I went past the shop this afternoon for the first time in ages and it
was shut at 5pm with a big sign in the window saying CLOSING DOWN SALE. Not
entirely unpredictable since Doug Bell seems to have run the shop on his own
for ages with quiet trade, but any modellers in the Cambridge area might
want to nip in and help him liquidate his stock. Usually a fair range of
current Hornby and Bachmann in the display case, plus some secondhand,
Dapol/Wills kits, Expo tools, etc. Usual disclaimers: I've been shopping
there for years since they were in King Street and it's always a bit sad to
see another shop go. Dunno if he'll continue to do stalls at local shows -
he's previously been seen at Shelford (which will be this Sat) and Royston
(Nov) among others.
I was there on opening day when Doug went into business - at that time
at Mitchum's Corner.
Doug is offering 25% off all stock - well worth a visit even under
such sad circumstances.
I'm afraid I found it rather intimidating because the man behind the
counter (I don't know if it was the proprietor) was always so
miserable and unwelcoming, and you had to walk past him to get in.
Never once saw him smile. Quite a contrast to the welcome I once got
as a stranger in Hull. For that reason I generally went to Great
Eastern at Norwich when I could.
"John Turner" wrote in news:8
Yup that's my problem with my own local shop (about half an hour away).
But the problem is that I'm regularly working 10 and 12 hour days (and
sometimes longer) and I'm simply to shagged to nip out for a quick browse.
And of course when I do have a day or two off SWMBO has a list as long as
your arm of "little jobs" for me to do ... and likewise I'm shagged anyway
from the previous week and all I want to do is put my feet up.
That's why I buy so much from the internet - I'd love to spend more in my
local shop, the chaps who run it are a pair of really great guys but I
can't aford the couple of hours involved in a visit.
And "Chris Wils> But the problem is that I'm regularly working 10 and 12 hour days (and
An interesting thought on this sentiment...
In the mid 90s I was lent to the Americans and I spent a very interesting 3
years living and working in and around Washington DC.
Shopping there was "different". For a start, it was my introduction to 24
hour supermarkets and that was where I learnt that the best time to food
shop is often at 0500.
I worked for the US Govt and we typically started at around 0700 in the
morning and worked until 1600. For most of my staff this meant an 0500
start from home and an 1800 return time.
"Business" (at least those I dealt with) typically seemed to start up at
around 0800 and finish at around 1700
"Retail" on the other hand started up at 10 and my local hobby shop (Action
Hobbies of Burke, Va.) closed at 2000; and the big stores and malls often
stayed open until 2200.
My take on this was that it actually made it easier for me to drop into my
"local" store at a time that was convenient to me, often on my way home, and
the guys running Action Hobbies certainly seemed to do quite a lot of their
business in the evenings. It also made us change our general shopping
habits quite a lot, often popping out to the shops at around 1800, something
we just can't do in the UK.
As some of you will be aware, I am currently helping out in a model shop
down this way, and I am not sure I would actually want to work that sort of
regime myself, but it might make an interesting experiment to see if it
would actually work in this country, and more to the point to see if it
would make life any easier for people in Chris's situation.
"Elliott Cowton" wrote
When we first opened back in 1987 we made a serious attempt to attract those
who couldn't get to the shop during 'normal' shopping hours, but after three
or four years of sitting twiddling our thumbs until 8pm (admittedly on just
one night per week) we gave this up as a bad job and started opening the
same hours as all the other shops around us. Remarkably enough our turnover
increased slightly following this!
Mark Goodge wrote in
To damned true!
What it means if there is any late night shopping
to be done is that Mrs W has forgotton to stock up on the groceries during
the day so she can nip out and set the situation right, I'll be beggared if
I'm stepping out of the house once I've got home.
"Tony Clarke" wrote
I'd love to confess to being the source of his decline, but I'm not. By
"ages" I mean about four or five weeks. I don't buy modelling stuff online,
I'm not a "collector" who only goes into a shop when there's a limited
edition from a RTR manufacturer and then moan because he charges a quid more
than some some garage outlet (no Mint Boxed me, I want stuff to weather and
run), and I have no interest in military modelling or dolls house kits which
is where much of his stock is concentrated. I buy secondhand items, bits of
K&S brass for scratchbuilds and the odd Dapol or Coopercraft kit, but I've
never moaned for discount. I've bought oddments from his trade stall at
shows where he's bothered to stand there all afternoon, so I understand what
an ungrateful area model retailing is. The best model outlet in my area for
variety of stock is KS Models of Stevenage but I go there once in a blue
moon. Big shopping list stuff I do at events like Expo EM, being an EMGS
member (and Alan Gibson wants to sell up now, so who's taking on his market
share?). So who's not supporting the retail trade? He's had money off me
over the years without a word of complaint. It's happening all over: Doug
wants to retire having done his bit (and put in the hours since his loyal
sidekick Mike retired a couple of years ago having also trogged out to
Saturday exhibitions) and Cambridge shop rents have long ago forced out any
Did we all read Tim Shackleton's editorial in MRJ a couple of issues
ago, in which he reckons that railway modelling however finescale will be
all but extinct in a generation, both exhibition and retail? We are the last
of it. What will we do to change it, eh? Something I'm pondering, being also
possibly the last generation who'll enjoy traditional chemical photography
before that too gets turned compulsorily digital and made into a managed
pursuit for a culture permanently indoors, monetised, and alienated from any
idea of a tactile hobby.
"Ed Callaghan" wrote ,
Doug has a funny manner about him, but I'd not regard it as
"intimidating", more traditional Norfolk deadpan. Maybe being a shop
proprietor makes you a bit mad? Seriously, a nation of shopkeepers is also
a nation of introvert eccentrics, spending too much time in seething
silence, which is why the French (who originally levelled this accusation at
the English via Napoleon) do Basil Fawlty to the max to this day without a
shred of self-reproach, sitting in their rural subsidised glory complaining
that politicians take no notice.
I've been to GE Models too but not much liked their stock - and frankly
three-quarters of their stock is toys, which is the way most shops make a
living, but it's not that much of an excuse to go out to the far end of
Plumstead Road, since I visit Norwich by train - so give me Doug and his
corncrake manner any day. He's stuck with model retailing thirty years which
is way longer than most do it.
Yes, at shows, you see the best of the trade, because people turn up
with shiny cards and wads of tenners and BUY BUY BUY because it's the
premium event of the year and all the high players are there. Gibson,
Connoisseur, Comet, SE Finecast, C&L, Eileen's, the whole lot. Outside of
Ally Pally, Expo, Scaleforum - what's the volume that pays the wages? I
think all British retail is in the same situation: show selling does for
modelling what farmers' markets do for food; a spasm of proper profit that
pays for the misery of waiting for someone to find you in between times.
Brit railway modelling supplies are a thing of some wonder in the mass, but
individually it's all one-man bands doing stuff in a shed and making a
living - part or full time, they don't like to embarrass us with their
finances - that pays maybe a five figure salary off five figure sales. Adam
Smith would be impressed, but maybe many a bank manager isn't.
MRJ's Small Suppliers Forum valiantly announces what's new, but delving
through back issues I frequently wonder "are they still going?" We rarely
see an RIP for micro-enterprises that call it a day for whatever reason, do
we? Luckily there's been consolidation: C&L have taken over the legacy of
the late Carl Legg (CPL Products) and I hope that Alan Gibson's empire will
likewise be a goer in new packaging when he quits at Christmas.