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Author Topic: What happened to cause the downturn of the large scale market sales?  (Read 3189 times)

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« on: November 18, 2017, 10:11:09 PM »


General question.

What happened to cause the downturn of the large scale market sales? Did too many hobbyists simply grow old and die off ?

R. J. Raleigh

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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2017, 10:56:10 PM »

Some members claim it's due to the current "glut" of large scale products on eBay.
I personally prefer to buy my stuff new.
I noticed the downturn when LGB went into receivership.
It would seem that wherever LGB goes, the market follows.
LGB is now making new models and those models are much closer to scale, in limited production runs and very, VERY expensive.

Bachmann should start producing large scale European models to augment its current product line.

Imagine: a Zillertalbahn U-Series 0-6-2 made by Bachmann- LGB would be quaking in its boots. lol


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« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2017, 11:17:22 PM »


To begin with, large scale is a niche market of a niche market. Model railroading for the most part is a niche market of the overall hobby market, and large scale is a niche of that. Depending on one's perspective, there are those that believe you get more for your hobby dollar in smaller scales.

Are large scale modelers dieing off and not being replaced, resoundingly yes. But that is not just in large scale, it is in all scales. Model railroading is a delayed gratification hobby. Our youth are primarily an instant gratification society. Today, even the shake the box kits take too long. Combine that with the overriding question: "What is interesting about trains today?" For every mixed freight I see, there are at least 3-5 unit trains......endless double stacks, coal hoppers, or tank cars. Now add to that, when dad is held at a grade crossing, all the children hear is grousing about the ^&*()^&*() train holding up dad's already late schedule.

The cost of model railroading has gone totally out of control as well. Tell me what 10 year old on their allowance (unless it is the child of daddy war bucks) can afford a couple hundred dollars for a DCC equipped (or at least ready) starter set at the Hobby Lobby price of over $100.00. (Price is based on an HO set.)

I read other boards as well, both large scale and small scale, and the overwhelming commentary is that none of the manufacturers are offering any new equipment, repaints at best. The conundrum for the manufacturers is that they don'e want to tie up capital in development, manufacture, shipping, distribution of a new product for it to sit on shelves for years before they get their investment back. And the customer is looking to other means to acquire the desired product, therefore reducing the manufacturers market share even more.

Even though we have lost a couple of manufacturers, and several of the larger distributors, those remaining are cautious about how much they invest. I am a 1:20.3 modeler and am quite certain if I want other than eBay second hand of what has been already manufactured, I will be either scratch building or bashing something used. Although Bachmann has not come out and straight up said it, 1:20.3 is dead.

I joined the model railroad fraternity back in the early 1970s, and back then there were craftsman kits, some shake the box kits, some RTR, some imported brass, and lots of small mom and pop shops making detail and scratch building parts. I see the advent of affordable laser cutters and 3D printing bringing that model of the supply chain back into the forefront. The alure of large scale to me was the ability to cut my raw material on my 10" contractor's table saw, raidal arm saw and other shop tools. Other than trucks and couplers I can make every part I need for a piece of rolling stock. IF I can purchase the car I want RTR at a price point I feel is reasonable, I am going to do that.

There are my opinions and my perspective on the hobby as a whole and where I believe it is headed. If others can provide so clarity of vision that the hobby is headed in another direction, I am open to their opinion.

Bob C.
Kevin Strong

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« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2017, 12:06:32 AM »

(Norman, sorry I totally spaced your e-mail...)

First, it's not just large scale. The hobby across the spectrum is down. If you look at magazine subscription numbers from 15 years ago to today, they're down about 60% or so, even more. New product releases from the manufacturers have been limited compared to years past. (Bachmann had very few "new" HO items this year.) So it's "not just us" that's seeing a slump.

The question remains, though, what's behind it, especially in large scale? In many ways, the there's a lot to be said for the theory that the 2nd-hand market is slowing new sales. There are a few reasons for that. First, in the "golden age" of large scale, I think manufacturers may have over-produced. The reason is simple--the more models you produce, the more you can spread out the cost of tooling, thus keep the cost per item low. I don't know that manufacturers necessarily misjudged the market, but I think they weren't counting on the selection available segmenting the market to the extent I think it did. In the days of LGB, we bought what they made because they were the only game in town. Enter Aristo, USA, Bachmann, etc., and folks now have the ability to follow their natural tastes in railroading prototypes instead. The result of this is that there were many models bought at fire-sale clearance prices added to collections but never run.

