The Hobby Kinda is Dying

Sorry everyone, its been a long time since I have posted.

The fact is, I’ve been struggling in modelling. At the end of 2023 I finally decided to call an end to Inside the Armour Publications.

Sales have been declining for some time and, undoubtedly, Brexit was the main factor in this. I know this because the EU was my biggest market, and since the customs changes in Europe when Brexit was enforced, came into effect, overnight my EU business vanished. Completely.

However, Brexit was not the only reason. Whilst the EU business was 60% of my sales, The UK was a big chunk at around 20% (UK Modellers have never spent as much as other countries, in all my years in the hobby business) and the rest was basically US and Asia. Asia and US shipping has climbed dramatically and US distributors have told me “books don’t sell anymore”. Overall, friends in the Hobby Publishing business tell me that people just aren’t buying books anymore, and ebooks just don’t sell.

People say that the phrase “the hobby is dying” isn’t true. But the fact is: parts of it are.
The publishing side is really suffering right now, and before you say “oh that’s the internet and youtube vs books”, hobby stores tell me their sales are declining too.

The average demographic of modellers, is ageing, and not enough people are coming in. Sure, we get new models all the time, and new companies, but don’t mistake the effects of lowering barrier to entry for healthy sales. (the cost of making a kit, has reduced dramatically over the last 25 years, and CAD has made design of kits so much easier as it has become more widely used in society and more people can do it and afford it)

This decline has, to a certain extent, been masked by the ability of those older modellers to spend more. But with the current economic crunch, the cracks are showing. Ask yourself, how many kits or books have you bought in the last 12 months compare the past? How many of them were second-hand? How many people do you know that proudly tell you they haven’t really bought a kit in months?

Does it Matter?

Many of us have stashes to last forever, right? And “I can get what guides I need for free of the internet”.

The fact is modelling is a consumer activity. it requires us to consume a kit and get another. It is a hobby that demands supply in order to continue, and ultimately, if people are not spending money, no one will create high quality curated content, because they won’t be able to afford to. Magazines and books will be the first things to go, and they are not, arguably, essential to modelling, but if sales continue to decline, the commercial argument for importing kits and consumables becomes weaker, and we could see more announcements like the closure of Railway Hobby giant Hattons, on the horizon…

Anyway, while my hobby business is dying, you can get 50% off books at insidethearmour.com

About Chris

I'm Chris Meddings, Modeller, Author, Publisher of Modelling Books, Podcaster, and armchair wannabe thinker
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11 Responses to The Hobby Kinda is Dying

  1. Rene de Koning says:

    Unfortunately, I’m one of the older generation you refer to, am retired and have more kits in my stash than I’m ever likely to complete in my remaining years. As a consequence over a decade ago I stopped buying kits – unless it’s a new for old replacement with the older kit being sold off – and focus mainly on purchasing available aftermarket items for kits in my stash. Hence the kits I have are full of extras. I also love some of the 3D printed items that people aee producing these days and have added a number of aircraft related vehicles to my stash as well.
    I’m also guilty for rarely purchasing a book, unless it’s specifically related to my interests and no longer purchase modelling related magazines either, as they are just more if the same month after month. I find I get more inspiration and ideas from the various groups and modellers I follow and the modelling related group I attend on a monthly basis. I’ve also not been near a bricks and mortar hobby shop for decades, feel no need to and purchase all my requirements from a online only business, which I find far more convenient. If all this leads to the demise of hobby shops, the closure of publishing houses and a reduction of kit manufacturers than I am as guilty as charged.

  2. Nigel Rayner says:

    The publishing side of the hobby is dying because it delivers limited value IMO. I’ve bought a number of books in recent years about figure painting and modelling and most simply cannot deliver the “how to” information that I was looking for. The format just doesn’t work. Why buy a book on dioramas when I can watch Night Shift videos? He provides, for free, far better information than most “how to” books and magazines. And why buy a magazine when you have a bunch of YouTubers and internet resources keeping us all up to date with the latest releases from pretty much every kit company, along with build reviews that let us see what the kit looks and builds like.

