Online stores can be small independents too...
So here's a blog I've agonised over writing or indeed how to write it...
Before I say anything, let me make something really crystal clear - I love model shops... there's nothing quite like walking in and spending ages having a really good look around, getting ideas, picking bits up, getting advice. If you have a good local model shop then please support them.
My love for these shops is also one of the reasons that I don't stock and sell locos and rolling stock - they are much better placed to do that and deserve the support.
But... just because a store is online only doesn't mean that they are not small independent stores run by hard working people that love the hobby and deserving of support.
The interesting thing is that most customers seem to get that (something for which I am hugely grateful) - but a number of key suppliers in the industry are not prepared to see that.
In the first year of RAILstuff there have been some key suppliers that I have spoken to and tried to get trading accounts with, only to be turned down as I don't have a physical shop. I'm ok with that - I understand their position, and while I disagree with the approach, I do accept it... although there are a few things that do get to me over this:
- Attitudes towards online sellers
Some suppliers are very friendly and sympathetic even when saying no - some others though have been quite rude about online sellers - one even described online sellers as "eBay warriors".
As I said earlier, just because we don't have a shop doesn't mean we aren't people trying to make a living.
- Saying one thing and doing another
One supplier was very forthright on their opinions, but since I have come across numerous examples of them selling to online only retailers... you either have a clear policy or you don't.
- Everyone is online
One of the things that sits badly in my mind is how many of the large retailers supported by these suppliers do the vast majority of sales online...
- The pricing conversation
I shall name no names, but I have had several interesting conversations in this industry on pricing. RAILstuff's aim is to ensure great value for you, our customers and we will only work with suppliers that have the same vision.
Let's put this in to some RAILstuff context...
We are pleased to have been able to find a number of really good, committed, dedicated suppliers that have made our first year a great experience.
We choose to focus on the positives of those relationships and what it allows us to do - so a big thanks to Javis, Expo, Natural Scenics, Golden Valley, RK Education, Peak Dale Products, WWScenics and LCUT creative.
I'm sure that over time many things will change in this industry... just remember that just because we are online only, doesn't mean we don't want to help modellers and deliver great service.
Thank you to those of you that entrust us.