Frustrated Hobby Shop Owner - Page 3 - RC Groups
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Feb 14, 2012, 04:07 PM
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I try to support my lhs by buying my kits, parts and accessories from them if possible. Two weeks ago I asked them about several brands of helicopters that I was interested in and they replied that they only deal with blade, heli-max and align. I had asked about walkera and when they said that I informed them about heli-max being rebranded walkera but they didn't seem to care. When you won't give your customer the products they're are asking for and paying for then you stand to lose business. As for ordering from the chinese, honestly I'm real close to buying some stuff directly from them.
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Feb 20, 2012, 09:09 PM
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You LHS owners, don't give up. A lot of those customers that are buying those foam airplanes online won't always be there. Not all of them, but a few of them will graduate to wanting to build their own planes.

There is one thing that you offer that those online ripoffs don't.

Personal service. A friendly face will win over a customer very quick. Know your product. Spend time face to face explaining the product. (you may feel it's a waste of time, because the customer will just order the same product on-line. So what if he does, he'll be back for the glue, fuel, and etc.) Or, that customer will buy from you because he wants his toy now. Not next week.

Always make the customer feel like he's getting something for nothing!

Another thing, Change your business hours. If you do have builders as customers, make your shop available for when they need you. Stay open until 10 PM, open a little later in the morning.

Most builders go to their shop after dinner and build on their models. That is usually when they realize that they need a part, materials or supplies. If you are open, the word will get around and the builders will be into buy the materials that they need that night.

Set up a table and chairs with a coffee pot or soft drinks. Allow the customers to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. The old timers will make use of this and when a new custom comes in, he'll have someone else to talk to. Your customers are your biggest asset, let them do the selling.

Contact some of the new kit manufacturers that are on this forum, The guys that are manufacturing the Classic Pattern planes. I bet they would work out a deal to supply you with kits at a fair and reasonable price that you could sell at a small profit. How about that new run of engines, you might get a good deal from them to get their engines on the market.

Don't give up, be creative.

Feb 21, 2012, 08:47 AM
Registered User

Frustrated hobby shop owner

Unfortunately, I have very few old hand modelers left in my area. Therefore, I depend mostly on the new faces who come into my shop. I bring up the subject of flying RC aircraft and lo and behold, many either have airplanes that have been sitting around for months or years or they know a relalitive, neighbor or someone who is in the hobby or has airplanes and never really learned to fly.

Once in a blue moon the old hand comes in to buy a bottle of glue or prop and then proceeds to complain that my prices are higher than mailorder (slightly) or higher than the well established hobby shop that has been in business for over 60 years and ironically, makes the majority of their profits from RC trucks. BTW, they have to travel 20 - 40 miles to that shop to save a couple of dollars. With today's gas prices, that's costs them a $20 plus round trip for a $5.00 item. I call that functional myopia. Some finally get it and some don't. lol

I run my shop like a auto dealer. Meaning, I offer everyone a on demand, instant test drive on my trainer and/or helicopter. You would be very surprised how well this works since many of those who claim to not be interested become very interested once they realize how quick and easy learning to fly can be. I usually can have everyone land on their very first RC flying experience. Many have soloed within less than an hour, total of flight instruction. BTW, none had any sim time.

I've even offered to teach other hobby shop owners how to do this and for free, yet they turned me down. One shop owner I offered to help ran a HobbyTown USA store. I mistakenly thought that shop onwers should help each other, but I guess I was wrong. He said he wasn't interested and a short time later, he went out of business. Just before he closed, he all but gave away all of his RC airplane and helicopters and parts. He said no one was interested in those items.

Last edited by fliers1; Feb 21, 2012 at 08:55 AM.
Feb 21, 2012, 09:32 AM
Registered User
Liers1, Unfortunately what you have described is just plain old rigid conservatism. The unwillingness to change or adapt to new ideas or conditions.
I simply cannot fathom the idea of driving 40 or 50 miles to save a couple bucks on something when I can buy it locally even if it cost a few dollars more. It is a total waste of time and money and I see many people who drive 70 or 80 miles to shop at Wally world to save a few bucks. The sheer stupidity of this is mind boggling. Yet, most people cannot figure it out. My time is a lot more valuable than that.
One thing that I see in my local hobby shops is the lack of kits. None. Nada. Zip. When I ask them about it they tend to come up with answers such as too much investment, no one wants to build anymore, yatta, yatta, yatta. However the've got all this inventory in ARFs. Lots and lots of ARFS. See any balsa? It's tucked back in the corner...there's a few sheets and sticks there, ( mostly Midwest crap) and if you really need something , we can order it for you. No thanks, I'll order from BUSA or Sig.
Some shops cater more to the RC car/truck crowd. Have you ever noticed the price of these vehicles? I can buy and build a pretty decent sized kit for the price of one of those babies.
I like to build kits and it's getting increasingly difficult if not impossible to buy one locally. It looks like I'll be ordering what I want through a website.
I've seen a small chain of hobby shops going under in the lower part of the state. They used to carry a good many kits. The quit carrying them and guess what happened?
Oh well, I need to quit ranting and get back to my Seniorita kit I've been working on. I'm just finishing the cowl I made for it.
Feb 21, 2012, 10:44 AM
Registered User

