Trains--A dealer's perspective of the Internet train business
By Bill Oberst
I think the Internet has been exactly what we've needed to level
the playing field for customers as well as dealers. The prices
have come down and the merchandise moves more quickly than before
widespread use of the net.
One example of the speed with which trains can change hands is
our SVC Trains "Free Bulletin Board" where sellers &
buyers can deal directly with each other. Ads placed there are
immediately viewable by anyone who checks this board for the latest
ads, and believe me, a lot of hobbyists look every day, some every
The advantages offered to hobbyists by these types of websites
are many. In addition to being able to compare prices and selection
at their convenience and e-mailing in questions, they don't have
to wait six weeks for the magazine or train club ads to come out,
only to find that someone has already purchased the best deals
two weeks before the literature was delivered. Ordering from the
web can also be done twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
SVC Trains is located in an area that has very few train hobbyists.
Our walk-in train customer traffic is very low, but we're still
able to communicate with thousands of potential train customers
through our web site each day.
This is as good or better than being located in a large metro
area. Sale items can be posted on our web site and customers alerted
by e-mail every day, if needed. We're also able to service a lot
of customers that don't have a local train store. As I'm sure
you've noticed, many local mom & pop train shops, after struggling
to meet the overhead, have thrown in the towel the last three
As for online auctions, I know some dealers don't like Ebay,
but it has had a huge influence on model train prices. The prices
on Ebay are a better indication of current prices than any of
the guides that have been published in the last couple of years.
The info a hobbyist can obtain from past and ongoing auctions
is invaluable in making buying decisions. It has also enabled
many small dealers that do not have a web site to move overstock
Nothing I've seen can touch the instant transfer of opinions
and information that you get on Internet message boards. They
can be a great source of help to beginners as well as old timers,
in spite of the juvenile messages and rumors sometimes posted
there. I've had customers alert me to problems with products and
the solutions long before the Manufacturer notified the dealers.
All in all, I think the Internet has been great for model trains.
2417 Highmarket St
Georgetown SC 29440