    As for the modelling side of the hobby, it’s healthier than it’s ever been. But (as you have pointed out) it is changing. Yes, firms catering to boomers who grew up with Hornby and Airfix may well be suffering because subsequent generations have different interests. But when the revenues of Games Workshop have grown from £123 million in 2013 to nearly £471 million in 2023 (that’s nearly 4x growth!), how can anyone say the “hobby” is dying? Making models is at the heart of the GW business model, they have bricks and mortar stores everywhere, they sell paints, accessories, models, books, magazines and more. Compare that to the revenues of Hornby in comparison – £55 million in 2023, struggling for growth and unprofitable.

    So the hobby of making plastic models is healthier than ever. But it’s shifting away from oldies making models of Spitfires and Mustangs and doing railway modelling to younger generations with different interests. Something you have said yourself several times…….

  3. Jake says:

    I have mixed feelings about your post here. I get what you’re saying, but I think there’s some important nuance missing. Example: I’ve spent more on books in the last two years than the previous 30 combined. But… most all of them have been one of two things:

    1. Digital copies I don’t have to lug around (as I get older and move more, I’m sick to death of boxing and shipping, even though I love a physical book)

    2. Deeply researched books that cost a ton but are invaluable.

    In both these cases, ease comes into play. It’s easier to just download the book when I need it for the moment I need it. And it’s easier to manage and find. (And I think we have a LOOOOOONG way to go to make this management and searching a killer feature that it absolutely is not right now). In the deeply researched books, it’s easier to flip pages than to search endlessly online.

    But the book experience has shown some cracks in this new digital world. The more experienced I get, the more I need deeper description, answers to the odd questions, etc. Modeling books very often cater to a broad audience, so they naturally aren’t as interesting. And yes, when I can see the inspiration photos in higher quality and larger quantity, that’s a different thing.

    But I’m sad to see Inside the Armour go away because you had a great collection of really interesting books that made it fun to pull off the shelf and inspiring to read.

    As far as the hobby dying, that’s a really hard stretch for me. I see a hobby that was once deeply sequestered between the various genres (dollhouses, RR, scale, etc.) coming together to share techniques. I see a culture worldwide that is embracing the impressive nature of modeling rather than turning their nose up at “silly models built by childish adults”. I see more and more methods and ideas and kits hitting the market.

    In the vein of IPMS needing to die into order to be reborn stronger, I think the hobby we know with the traditional materials, shops, methods, workflows, stash creations is absolutely changing, perhaps even dying. But just like a forest fire, the forest doesn’t die forever. It regrows stronger. We are seeing monumental shifts (both good and bad) but I don’t think anything is dying as much as parts are withering while others bloom.

    • Chris says:

      sadly, ebooks do not sell. not just in my experience, but in the experience of other publishers I talk to. not enough to justify making them and paying the authors to write them

  4. Paul Dunham says:

    Perhaps the evolution of the hobby results in the death of certain aspects of it. I’m a grey-haired middle-aged dude but when I go to my club meetings, I’m one of the younger guys there (it’s all old white guys). When I go to a Gunpla or gaming miniature event I’m always the oldest and there is a diversity of ages, races, and genders. WWII and muscle cars were the most popular modeling subjects for me and my peers, but for new modelers these subjects are remote. For most of the hobby’s history the market was Europe, North America, and Japan. It is far more dispersed now. Perhaps the concentration of modelers interested in the traditional subjects is lower everywhere, but the total world-wide number of modelers interested in some sort of miniature hobby is higher than it has ever been?

  5. Dave Morris says:

    Good points, well stated. Thought provoking.

