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gordonk
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hello we are thinking of opening a craft and model shop in and around the Carlow area we would like feedback to see if this is a good idea for the area and the modelers in general and things they would like us to stock

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Not really a good idea anywhere especially in the current pandemic. I spent over 40 years in Banking and when I retired worked in a Model Shop for approx 7 years covering for the Owners when they were doing Shows or on Holidays.

For several years I watched over some 8 accounts for various model shops none of which are trading today. The problems with an actual shop are the fixed costs, Rents, Rates, Insurance , Heating/Lighting and the running costs mainly staffing. You would need to ensure that the Shop maintained its advertised opening hours otherwise customers will soon give it a miss.  This really ties up your time. 

A shop will also need a large varied amount of stock in order to hopefully generate enough sales and profit margin to sustain the above fixed costs and also buy the odd loaf of bread.

Just to fill out your evening there will be Vat returns, Accountancy and Income Tax, National Insurance etc to sort out.

Finally after you have decided to retire, if against all odds the shop is a success you will then have to find someone to buy it.

I would suggest if you want to test the market then start On-line and see what interest there really is "hard cash" wise.

 

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There seems only one proper model shop left on the whole Island of Ireland and that is Marks Models. When I was a child nearly every large town seemed to have some sort of model or decent toy shop that carried model railways, airfix, etc. Now its just Toy market (eg Smyths). Most were gone by the late 80s, fixed costs are high, especially rent and rates. Online seems the way to go augmented by trade stalls and trade shows for opportunistic foot fall sales.

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Trade Shows and Stalls were the main net income flows in the old days when attendances were much higher and stand fees etc in real terms far lower. Nowadays (Well pre Covid) I worked out with various traders that their actual profit or hourly wage

worked out at about £3 per hour taking into account time taken in packing the van, driving there, setting up, possible B& B expenses then packing the van and driving back after the show plus wear and tear on the van etc.

There are the hidden benefits of course , meeting people , enjoying the 'craic'  OH! and away from the missus for a few days, Yeh come to think of it -  definitely worth doing!

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Interesting debate on Gauge O Guild about this. Some traders now stopped shows completely (even pre COVID). It’s a tricky one, as online isn’t great for everything. Some small items like buffer castings etc you really need to see in the flesh to compare. And I always enjoy seeing Roger at Alphagraphix ! 

3F20079F-12FD-44A6-A279-FB091E581E34.jpeg

9700ADD2-038C-48DF-8D94-54F1E668ED6A.jpeg

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I think a high quality, well laid out and easy to use online store has a far better chance of success and if it fails you will have invested far less in it. 

If you can establish yourself online you could look at opening a physical location later on in an industrial estate where rent and rates would be far more affordable than a high street, which is where you'd need to be if you started off with a bricks and mortar store, depending on passing trade.

The Mark's Models model, so to speak. Ok they started with physical locations but their HQ is on an industrial estate and I bet they shift more online than over the counter and their online shop could be improved upon (see IRM's shop for comparison).

I wish Ireland had the market to sustain a model shop in every provincial town but modelling just isn't that popular anymore in Ireland (or anywhere really). Covid has given it a boost but how fleeting that is remains to be seen.

Anyway I wish you luck in whatever you do. It's easy to criticise and be negative but it's better than everyone here saying "yeah great idea" when in reality they may not even live in Ireland nevermind Carlow! I live in Germany for example. Many of the posters here on this forum are not in Ireland at all so please bear that in mind also.

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There is a lot of straight talking, common sense and good advice given in the above comments, especially the financial aspect from Irishswissernie. My tuppence worth would be to suggest that over the past while I have noticed a big increase in the number of general retail shops now stocking craft items, such as artist materials, canvass, acrylic paint, balsa strips etc., (and embroidery and knitting for the ladies). I know nothing about the Carlow area, but given the correct setting and financial outlay, a craft shop may be the way to go! I have read that the coming Christmas may bring a return to the more traditional children's toys such as Lego, jigsaws, model planes etc, rather than electronic gadgets.