Frustrated hobby shop owner

As it's been said, you can't fix stupid. lol

Interestingly enough, I've been able to sell more kits than ARFs. Once my customer realize that crashing isn't the all but absolute that they have read about many times, they have no trouble buying a kit.

With every sale, I guarantee that I will be on-call to give them instruction. Also, that if their new plane takes a dirt nap while I teaching them, I will either repair or replace that aircraft. After over 40 years and 500 people I've trained over that time, I haven't had to replace an airplane yet. Although, I did repair one. I turned my attention away for a second and it was late in the day. I don't use a buddy-box, but even if I did, by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. One out of 500 isn't such a bad record. lol

Feb 21, 2012, 11:57 AM
RCAPA #005
MGBGTRacer's Avatar
Every customer thinks the shop should carry what THEY want and anything else is a waste. They think they have to come in and tell you who makes what and in the end- it's more about what distributors you can deal with... but the customer is mad because you don't carry multiple versions of the one thing they want to see.
The only way a hobby shop can remain viable is to constantly usher in newbies to the hobby. They'll eventually start sending their money directly to the Chinese military industrial complex, but you can ride that train until they figure it out.
Feb 21, 2012, 03:20 PM
Registered User
the other thing you are not considering is there is almost zero profit in kits, and most items for that matter,if i place a 1000.00 order and it carried a 20 percent markup (almost on herd of in rc) when i sold 800.00 of that order evry dime i would have profited on is sitting on the shelf, i have not made a dime and then you have to take out the overhead while you made that 800.00 in sales,its a no win situation,thats not saying you cant get a un informed customer to walk into your store and pay your price, but whats he going to think when he finds out you charged way more then he could have gotten it on line?there is almost always someone dumping something on line for a fraction of the cost, and with the internet that guy is in your back yard, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. used is the way to go, if you can just find a way to do it in a timely manner, the rent is going whether you are buying right or selling, and all that great customer service takes time too, i hate to say it but if there is no profit made YOU ARE NOT A CUSTOMER.
Feb 21, 2012, 04:06 PM
Registered User

Frustrated hobby shop owner

I like to believe that if there is a will, there is a way.

Someone in the business told me that 25 hobby shops close every month.
I can believe it. My new customers tend to be a bit more loyal and have no problem paying more for the value added service. Unlike that of the old hand who will buy mailorder no matter what, that is, except for things like fuel and parts.

I have several newcomer customers who just got into the hobby last summer and have spent a couple of thousand since then. Most haven't even earned their solo wings yet. They come in to buy things that I don't think they really need, but I suspect to mainly help me keep my doors open.

Even one of the local clubs finally decided to ask me for my business cards to pass out with their newsletter. I helped to start several RC aeromodeling school programs. The local C.A.P. plans on buying a couple of trainers so cadets can learn to fly. A couple of my customers are cub scouts leaders who plans on having their kids get into aeromodeling.

So, I thnk this might be a very good year for me.

Last edited by fliers1; Feb 22, 2012 at 06:40 AM.
Feb 22, 2012, 03:55 AM
Registered User
In regards to your teaching method, you don't use the buddy box system which I have come to the conclusion is clumsy and the student does not pick up on the finer points of flying RC planes ie: that subtle stick movements produce correct control surface changes. When I see someone who is just learning to fly, they are all over the place in their control movements. In my opinion the buddy box system is of no help no matter how many times the instructor attempts to correct the student. This is a natural reaction of the student, after all when we began our first RC lessons, didn't we do the same by over controlling the plane? Some of us took an entire season to get it down.
The point I'm getting at is that you stand next to or behind the student and direct his stick movements with your hand on his and show him just how much stick movement is needed. You can also direct the student on how to mix aileron, rudder and elevator in turns and how to fly straight and level.
I am beginning to question the veracity of the buddy box system. I see too many students struggle including myself for an entire season trying to learn the proper way to fly. Instead this may be a better method.
It appears this method is also being used by the RC flight schools you see advertised in magazines.
Am I correct in my assumption that this is the method you use? If so how can I learn how to use this method at our club? I live in Michigan so I guess there would be no competitive value to you by using this method.
Feb 22, 2012, 05:31 AM
Registered User

Frustrated Hobby Shop Owner

I used the buddy-box system many years ago and decided that there must be a better way. I don't put my hand on top of the students, I put my thumb and forefinger underneath the student's thumb. I've found it is extremely easy to have anyone fly very smoothly immeditately. BTW, I couldn't teach anyone any better than anyone else using the buddy-box.