    In the couple years I’ve been back to the hobby, I’ve probably learned more from videos and podcasts than from publications. But new media hasn’t figured out how to do, say, Marijn van Gils’ Diorama FAQ: distilled knowledge, expressed clearly, well edited and laid out, inspiring and illustrative images, in a format that lets me both easily flip through for inspiration AND drill down for detailed study. (With literal bookmarking enabled!). Facebook and YouTube can’t come close.

    Progress brings blessings, and brings suckage. Economic “creative destruction” always costs somebody. I’m hoping that inspiration strikes, that people find ways to exploit the new in a way that preserves the best of the old.

    After all, I hunted down and bought Marijn van Gils’ book thanks to a couple podcasts….

    • Nigel Rayner says:

      I’ll agree and disagree….. I recently bought Dioramas FAQ 1.3 (MvJ’s book), then Dioramas FAQ 1.2 and I today ordered the original (and expensive) Diorama book. These books are indeed excellent but there are lots of YouTube diorama channels that show superb techniques in detail and in “real time” so you really can see how they execute these techniques. Take a look at Night Shift, Paepercuts and others for example.

  6. Jon Tabinor says:

    The one-off nature of Brexit and fatal effect it’s had on your business, Chris, apart. I wonder whether this is just another of the cyclical economic waves that have seen the death of modelling widely predicted over the years. I’m pretty sure there was grumbling from the old wood-carvers and balsa-and-talc fillers about the demise of the hobby when newfangled plastic came along. The oil crisis, arcade video games, the internet, electronic gaming, history not being studied ‘like it used to be’. Not to mention several recessions over the last 50 years. I’m pretty sure they’ve all heralded modelling’s death knell, but it’s still here.

    I suspect it IS changing, and will change, but my bet it is that that has always been the case. 3-D printing has and will certainly continue to usher in a new way of both creating and purchasing models. Online content continues to be useful for many aspects of the hobby, but …

    The problem seems to be that, as you’ve alluded, people have forgotten not everything in life is, or even should, be free. Researching, producing, publishing and marketing online content still has a cost, and while many are perhaps happy to do that for some kind of sponsorship (or just because the production becomes almost a hobby within itself) I wonder how long that ‘free’ enthusiasm lasts in reality?

    Monetising hobby content is something that has been talked about a lot and I think we’ve yet to see a definitive way of it being acceptable both to the consumer in terms of price, and income for the producer. I don’t know how that is solved or if it actually needs to be as long as people are happy with what they can get, but I’m sort of reminded of the way a lot of the magazines started.

    I’m told this was ‘chaps in cardigans’ doing stuff for free, after work, because they enjoyed it, and if it paid for the odd kit then that was a ‘jolly nice bonus’. Eventually as the producers became more ambitious, and readers wanted more content, these became purchasable subscription and newsstand magazines because that was how things worked back then. So how long will things stay free online? (You still need a ton of subscribers and lot of hours watched to even start to make money on YouTube, so it’s not the quick path to riches it can be even if you are a spray-tanned bee-stung lipped ‘social influencer’).

    Let’s face it – you know as well as I do that modelling is a great way to make any kind of living. But it’s bloody hard to make a full living from it without some extra income ( I’m lucky to have been left some inherited money that can pay the bills, but even that is almost gone). So will many of the currently free online resources go behind paywalls or even PPV? If they do it’s back to the same old until we evolve into some Banksian post-wealth society at least! The sad fact at present though is we don’t really seem to place high value on much online at the moment, so it’s hard to get people to pay for it (porn being the exception that proves the rule). Effectively when stuff is free, people seem to give it little value, or fail to realise it has a cost at least.

    There’s such a place for your books Chris, and the modelling community will be poorer for the loss of them. But it needs to be easy for small producers to sell them to a wide audience without massive overheads, and paperwork. So that requires either a return to a pre-Brexit style free market or for stuff to become virtual. That needs consumers to realise that it is the content that is valuable, not the means of presentation. Get that right and ebooks should be both a profitable thing for you and an affordable thing for modellers.

