....... Business' are not as solid as they appear and the hobby, while in a fantastic golden age of kits, is not as strong in Western culture as it was years ago. Even if the old Monogram molds are long paid for and it is "all profit" to make kits from them, it still costs in material and labor, and those are far more expensive than just the molds.
And Hobby Lobby is more of a wholesale mover of overstock than a real supplier of model kits. Hobby Lobby was at their heyday for models in the late 1990's and early 2000's because they were still moving a glut of kits through from a HUGE failed distributor....
----I used to think this until about a year ago. Then, I noticed the local club membership has increased, in fact we've got several clubs in our area now. Additionally, the number of modelers on line has exponentially increased in the past few years-- there are literally thousands an thousands of us world-wide. A few years ago, before the Internet, the only adult model builders were often labeled as "geeks". But today, it's appealing to a whole new group of individuals-- Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Pilots, College professors and even retired Army officers populate the groups I associate with! I think the Internet has cut into the business of the stand alone mom & pop store-- not just in the Hobby world, but everywhere. But I think there is room for innovative brick and mortar stores that use the internet creatively to seek and market. Additionally, I think the sophisticated market among Western society for hobbies in general and models in particular has grown, not declined-- and we can have these discussions among a much wider group of people than we ever could in our LHS. It's true, you can't find many models in the 5 & 10 stores anymore, but then again, there aren't many 5 & 10s around either. It's up to us to bring up the younger generation of modelers in different ways. That's where stores like Hobby Lobby and Hobbytown come in.
I just got back into modelling 3 years ago after having been away for almost 40 years. When I joined my local modelling club in Northern Virginia, I didn't realize that I would be part of period of sustained growth for my local modelling club. We regularly get over 30 people at our monthly meetings, our annual Christmas Party meeting/party drew over 60 this year, the club runs an annual one-day model show, The Model Classic that seems to grow bigger every year.
Set against this is the fact that in 2017, the local hobby shop with the largest selection of models, Piper Hobby in Chantilly, closed and that last month, my local hobby shop in walking distance, Hobby Works-Fairfax closed. Because I visited Hobby Works nearly every week and because the manager Bruce is part of our local model club, the closing of Hobby Works really sucks for me. One of my friends from the club sent me an email on New Year's Day telling me that Hobby Works would be closing at the end of January, which was not a great way to start the New Year for me, although I appreciated my friend's letting me know that the store would be closing.
However, despite grieving the loss of my local hobby shop, I continue to be optimistic about the future of scale modelling, in part, because of my experience in my other major hobby, board wargaming. Although board wargaming was never as mass market a hobby as modelling was, they did used to sell wargames at Toys 'R Us back in the 1970s and they were sold at most of the larger hobby stores. Nevertheless, for over 30 years now, wargames have been hard to find in retail stores, so I've been living in a world for over 40 years now in which I have bought most of the products in one of my hobbies online or, before the Internet, by mail order. And despite this, the board wargame hobby has largely flourished in the last decade. As with modelling, the product quality and variety is as high as it has ever been, but the "print runs" tend to be significantly smaller than in the heyday of the hobby back in the 60s and 70s. Fortunately, the companies selling games seem to be able to make a decent profit and stay in business, even with smaller "print runs."
So, as much as I enjoy visiting a local hobby on a regular basis, I know from experience that it is possible for a hobby to survive and even thrive with a minimal retail presence. Even with Hobbico's bankruptcy declaration this year, I have been amazed by how many new models that have been announced for 2018 (some of which have already arrived in stores, both brick and mortar and online), even from Revell Germany. So, maybe I'm pollyannish, but as long as model companies keep producing new models and local modelling clubs stay active, I continue to be optimistic of the future of the hobby and that the decline of retail hobby shops is not the end of the world.