I agree with murphaph. It would be brilliant to have more model shops in Ireland, but on-line really wins the day.

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I'd second what @murphaph and @Irishswissernie say.

Starting online to test the water before opening a physical shop is a no-brainer.

I'm sure that there are rules of thumb as to how many years of losses it takes in various industries before breaking even, so you'd need to look into that.

If it's five years and 500k invested before you break even, for example, you'd need to have that time and capital to spare, while also having means to survive personally.

You'd also have to ask yourself why people would shop with you over the competition.

Why would a customer of Marks Models for the last twenty or thirty years drop them to shop with you?

What are you going to offer that is so much better?

Marks Models website is rubbish compared to Hattons, so having a decent website that is updated daily would certainly be a good reason.

Ditto the search facility.

Search for something on Marks Models website and you get no images, no alternatives, just a list of text-only entries.

The easier it is to buy from you compared to your competition, the more likely that people will spend more, and will return.

A well laid out website, a great search engine, regular updates, clear and accurate photos and descriptions, and you are certainly part way towards success.

An example of another great online shop is the IRM store.

It's so well laid-out that you don't even need a search tool, but there is one, and it is excellent.

Either way, best of luck with the venture!

Edited by DJ Dangerous
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Don't RB Models too in Clonmel, Only been there once mind you, picked some stuff up too.

https://rbmodels.ie/     €185 for the 121's they were flogging them for!

You would possibly deal with an Irish Distributor too.

I am mostly off the net these days, I went for Plasticard 2mm 12 inch sheets, Cant get them in Ireland, To make it worthwhile I usually add to the order and this is usually from UK. Gonna be a pain in the A$$ when they leave getting stuff and added cost such as the items I get for the RC Boat which aint cheap

image.thumb.png.a7785556272ba56775cd355dc5999db7.png

3 hours ago, Galteemore said:

Interesting debate on Gauge O Guild about this. Some traders now stopped shows completely (even pre COVID). It’s a tricky one, as online isn’t great for everything. Some small items like buffer castings etc you really need to see in the flesh to compare. And I always enjoy seeing Roger at Alphagraphix ! 

3F20079F-12FD-44A6-A279-FB091E581E34.jpeg

9700ADD2-038C-48DF-8D94-54F1E668ED6A.jpeg

Man alive that a fine stall! they really need to be online.

Like Airshows most of the model sellers and Aircraft Specials sellers don't go anymore as they are priced out with the recent hikes for pitches. Why bother with all the hassle.

Don't forget Mark puts in a massive amount of graft for his business and attends quite a number of shows,not just railway ones to so expect to have little time off if running solo and to keep the wolf from the door.

 

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This talk of model shops sent me googling on the subject for the first time in years. This one in NI popped up. Portadown so on the railway line. No Idea if they are online only or have retail footage. My memory of modelshop's that sold toy trains were The Sportsman in Waterford, WJ Owens in Bray, The Hobby Horse in Rathfarnham shopping centre, and of course Marks Models, and the shop on D'Olier street in the 70s where I bought Ratio Signal kits that are still in use on my current layout. I think this shop may have later became Marks Models. Fair doos to Marks Models they are a proper model shop carrying a great range. Yes the e-commerce suite may need a refresh but inside the physical store is brilliant, superb stock. I rarely get to visit any physical retail shops, but do enjoy the odd visit to Greenogue outlet, easy traffic, easy parking.

https://modeltune.co.uk/products/murphy-models-mm0121-loco-121-cie-grey?variant=31964356706346

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I would love the idea of a model shop a few miles away. As I did when Graham's was there in Port Laoise.

But, it needs to work for you, before it works for us.

I often look at rents for retail outlets and work out how much an hour you would have to make before you got anything for yourself.

