Thursday, April 16, 2015

5 Ways Online Hobby Shops Can Improve

Its not just decent selection and fair pricing...

Online shopping has made our lives so much more convenient. There is no shortage of retailers representing the hobby on the internet, and of course, I have a few favorites I return to for my must haves. Never the less, I have made a list identifying areas where I believe online shops could profit and in turn benefit us modelers. Let's begin, in no particular order.

Get a Blog

I would like to see more online shops get into the business of blogging. Currently, maintains a blog attached to their website and even Eduard, which functions as a company producing scale model products and a seller, has a functioning blog. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the norm. While most online retailers are fairly active on social media, as well they should be in this day and age, I would like to see them adopt a blog.
Facebook and Twitter has made it ultra simple to stay current on up coming releases, sales, and other updates but I see a blog creating the potential to keep modelers interested without simply targeting our wallets.
It has been my experience as a blogger that modelers are a vocal bunch who love to share their opinions on the hobby and truly love to follow modeling as much as they get enjoyment out of building a kit. If the blog features interesting hobby related material it will certainly draw our attention and drive traffic to the webpage. The right content will open a dialogue between the company and the consumer within which we can see the business is about the hobby and not just our money. A blog that promotes how-to tutorials, the historical background of kit subjects, or even simply general modeling discussion will keep us engaged, educated, inspired and coming back for more.


Of course, you can't have a blog and not have a review section. Why is this important? One of the first thing any modeler is going to look for prior to purchasing a kit is a review. Rather than just showing us an image of what their website is selling they could dive inside a kit and treat us to an in-depth look at what is, or will soon be, on their shelves. If a review of a product is included on the site, it prevents me from having to scour the internet to find one. It also shows me the company takes interest in the product and is willing to take the extra step to ensure modelers are armed with the right information to make a decision. Most importantly for the business, it keeps us on their website. If you give me a place where I can browse products and get a peak inside the box, I will be happy.

Better Pics

If you're selling a product, you should take a little time and spend some effort making that product look desirable. I hate it when a retailer takes one grainy photo of a jumbled up bag of resin, posts it to the website and calls it satisfactory. Would it kill them to maybe arrange the parts in a manner that displays the quality of the molds, and intricacy of the detail so as to entice potential buyers? No, it won't kill them. Neither will taking a few shots of the sprues contained in each kit instead of slapping a thumbnail of the box art in the catalog.
Give modelers something to look at, to get excited about, like a kid finding his brother's stash of Playboys. It doesn't take much to make a modeler drool, you just have to know what to wave under our noses - sprue shots, images of the finished product, whatever - anything is better than the picture every other online hobby is using on their site. I want to be enticed!
Don't force me to find better images some where else. Because, you know, I will.

Let's Make a Deal

Every website has sales. My problem with them is that they just aren't good enough. Say what you will, but there was a time when I would get more excited about securing a 40% off coupon to Michael's Arts and Crafts or Hobby Lobby than I was about seeing any weekend sale listed on Squadron or elsewhere.
I am sorry but telling me I can take ten dollars off my order if I spend seventy-five dollars or more is not enticing. Neither is reducing the price of two or three kits that I have no interest in any way or directing me to the Clearance section which is almost assuredly stocked with kits no one wants. You can flash sale me all you like but there is still a good chance its cheaper on eBay.
Am I just complaining too much? Maybe. But what I'm after is not necessarily saving more money. I want creativity. Recently Sprue Brothers promoted a deal that offered customers several free sheets of decals if they purchased a particular kit. Genius. I very nearly caved in and bought the kit. Though I didn't, the concept really intrigued me and I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for similar promotions. Considering the depth of the aftermarket, the possibilities are endless...


PayPal has quickly become one of the premier ways to transfer money online. It is fairly safe, secure and hassle free and if there are a hiccups in the process, PayPal is generally competent enough to refund your money and settle the issue. Most significantly, its fast. You don't need a credit card, just a positive balance and a valid email address and you can make your payment in seconds. It is for these reasons that I can't understand why more online retailers have not started utilizing it. Currently, neither Squadron nor Sprue Brothers have approved PayPal as a method of payment.
For modelers like me, who keep money in PayPal strictly for hobby purchases, this is frustrating, as I would rather not turn to my credit card for the answer. If you are a dedicated scale modeler you are probably on eBay and owning a PayPal account is virtually a requirement for transactions made there. Furthermore, there are countless social media buy/sell/trade sights that you would be foolish to operate on without a PayPal account. Online retailers need to recognize how we do business outside of their stores and start tapping into the preferred method of payment by modelers across the globe - PayPal. Make it happen.

What do you think? Are these ways that would improve your online shopping experience or do you think I've totally lost my mind? Let me hear about it in the comments!
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Stess Free Modeling

What do I work on when I need a relaxing build?

One of the most common positive attributes given to our great hobby is that it is relaxing. It truly is, considering how we tend to work in solitude, perhaps listening to our favorite tunes or drift in and out of an interesting documentary on the television. No one bothers us. It is simply us versus the model.
But sometimes that model is a stronger opponent than we might have estimated. What started as just a regular build soon turns into an ugly cage match against an unrelenting heavy weight who throws a mean right hook in the form of poor engineering and your only defense is more filler and lots of sanding. Soon your balance is off, your breathing is labored and that documentary is looking more and more interesting. As much as the hobby can be relaxing, so it can also suck the life out of you. It is at this point I like to throw in the towel and give myself the chance to harness my chi. I'll take on a small project that I know will not be an issue and one that will boost my confidence to step back into the ring.
Like a boxer working a speed bag, I pick quick projects to get me back in the rhythm, but most importantly, they don't strike back. While not being completely devoid of a challenge, they generally don't involve much construction which eliminates having to fuss over seams and the inevitable filling and sanding to follow. They also do not involve complicated paint schemes so I can rule out masking as a source of stress. Finally, each one requires that I create some ground work - arguably my favorite aspect of modeling.
Here are some examples:

You can see, they are all small and do not include full kits. Quite often they can be made up of old kit parts, like the one with the T-34 turret, or a pre-assembled model such as the 1/144 T-55. Keeping them simple allows me to complete a project quickly, giving me a feeling of accomplishment thus filling a void left by the more frustrating build. Of course, it doesn't solve the problem of actually finishing the initial model that gave me such trouble in the first place, but it certainly does wonders to restore my motivation. 
What is your stress reliever?

Read Some More!

Part of being in the Union means you must include links to fellow contributors' posts within your own response. If you liked this post, then perhaps you'll enjoy what some other modelers have to say about the topic!

How to Join...

Want to join the Sprue Cutters Union? Its simple. If you model and have a blog that is all you need to start. Just write a post in response to the monthly topic, copy the link in the comments section for that week's assignment and you're in! Check out more detail about joining the Sprue Cutters Union.