By Mike Garrison
A Moment with Mike is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Mike Garrison gives his take on hot-button issues, general topics, and conversations within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
Over the weekend I received a message from a concerned hobby shop and track owner regarding less and less hobby shop sales, more direct sales between customers and manufacturers, and the effect this could have on the well-being of racetracks and the R/C industry.
With the increase in sponsorship and many manufacturers offering direct public sales via the web, more and more racers are bypassing the local hobby shops to purchase their R/C products. There are multiple concerns that arises with the less local hobby shop sales and/or more direct sales.
#1) Direct sales with manufacturers increases the profit for manufacturers, which is good in order to keep them successful and producing more products. On the flip side, when purchasing direct or bypassing the local hobby shops, these shops suffer in sales and often close up shop. Manufacturer’s cannot provide the on-site support, representation, and overall reach in each individual community that quality hobby shops can – therefore as more hobby shops close, the amount of support, representation, and overall presence of R/C in many communities begins to suffer and/or go extinct.
#2) Not all, but majority of R/C tracks that are someone’s full-time career are not sustained by the track itself, but rather the hobby shop that often accompanies the track. Race entries can be a significant part of an R/C facility’s income, but typically the bills are paid from a larger portion of the income that is generated from hobby shop sales. Manufacturer’s rely on racers to purchase their products. Racers rely on racetracks to drive the products they purchase. If hobby shops with tracks are forced to close, racers are left with no where to race. If racers are left with no where to race, manufacturers then suffer as there is no racers left to purchase their products. In the end, the entire R/C industry suffers.
I am NOT saying that sponsorships are all bad. I am NOT saying that all manufacturers who offer direct sales are all bad. I am NOT saying that all hobby shops that close are because of outside direct sales.
What I AM saying is that as racers, small business/hobby shop owners, track owners, and manufacturers we need to take a step back and realize that the world of R/C does not continue to spin based on one or the other – but rather a strong cooperation, network of support, and teamwork of ALL that are involved.