Shops where there's a huge variety of potential products are more of a problem to run than places selling a limited range of 'standard' goods.

This is all mere conjecture from someone who has never worked in retail*, so take it all with a sack of salt.

 

* If I had worked in retail, I would be in prison for assault by now...

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3 hours ago, DJ Dangerous said:

 

Marks Models website is rubbish compared to Hattons, so having a decent website that is updated daily would certainly be a good reason.

Ditto the search facility.

Search for something on Marks Models website and you get no images, no alternatives, just a list of text-only entries.

I wanted to pick up a few bits to keep me busy so tried to shop local with Marks first.

Very dated site, like something from 20 years ago, and not at all phone friendly. In the end went to the UK for both variety (frustrating the number of things out of stock) and price and to spare my eyesight.

Sadly I think the brick and mortar model shop outside of a big city is a thing of the past and more so given CV19. We're not out of the woods, not by a long shot.

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To begin with I’ll relate my experiences in locating model railways shops which are now long gone, starting with the shop in Phibsboro, then OWNES model toy shop in Bray, then Marks Model shop in Dun Laoghaire, none of which were ever replaced, & these shops were in the main on the East coast, now my nearest shop is Dublin, so in my honest opinion even though I’d love to see a Model Railway shop opening in my locality it’s never going to happen, at least not in my lifetime, so I’m saying that boat has sailed. 
I’ve been interested in model railways for as long as I can remember, whether I’m just looking, buying or whatever, & of course visiting shows. In more recent years we now have Donedeal, Adverts, EBay, Marks Models who still have shops, not in that order & none of which I’m recommending, & IRM, who don’t have a shop as yet....!   The IRM web site is magic, when it comes to finding & selecting something it’s so easy, never had an issue with it,  Marks Models site is, in my opinion is pathetic, the amount of text is unreal.  So to sum up as much as I would love to have a Model Railway shop near me it’s not going to happen, as I’ve said in my honest opinion that boat has sailed..!  So best of luck with your ventures.

 

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22 minutes ago, burnthebox said:

To begin with I’ll relate my experiences in locating model railways shops which are now long gone, starting with the shop in Phibsboro, then OWNES model toy shop in Bray, then Marks Model shop in Dun Laoghaire, none of which were ever replaced, & these shops were in the main on the East coast, now my nearest shop is Dublin, so in my honest opinion even though I’d love to see a Model Railway shop opening in my locality it’s never going to happen, at least not in my lifetime, so I’m saying that boat has sailed. 
I’ve been interested in model railways for as long as I can remember, whether I’m just looking, buying or whatever, & of course visiting shows. In more recent years we now have Donedeal, Adverts, EBay, Marks Models who still have shops, not in that order & none of which I’m recommending, & IRM, who don’t have a shop as yet....!   The IRM web site is magic, when it comes to finding & selecting something it’s so easy, never had an issue with it,  Marks Models site is, in my opinion is pathetic, the amount of text is unreal.  So to sum up as much as I would love to have a Model Railway shop near me it’s not going to happen, as I’ve said in my honest opinion that boat has sailed..!  So best of luck with your ventures.

 

W J Owens, 41 main street Bray. I nearly went into a sort of grief when Willie Owens retired about 15 years ago. Bought my first AirFix kits there as a child in the 1960s, moving on to model railways, even some photographic processing gear, and finally RC model aircraft, which I had drooled over since 1965 with the fabulous displays in his shop window. We used to do mail order to Willie Ones in the early 70s, buying balsa wood, glues, dopes, tissue, and kits. Great to be able to pop in and buy just a bag of screws or six inches of spruce engine barer mounts, or those magic days when you were buy an RC set or getting a Tri-Ang Hornby train set for Christmas and rushing down with bob-a-job money to buy accessories. Model soldiers we used to paint and play war games with using match sticks and a dice. One of us would the the allies the other axis powers. Hours of endless fun interacting with pals instead of having our snouts stuck into LCD screens. Marks Models is different but has taken up the baton. WJ Owens was magical because the floor area was small, but there seemed an Aladdin's network of treasure caves out the back with all manner of hidden stock. If you went in and asked Willie, he know if he had it or not, and could retrieve it in seconds. For a short number of years there was Yvonne's in Newbridge that did model railways, airfix, and model aircraft given there were thriving clubs flying in the curragh.