My student feel precisely how to move the sticks. There is much more than the placement of my fingers on the sticks. See: I'm certain that I can teach most anyone this method and in a very short time frame. Currently, I'm training a high school tech teacher how to use this method to train his students. Since we can't go outside, we use a simulator and the teacher's son as a test student.

I've been offering to show the rest of the RC aeromodeling community (for free) how to use this method, but for reasons I can only guess at, no one has ever shown any interest. That is until AMA's new EVP, Gary Fitch wrote about what I did at S.T.A.R.S. club last August 2011.
You can read about in the March 2012 issue of Model Aviation on page 146.

I've offered to help other hobby shops so they could use this method not necessarily for training, but for giving hands-on promotion. The shop owner and/or his emloyees could spend a couple of hours or more a week giving their customers a test drive on a trainer to help make a sale. Once the sale is made, the shop owner then directs his customer to the nearest flying club for further training. After all, "most" clubs claim to be "eager" to give flight training. This is what I often hear from many club members if I dare say there isn't enough flight instruction offered, which is why there is a decline in our numbers. See the method to my madness? lol

Thing is, my teaching method works so well, I believe I can handle whatever comes my way. I've spent 7 hours teaching over 100 cub scouts. I gave each scout a few minutes of sticktime. Once more, I have no problem sharing this with anyone who is interested in learning a better promotion/teaching method.

I've offered the RC aeromodeling industry a means to drastically increase sales using this method, but they seem to take their cues from club members who may not want an increase in their numbers. Maintain the status quo. A case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Last edited by fliers1; Feb 22, 2012 at 06:52 AM.
Feb 27, 2012, 10:09 PM
Registered User
If someone walks into my shop interested in flying, we show them the simulator on our big screen tv along with all the different trainers. If they don't want to spend time learning on the computer, we sell them a Cox Sky Cruiser for 100 bucks. After a 5 min training session, they are in the air and flying immediately.

For $100.00, they require no technical support, 5 min training time and they are almost indestructible. We have yet to have someone fail at learning to fly with them.
Mar 04, 2012, 12:50 AM
Too Many Hobbies
I sympathize with some of you owners who have posted in this thread as you seem like good people. I wish I lived near your shops. The only shop near me here in Stark county Ohio is staffed by kids who aren't well informed. They also act as though they are bothered by the questions that I ask. The shop owner knows his stuff but his attitude is equally disappointing. Several of my friends feel the same way about this shop. For these reasons I will buy online. He could get a fair amount of money from me as my interests span several different areas ( Trains, Rc cars, Rc Helis).
Mar 04, 2012, 08:39 AM
Registered User
An attitude like that and he won't have the shop for much longer. When it comes to customer relations some people are seriously lacking and for some reason they can't see it.
Mar 04, 2012, 08:56 AM
Registered User

Frustrated Hobby Shop Owner

Yep, they will most likely place blame on something else, like a bad economy, or anything else that doesn't include their unprofessional attitude.

It started out slow for me, but slowly but surely, more and more customers are coming in my shop. I offer excellent customer service all the way around. Free fllight instruction with ever sale of RC airplanes and/or helicopters. I let them fly my equipment first, even if they claim that can't afford to buy. That way, if they don''t buy anything, they will at least tell others of my very productive customer service. I also offer a repair service for RC trucks, airplanes and helicopters. I give heli instruction right in my shop. It usually only takes a few minutes to get the customers able to safely learn to hover. I don't want them to break anything, but to buy another heli or airplane.
Word of mouth works much, much better than any ad I can place anywhere.
Fear of crashing is the main reason people refuse to get into this wonderful hobby/spport. I immediately help to despel that fear. Works extremely well for briinging in new customers.

Mar 08, 2012, 01:00 PM
Registered User
Online pricing is definitely a big issue...your prices have to be competitive..but also it's about attitude....if you treat your customers well you will have a business if you don't, you won't.

Earlier in the thread one of the hobby shop owners complained about how he had to talk customers out of starting with a P-51...why would you do that? You have lost a customer for life...if they want to start out with a P-51 start them out on a P-51. But instead of just selling it to them and have them walk out the door, offer free flight training (and bring along a trainer airplane too!) You may be able to make two sales in one (maybe 3 with the sale of a flight simulator). Think of that customer's mindframe...he's seen the glossy pictures of that P-51 and that's why he's coming to the hobby...then the arrogant hobby shop owner explains all the reasons why he shouldn't buy that plane...

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