probably take a lot longer to bring it back to a new way of thinking.
With the retail shop in decline, the next thing to go is going to be the big distributor. The internet and tools available make it much, much easier for any manufacturer to move to a direct sale model. Not only does it put all of the markup in the hands of the actual manufacturer, it forms a much more direct communication between manufacturer and end user. Even in today's environment where manufacturer's reps hang out on lists like this and even attend RPM meets, there is still a lot of information lost and distorted filtering up and down the distribution chain.
It's interesting that before railroads, almost anything a community needed was manufactured or grown locally. Railroads permitted the consolidation and centralization of industries, giving them the ability to make product anywhere and ship it anywhere, including perishables. The internet takes that one step further, eliminating the middlemen entirely.