W J Owens - A shrine and treasure trove 

WJ_Owens_Bray.jpg

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Screens!!, I have been shown the delights of a Game called War Thunder. God Good the difference from the ZX Spectrum of Beach Head in my day is frankly astounding and free too!

Up till 1am driving T-34's, German Armour and such about the gaf. Battle other dudes on the net. No wonder they ain't bothered with a kits these days! 

 

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18 hours ago, Noel said:

W J Owens, 41 main street Bray. I nearly went into a sort of grief when Willie Owens retired about 15 years ago. Bought my first AirFix kits there as a child in the 1960s, moving on to model railways, even some photographic processing gear, and finally RC model aircraft, which I had drooled over since 1965 with the fabulous displays in his shop window. We used to do mail order to Willie Ones in the early 70s, buying balsa wood, glues, dopes, tissue, and kits. Great to be able to pop in and buy just a bag of screws or six inches of spruce engine barer mounts, or those magic days when you were buy an RC set or getting a Tri-Ang Hornby train set for Christmas and rushing down with bob-a-job money to buy accessories. Model soldiers we used to paint and play war games with using match sticks and a dice. One of us would the the allies the other axis powers. Hours of endless fun interacting with pals instead of having our snouts stuck into LCD screens. Marks Models is different but has taken up the baton. WJ Owens was magical because the floor area was small, but there seemed an Aladdin's network of treasure caves out the back with all manner of hidden stock. If you went in and asked Willie, he know if he had it or not, and could retrieve it in seconds. For a short number of years there was Yvonne's in Newbridge that did model railways, airfix, and model aircraft given there were thriving clubs flying in the curragh.

W J Owens - A shrine and treasure trove 

WJ_Owens_Bray.jpg

Bloody hell Noel, for a minute there I thought that was my Honda 90, but on closer inspection I saw the windshield...! Which I did not have on my mine, but thanks for the memory, Bray Main Street, that’s looking back...!! Year..!

BTB

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3 hours ago, Georgeconna said:

Screens!!, I have been shown the delights of a Game called War Thunder. God Good the difference from the ZX Spectrum of Beach Head in my day is frankly astounding and free too!

Up till 1am driving T-34's, German Armour and such about the gaf. Battle other dudes on the net. No wonder they ain't bothered with a kits these days! 

 

Yay - Beach Head on the Speccy was great fun, with the variety levels. Loved that game!
As for the modern stuff, I've not played War Thunder, but have played a fair bit of World of Tanks, which looks absolutely amazing and is also free to play

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1 hour ago, murphaph said:

There's also a model shop in Kildare Town. If you draw a line from Cork to Belfast, is there a single model shop west of it?

I never knew there was a model shop in Kildare town, and I'm from Kildare! 

Does anyone know if the Model Shop in Capel Street in Dublin is still open? I know they mostly focused on RC but they did stock railway items too. 

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3 hours ago, burnthebox said:

Bloody hell Noel, for a minute there I thought that was my Honda 90, but on closer inspection I saw the windshield...! Which I did not have on my mine, but thanks for the memory, Bray Main Street, that’s looking back...!! Year..!

BTB

Looks like 1969 or 1970

4 hours ago, murphaph said:

There's also a model shop in Kildare Town. If you draw a line from Cork to Belfast, is there a single model shop west of it?

Most of the shops had awnings and many shops on the Main Street had merchandise on display outside on the street, selling buckets and spades and fishing rods as bray then was still very much a summer holiday sea side resort town.

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