Fast forward 20 years. Manufacturers have realized they need to shrink their production runs, and prices increase in response to the fewer number of models produced. (To say nothing of general increases in production costs.) So, what is being produced is being produced in smaller numbers at higher prices. That right there depresses your market. You've also got all these "new-in-box" items from collections hitting the market as their original owners sell off their collections. These are competing with these new products from the manufacturers, at much lower prices. While I do think the market is a bit smaller than it was a few years ago, I also think that the younger folks coming into the hobby (folks my age and younger) are much more tech savvy, and used to navigating sales in a digital world. They're able to find these 2nd-hand gems just as easy, if not easier than finding a brick-and-mortar hobby shop from which to buy.

Having said that, I wonder if we're not actually headed back to where we were in the late 80s in this hobby. For the most part, there was only one manufacturer (LGB), so folks did a lot of kitbashing, supported by a good number of cottage industries. Today I think we're ripe for a nearly identical situation, except it's not so much that there's one dominant manufacturer, but a handful of very quiet ones. There's no lack of inventory, but folks wanting new stuff or to modify what they have are looking to small suppliers for 3D-printed parts, etc. Maybe I'm putting something of a Pollyanna-ish spin on things, but it's better than not having anybody supplying anything. I don't so much see it as the hobby "shrinking" as much as it is just reconfiguring to fit with the times. I think the pendulum will ultimately start swinging back to where the manufacturers feel safe bringing new stuff to market again.





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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2017, 01:04:45 PM »


Bachmann should start producing large scale European models to augment its current product line.

Imagine: a Zillertalbahn U-Series 0-6-2 made by Bachmann- LGB would be quaking in its boots. lol

Very unlikely, although not impossible. European (and primarily German) market is very demanding. It is also doing exceptionally well considering the circumstances (economical, political, etc). LGB recovered and is now almost as dynamic as in the good old days (fortunately not doing the mistakes the previous owners did, when they overheated the market). They have a new formula, which works. Other companies are capitalising on this revival, see the new rolling stock and locomotives by TrainLine and by Kiss. The diversity and number of new releases is perhaps even greater than what we have seen twenty years ago. In live steam, Roundhouse keeps bringing up more and more dream engines, Accucraft can hardly keep up with new developments for the UK market. IMHO, it is actually more likely that we will see something for the US market by LGB or a Baldwin or another export loco by Accucraft or Roundhouse - they already released WD Alco and Baldwin in 1:19 (for both 32mm and 45mm gauge). True, many manufacturers of the US stuff keeled over, but I would say that it is not a great loss. More interesting things are coming out, and the future is all about quality, very small production runs and diversity. Who can adapt, survives, dinos go extinct. This is how it works and whoever has been in the hobby for a couple of decades or more surely clearly have seen this pattern. Best wishes from Madras, Zubi
doug c

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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 08:41:19 PM »

Annnd a lot of peoples get involved in (different) things,  because to them it is trendy,  so seeing this new outdoor-flavoured  hobby they jumped into it !  When the trendy/new aspect of it wore off it and the economy went 'south',   they used that as an reason to bail out of one of their latest trendy past-times.

As mentioned on another forum, here in town a bricks 'n mortar has brought in the G-gauge line of Piko   to supplement their previous stock of small scales (n/ho - marklin, trix, piko +) .  
And added 'bonus' to consumers, (and kudos to this Cdn bricks'nmortar) .... their pricing of this g-gauge manufacturer product is cheaper than the regional-based "online" shop  !!

All consumer goods markets have/had  gone soft,  but as a recent media report stated the peoples in the top % level are making higher earnings,  although unsaid was not for the frontline staffers that those top %  laid off since '08 u.s generated crash, and the collapse of the O/G industry.

Oh yeah both these vendors (brick & online) up here in Canada, not selling msrp or higher,   as 3 other local HSs  used to do previous to  bailing-out (no re-stocking of G-gauge new prod. nor NOS) 8-10 yrs  ago.


doug c
« Last Edit: November 23, 2017, 03:21:37 PM by doug c » Logged
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