Retail Therapy

With so many model shops closed at the moment and no shows to attend, the opportunities for buying models and all the bits and pieces that go with them is somewhat more limited. Inevitably that means modellers are turning more and more to ordering things online instead. Many model shops already offer an online alternative to a physical visit to their shop and others have long operated exclusively online.

The need to find things to do during our enforced period of staying in the house also means that more people are turning to the hobby, either taking the opportunity to return to it or perhaps exploring it for the first time.

Taken together, these two factors have had a major impact on the online model retail trade. On the face of it that’s really healthy for them but the reality is not always so straightforward. Some of the UK online retailers are reporting that orders are up by anything from three to five times the volume they had before lock-down. Think about it; that’s the same as receiving a whole week’s orders every working day.

In order to keep operating, those retailers are having to look after their own staff by managing their working arrangements, often in small warehouse-type environments. This often means that the number of staff on site has reduced, maybe to just one or two people because that’s the maximum that can work safely and still maintain the necessary social distancing measures. It is inevitable that the huge increase in orders, coupled with a serious reduction in available staff, means that the retailers cannot maintain their usual rapid delivery times. Instead of 3-5 days being the norm for many, they are predicting 15-30 days.

The next link in the chain is of course the Post Office and the big courier chains. They too are working far harder than usual and they too cannot always deliver parcels and packages with the speed they would normally achieve.

So next time you place an order online, take a moment to understand the pressures that so many of these retailers are under and don’t expect that precious item you are ordering to turn up on your doorstep as quickly as it usually does. It might do, but chances are it won’t arrive as rapidly as normal. The fact that these guys are able to continue operating at some level and satisfy the needs of our hobby is a massive bonus for all of us and they deserve a huge thank-you.

Over the past four weeks I’ve ordered several things online from UK suppliers – a couple of kits to be sure, but mostly it’s been consumables – paint, masking tape, plastic strip and card. None of the packages have taken as long to arrive as the retailers were predicting, but they still took longer than usual. For those of us who order from overseas, there is a greater risk, as I recently found to my cost. I’d ordered a couple of kits from my preferred retailer in Hong Kong. The kits were in stock and I received a despatch notification quite quickly. However, the Hong Kong Post Office suddenly suspended parcel shipments to most of the world, after my package had left the retailer, but before it had left Hong Kong. I therefore have a package in limbo somewhere in a warehouse in Hong Kong. When I’ll see it is anyone’s guess but I have plenty of other kits to be getting on with so it isn’t a major worry – by the time they turn up I’ll probably have forgotten I’d ordered them!

John Tapsell

IPMS (UK) Publicity Officer