Where have all the model shops gone?Posted: February 16, 2014
It was an almost completely wasted journey.
The Crayford branch of Hobbycraft had no liquid polystyrene glue and only a small section of Humbrol enamel paints. They did have some Tamiya and Revell acrylic paints on a small display stand, but my past experience with Tamiya paint has left me unwilling to use it again and the Revell paint seemed rather expensive. There was also a very small selection of Citadel paints on sale, but it seemed to consist of all the colours I would not be able to use. I was left with the feeling that the store was either waiting for new stock to be delivered or it was ceasing to sell these products.
I did manage to buy some Humbrol enamel paints (black and white matt that I use for undercoating my vehicles and figures) and some gloss varnish … but that was all. I am now left with the prospect of having to visit the Hobbycraft branch in Orpington and/or the branch of Games Workshop at Bluewater to buy what I need.
This set me thinking about the demise of the traditional model shop in the area where I live. I can remember being able to have a choice. There used to be a branch of Beatties in Lewisham as well as independent model shops in Eltham, Welling Models, and Bexley Village. I had a choice of four possible places to buy what I needed within a radius of five miles.
None of them still exists.
There is a specialist model shop in Bexleyheath, but it seems to concentrate on old, rare, and collectible models rather than the more run-of-the-mill stuff that I want to buy. Until recently there was a branch of Modelzone at Bluewater, but that shut when the company closed down.
So where have all the model shops gone? I suspect that part of the answer is commercial – they were just unable to generate sufficient turnover to remain viable in properties which were subject to continually rising rents, service charges, and business rates – and part is due to the changing leisure habits of teenage boys. The latter are far more likely to buy a pair of trainers or a computer game than to buy a model kit. The loss of local model shops can be made up in part by purchasing what you need via the Internet, but recent changes to Royal Mail regulations makes buying modelling paint online much more difficult.
I know that we are unlikely to see a resurgence of the local model shop, but it would help if their ‘replacements’ either carried a wide enough range of basic items in stock or were allowed to post them to you without worrying about breaking the law.