Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

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tebee
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Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby tebee » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:25 pm

As some of you may know I've been suffering a cash flow crisis last few months. Unfortunately the private hospital where my wife works has suffered a dramatic decline recently as they used to do a lot of work for Russian medical tourists, and with the fall of the Ruble, they are not coming.

So they have not renewed her contract and she will not be able to work here in France for another year or two while she learns the language and sorts out her qualifications. At the same time my step-son has just finished medical school and started on a years unpaid residency.

Which leaves me and my model train business as the sole breadwinner. We here hoping to get some of the houses we bought fixed up and rented out by now to help bridge the gap, but only one has been finished and I have two more to complete but no money to finish them off.

It's also becoming clear to me that I don't have time to do everything I'd like to - in particular the Gn15 and 09 ranges I started producing last year I've never had time to market. Other than a few items on eBay I've never got round to making it available.

I've seriously thought about selling the entire business up or at least the retail side of it. But, sober reflection has made me realize that what I would need to get for it is beyond most modelers means.

So I've been considering other options, in particular the Gn15 and 09 ranges as I'd like to promote this sort of modeling. What I'm think of is finding someone to take over the UK marketing of these in a sort of franchising arrangement. I need someone prepared to go to shows and sell and display the stuff and also to take over my UK ebay sales for these scales. Maybe set up an online shop too.

Will post a bit more later if anyone is interested

Tom
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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Tue Aug 02, 2016 3:34 pm

Tom,
I understand the problem well. I have myself decided to sell up in France, but the market is quiet at the moment, not helped by Brexit, so not sure how well it will go. Hopefully it will give me the time to do other things, including 3D print designing and publicity.
Getting publicity and exhibiting 3D printed models is something that needs more support. Possibly it needs someone to take that on, not just for one designer though. Gn15 is a very niche market, I remember you talking about it when you first came on here. I thought it woud also be easier selling my track system, but some seem to be happy spending hundreds,probavly more the thousands of pounds of highly detailed(yet under gauge) models, and then having a second rate layout to run them on.
When Bob and myself were exhibiting the APA box modules we thought we had got the interest of the G gauge group, as they invited us to a group exhibition, but then cancelled. O9 has had a lot of interest withing the O scale narrow gauge groups, but again is a bit limited in interest. In fact it is probably the OO9 stuff that would draw more interest, and we both know members of OO9 society.
Other problem is cost,assuming you are sticking with Shapeways, as there is not much leeway. Another reason OO9 is probably a better option. If you intend to continue with your own printing, then that is a lot of time(and money), and might be better to do up your other houses, or sell one to fund work on other(s).

I, unfortunately don't know anyone,but what is needed is one person, or company to take on the sales for many 3D print designers. It would have to be driven by high sells, and minimal markup on models. Possibly one of the times I would really support a salesman to do the job, rather than someone from the hobby. Such a person , preferably with knowledge of 3D printing in general, but not necessaily, would have several irons in the fire. When I was running shop, it was interesting that one company did use a specialist salesman who had no interest in model making to visit shops. He was also the person to ask to get tickets for Man United(not my interest), so I don't think he was living purely off selling to the model hobby.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby tebee » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:53 pm

What I am looking for someone to market for me is mostly my home printed range - this is fairly extensive now - about 14 wagon chassis in Gn15 with a choice of about 22 bodies to go on these. In 09 there are about 12 wagon chassis with around 30 possible bodies. I even have stock of about half of this, it's just that no one outside my house has even seen most of it.

This can be produced very cheaply - the material cost is negligible, most is time + wear and tear on the printer - I could supply it on a wholesale basis for half what I currently retail it at.

The 09 locos are producible at a price at Shapeways that allows them to be resold a decent profit, but following the price restructuring the range of 09 wagons I made there are not.

In Gn15 probably only the small parts make sense to produce for resale.

No one is going to make a fortune out of these scales, but I'm not looking for someone to make a large investment - probably only about £2,000 including stock - and if someone was taking it to shows and selling it there we might get more interest in these scales.

Tom
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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:36 am

Tom, I can see where you are going with the idea, but it would need to be someone already in the business. Exhibitions are not cheap, and not sure how much interest there is. The markets for Gn15 and O9 are different. I see more for O9 than Gn15 at exhibitions, so possibly someone already doing models for O9 might take them on. Gn15, I still think would need someone from G gauge world, but much of G gauge is collecting not modelling.
I still see doing some models yourself works well, in theory, alongside print to order from companies like Shapeways, but it is the print to order where the future is. Seen too many small outfits closing or having problems, and have had chance to talk to some of the bigger better established outfits to know how the real world works.
The alternative plan might be to get a collective of 3D printing designers to work together. The Shapeways website has ability for people to look and buy from more than one designer. Unfortunately outside the virtual world of Shapeawys each designer feels alone. A collective, possibly even a proper co-operative with people in different areas would enable costs of exibibitions to be shared, and an even bigger range to be on show. I am still working on ideas to make it easier to buy online at exhibitions, but don't know how well it will work till I try it out in a month or so.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby tebee » Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:29 am

Exhibitions cost even more for me - I need to make £500 profit minimum to cover my costs, which means sales of £850 + - but for me £400 of that is ferry fares, fuel, motorway tolls and hotels - someone in UK could do it much cheaper.

To give example of the comparative costs of printing - a simple Gn15 skip chassis costs about £4 to make at Shapeways - the same thing on my own printer uses about 4p of material. OK I have to factor in time ( 9 of them is about a 4 hour run) and electricity but I can still sell them retail £2.25 or I could wholesale them in bulk for half that. Even if I add just 10% markup to the Shapeways one it's going to be twice that retail price.