    • Chris says:

      pretty sure that reply was longer than the blog lol

      But seriously, this blog was a classic case of post in haste, repent at leisure, because it really would have benefitted from me leaving it to stew then editing and writing a second draft

      1. I made the mistake of making a generalisation about the hobby when what I actually meant was the hobby *business* not the hobby itself. The hobby itself is in decline, but so slowly it is not hugely noticeable

      2. I made the mistake of seeing part of the hobby, traditional aircraft armour and ship historical ‘ordnance’ modelling, and projecting that onto the whole hobby. Sci Fi, Gunpla, Warhammer, and Fantasy Figures are doing GREAT.

      3. I’ll fess to it. The title was click bait, because the phrase is a trigger in the community, lol.

      However, when I spoke of parts of the business dying, I was not simply taking my own business and experience, and extrapolating. That would be a sample of one, which you and I know is not statistically valid. Whilst I don’t want to say who they are, my point about parts of the hobby being in terminal decline, is based on conversations with 5 international distributors, several publishers, some retailers, and a number of producers.

      As for ebooks, that’s not just my own experience, that’s what all but one publisher I have spoken to, tells me. Ebook sales are so poor, they usually do not cover the cost of generating the content. This is what publishers tell me, not just what I experience.

      Even within the hobby business though, some things are in decline faster than others. I suspect the days of cast resin are very shortly numbered now, and honestly, I think PE is doomed too. but plastic kits will remain around longer than me, thats for sure

      • Warren says:

        Chris,
        Speaking of point #2 above, I’ve seen this in my life. My son, now in his late 20’s, grew up building a few models with me, mostly 1/72nd Airfix stuff, a couple of tanks, figures, etc. He likes the hobby, and would love to come back to it. However, living where he does, and how he does, it’s just not doable. You know what he’s doing instead? Warhammer figures. Painting minis, like so many of the younger crowd are doing, is easy for him and his lifestyle. He can work on them easily at the kitchen table, and then box everything up easily and put it away until he gets time and the mood strikes him again. (Yes, I know there are still plenty of modelers that build on their kitchen table in the same way, but minis seem just made for this.)
        Add to that, there just isn’t the interest and enthusiasm among younger folks for Tigers, Shermans, and Messerstangs that there is/was for my generation. I know I can directly attribute my interest in those things by being a Boomer and son of a WWII vet. I think many folks became accustomed to those things being the “default models” that folks were interested in because the Boomer generation, the largest generation ever worldwide, was interested in those things. (Oh! My son is a HUGE sci-fi fan too, so there’s that.)
        As for the ebooks, publishing, etc. . . . well, as you’ve said, the hobby is in a sad state there. In the last ten years or a little more, my two favorite magazines, and the only two I consistently subscribed to, went under. One was scale modeling related, “Windsock International”, and Ray Rimmel just couldn’t keep up. Except for the plans, articles on paint schemes, and that sort of thing, the rest of the magazine became yesterday’s news as the kit reviews, build articles, etc. just got overwhelmed by the internet. Too many people got it for free as you said.

  7. CHUA SEK CHUAN says:

    The scale model community in Singapore has been facing a downturn since before the Covid lockdown. When I did part-time in M Workshop, there were regulars, but not that many new modellers. I tried to live up to Bernard’s belief in helping the new people as much as possible. Business was difficult for M Workshop with most of the regular being those that began building models in the 70s. There is a move to Gundam and the like. Not necessarily a bad thing. Some move to armour and aircraft after Gundam. Some want to build their skills in painting, in creating ideas and dioramas. As long as the need was there, Bernard helped to build their skills. He challenged them to improve. What most did not see was how he was affected by the trials of the business, as you have intimate knowledge in. The business, the industry of scale models in Singapore is a tiny, niche industry that took a hard knock during the pandemic with smaller stores closed and those that managed to struggle through, still surviving. Gundam is one of the resurgent aspects of plastic models. Another is Warhammer.
    I hope that you will still be involved in the business, even indirectly.
    There is, and will be, always a place for you.

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