This will be the first York meet I will miss in many years. Obviously I have many fond memories of this show, and it will be missed very much. This was a very tough decision, believe me. It was a combination of personal and business reasons that will keep me away from the show this Spring.
If you are not familiar with the York show it is the largest train show anywhere, and is held in York, Pa. It is sponsored by the Eastern Division of TCA (Train Collectors of America), and unfortunately you have to be a member to visit the show.
I actually made the final decision around 4 weeks ago when I received the application. You might remember a previous article that I made mention of problems that I had at the show in previous years. Well, those problems and other reasons cumulated into my decision. If you've read this far, I know you want to know my reasons, so here they are.
First, the biggest reason that I did want to go to York is the people involved, the wonderful organization (TCA), and the fun that I have with John or Kathy (my Son and Daughter) when we go. We have a great time there, and it is really nice being alone with either one.
However I have been doing shows now for around 25 years between coin shows and train shows. If the shows are good financially then it is worth the effort of packing (usually takes a full day), hauling (usually takes another two trips of 6 hours each), setting up (another 2-3 hours), dealing and meeting people (that's the part I like, but it can also be very boring when nothing is happening).
I have had some very successful shows with sales well into the five digit figures. But as I think back those super shows that I have had in the past have always been after the purchase of a large collection of some type and selling really fresh inventory. Over the past couple of years I have tried to cater more towards you our mail order customer and in store customers rather than the shows. Thus we have tried to select older stock items to take to the shows to more or less dispose of. And this has been successful to a point. But the last two or three shows in particular have been very tough to do business.
I'm not sure what has happened, but a strong ‘buyers market' attitude has become very evident at the York shows over the past couple of years. My sales were actually not bad at the shows, but of the 200 to 400 items I take, maybe we have been averaging selling 20-25 higher priced items and that's about it.
My problem with what has happened at York over the past couple of years is the attitude. I don't take offense at low offers at train shows, because that is the nature of a show. There is a lot of competition. But when you fill a complete table full of American Flyer S Gauge trains and over the course of a day you have maybe 2 inquiries, there is something wrong. And then when you have offers that represent around 20% of your asking price there is something else wrong. And when you constantly have people putting down your grading trying to get you down in price, that wears on you. If you have dealt with me, you know my grading standards are pretty darn good!!
Probably the biggest factor that put me over the edge is the volume of business we are doing through the mail now. Until we stopped taking relatively fresh inventory to York a couple of years ago, many times we would sell several items from a new collection at York, haggling over the prices, and selling at a discount, only to come back to the store with a handful of orders for those same items at the full price. Of course I couldn't fill the orders because they were sold at York usually at a discount. That's fun!!
And probably the last deciding factor was ebay. Put it this way. I can take 20-25 items from my inventory and offer them on ebay. First of all I am guaranteed a sale. I don't have to put 200 to 400 items on to make 25 sales. I can almost guarantee that the average gross sales for those items will be higher than I would have received at York. So at this point, what sense does it make for me to travel to York, putting in all those hours when I can be here in the store working and getting things done?
I was thinking about taking a wad of cash and trying to buy at the York show, which would free me a great deal from standing behind a table. But ironically just yesterday I committed to a large Lionel collection in Michigan. I didn't do this on purpose, but I will be traveling on the same days I would have been going to York! So this works out great.
To further analyze the situation, I have talked to others, and have found especially dealers who are active on ebay to have the same attitude as me on this subject. And it is interesting that as it turns out I feel that ebay will ironically make shows weaker. Talking with others I know this is true with smaller shows. So are we moving towards a cyber commerce rather than face to face? Surely we are headed towards that direction, but how far it will go, who knows?
One thing you can count on in business is you can't count on anything! Everything changes so quickly especially with this computer age we have rushed into, it is amazing. It is very tough to stay ahead of the game especially right now, because if you fall behind or make the wrong turn, you could loose. I am sure it is like that in any business especially these days.
At any rate, I will miss York this Spring. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to return in the future. Please do me a favor if you go to York, and if anyone asks where I am, please don't tell anyone I went out of business! You can always find me on this ‘electric computer train show' at this very address!! We are always open for business, and we are always aiming to please.