I'm not sure the Gn15 market is that small - some of the things are useable in 1:35 or even On16.5 - and I guess to a certain extent it lack of availability that keeps the market small.
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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:39 am

I know Ihave mentioned it before, but we need a list of people/companies who produce models for Gn15. Other groups have lists, but I am still finding groups without them and have put forward the idea along with a sample list to them. It is important to keep lists up to date, as I find a lot with dead links or companies which look like they are operating but from others know they are not.

Factoring in costs for exhibitions, then my experience this year is useful. I have had mixed responses from exhibition managers. Some charge me full amount which can vary , sometimes a nominal amount, sometimes a discount if I provide demo or layout as well and in one case was treated as an exhibitor, full expenses as long as I provided a layout and paid a small amount if I sold more than a certain amount. I treated the exhibitions as promotional events and no way made enough money. Time of year made a big difference, as did what else was on that weekend.
Response from the public has also varied. I am sure it would have been different if I could have had more stock, but even then I am not sure if some are convinced. This is why I want to introduce ability to buy online at exhibitions. Many, if not most venues have WIFI.
Now initially I am concentrating on my own range, especially as I have my own front end website, but if it works out it could be something used by a collective to sell items from all members of the collective. In theory this could be worldwide, with local members at local shows.
My idea is highly experimental, but I do know that people are more likely to buy at an exhibition(impulse buying?) than buying online when they get home, although many have said they intended to do so. It might be a problem with my website or Shapeways, or payment methods.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby Jon Randall » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:52 pm

I hope it all works out
Jon Randall

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby tebee » Sun Aug 07, 2016 8:43 am

I'd better make it clear, I am going to continue to produce stuff, both on Shapeways and my own printer - it's just I'm acutely aware that I'm not marketing much of that self same stuff very well - I'm sure there are many people who would be interested in what I produce do not know of it's existence.

It worries me that as well as losing potential income from this, it's also discouraging people from becoming interested in our scales as they may perceive that very little is available. I know it's always going to be a minority interest, but I'd like to do what I can to prevent that minority from shrinking more and maybe disappearing.

I also know I haven't got enough time to do everything I'd like and I can see that time shrinking more in the near future as I need to find a new business for my wife and help her set that up.

My ideal solution would be to get someone else to take on the retail side of the entire TBmodels business and let me concentrate on the design side and Shapeways sales - but that currently provides me with an income of £5,000-7000 each year so I can't afford to give it away - whereas something like the 09/Gn15 side is much smaller ( much much smaller) so it's less important to get a good sum upfront from it - I'm more interested in getting the stuff out there. This might produce a decent secondary income for someone and I might get more through selling more items wholesale for less each than a few at retail prices.

Unfortunately eBay has now become very expensive to sell on - right now it's summer so my quiet time, but I've just got a bill from them for £65 on sales of £250. It now makes no sense to sell small things unless you are turning over a good number each month. I'm going to have to revive my online shop, but the original is so messed up I need to start again and that's time again........



Tom
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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Sun Aug 07, 2016 11:05 am

I did have a couple ofpeople ask if you were still producing your own stuff as there was less onebay. Ebay is OK for geting rid of spare items but is geting too expensive to sell small items as a business.
Your thread is what has got me thinking about designers working together on promotion, splitting costs of advertising and exhibitions, but each designer still trading seperately. Then Gn15 items could be promoted alongside other more popular scales and gauges. I have a rough plan but it does need professional help and I know where to get that.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby tebee » Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:23 pm

Problem with Ebay is it now costs 40p a month to list something for £2 - this is ok if you are selling something that you can sell a good number each month, but things like the Gn15 skip chassis I'm selling on average one a month. Hence why I've not listed any more.

By the time you have deducted selling fees and Paypal charges of around 16% there is just not enough margin left.

This is why I think selling at shows and through a website direct is the way to go in the future.

Tom
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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:59 am

a website is cheapest option, but obviously needs to be maintained. exhibitions are not cheap, and if you add in travel and accomodation then it becomes even more expensive.
Tom, you have the experience of Swanley and the event at Leigh, so have had experience of specialist shows.
Reason I am tinkering with collective idea, and that could easily include someone selling your own 3D printed models, is to reduce costs such as travel and accomodation.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby KEG » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:40 pm

Why don´t you ask Steve Bennett for advise: Until a few years ago he had a homepage ,
appeared at model railroad events and showed of lot of his Gn15 products (plus much more) in this forum.

Have Fun

Juergen

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby steerngo » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:38 am

Maybe a catalogue page for all suppliers on this forum would help to let customers see what is available.

ken

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:32 pm

Ken,
I suggested something similar a while back. The world is changing, with new technologies, and although manufacturing in advance has worked in the past, manufacturing to order(in effect what Shapeways do) is possibly more suitable these days. Nothing wrong wit old way, but there have been a few problems over the years, and these problems have not helped here.
Steve Bennett seems to be keeping quiet at the moment, although some have said they have ordered items OK. Losing Steve warrington was a sad loss. He probably could have helped. If there is someone else out there already trading in a variety of narrow gauge items then they would be best hope. Maybe one of the garden railway traders.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby KEG » Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:21 am

The Llanfair exibition fist weekend in September might be a good oppotunity to meet most of the garden rail traders and makers.

Might be interesting to hear, what the professionals think about quality, prices and market chances of the present 3-D Gn15 offerings.


Have Fun


Juergen

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Re: Want a minimum gauge model railway business?

Postby rue_d_etropal » Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:48 am

I was thinking more like Kent Garden Railways which have a shop and customer base. I know that from running shop , I had approaches from companies, but could not do anything because it was not my money to spend.
For exhibitions talking to people at Swanley might be helpful.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.
http://www.rue-d-etropal.com


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