At 05:50 PM 4/3/2012 +0000, you wrote:
Still, there's no question that these operators siphon business away from realThe shows have replaced the neighborhood hobby shop as the primary attraction to expose newcomers to the hobby. Of course the big shows tend to only go to big cities - WGH, and GATS before that. Just as big, successful B&M hobby shops tend to survive only in big cities.
Many show dealers do carry a substantial inventory of detail parts, but it isn't always obvious from the get go.
I'm observing an interesting phenomenon right now in the secondary market. Prices on new stuff are higher than they have ever been, and this seems to be driving up prices on the secondary market even for old, outdated stuff. 10 bucks for a bluebox kit seems outrageous, but the alternative is, what, a $22 RTR car from somebody else. Even estate stuff doesn't seem to be the bargain it once was, which I also find odd because there has never been more estate stuff on the market than there is now. Go back 20, or even only 10 years and estates were full of brush-painted cardstock and basswood cars sloppily assembled... but now it seems like the first wave of hoarders have begun to die off and there are massive estates full of P2K, Walthers, Atlas, much newer stuff... there's a glut, but prices don't reflect it. It's sort of like interest rates being at all time lows, but nobody is giving out loans.
The model railroad market is and remains highly competitive. It's a small pie with a lot of people fighting for their piece. It has also turned from McDonalds millions of burgers flipped to Wendys made-to-order and now it's looking more like a sushi bar. But there will always be competition. Half a block from the sushi bar where it will cost you $25 to even get a snack-level fillup, is a supermarket selling half a square foot of sushi for $12.
I am going to play the field as I have always done... never say never, and keep my options open. I'd have to do some serious research to even estimate how many different entities I've purchased model RR stuff from just in the past 12 months. Probably well over 50. I have more choices than ever really. If all I had were my two semi-LHSs to work with, I'd be in a world of hurt.
The smartest shops seem to have realized that by operating mail order on the