Whither Tom Yorke? WAS: State of the Union Message
- What follows is a strictly personal point of view, but it has been (I
hope) carefully considered... :-)
For the more general malaise known as 'the disappearing true modeller',
there is no solution. Demographics and changed lifestyles mean that the
'true modeller' (one who actually builds things for himself) is a
shrinking breed. How many kids do you now see on a Sunday afternoon
tinkering under the hood/bonnet of some 10 years old semi-wreck
automobile with their Dads or brothers? The basic 'societal feedstock'
has evaporated! I could go on and on, but this is neither the time nor
However, there is almost certainly a '10 year window of opportunity'
that should see Tom well into (an equally well-deserved) retirement (I
believe he is currently 57). That is in "Collectors Ready Finished,
Limited Run, Finished 'Character' Buildings" market. Tom has already
more than mastered the 'Character' Buildings bit, now we need a change
in marketing and distribution strategy. A true master in this area is
Look at his prices, look at his payroll, look at his distribution
'downline'. Yes, he has had some bumps along the way (selling via the
'toys for spoilt and bored dilettante middle aged brats' outlets like
House of Ascot was not a great idea, as they only ended up deep
discounting once the 'flavour of the month' had gone stale). But there
IS a good lesson here. There is in Europe and possibly even in North
America a 'critical mass' of discerning, deep-pocketed, highly educated
people who have traveled, have learned to appreciate the best in other
countries' vernacular architecture AND are prepared to put their Credit
Cards into action when they see something of QUALITY that piques their
interest AND brings pleasant memories to the fore as well = 'The
Talisman Effect'. But, please note, all Richard's buildings are FINISHED
ready-to-DISPLAY items. The 'trap' that Tom is currently in is that, in
order to make some sort of a living, his prices are seen as 'high' by
his typical profile buyers (compared to Far Eastern 'coolie' labour
prices), yet - because these are KITS that still involve the purchaser
in further high investments in both time and already acquired skills -
it is the buyers who (in their eyes anyway) put in the true VALUE ADDED
component of the final, finished product. So Tom totally misses out on
the area of greatest possible financial gain! Answer? Sell only finished
product to people who can and will pay for it and who are not
necessarily remotely interested in the minutiae of how that product is
made. They simply appreciate an artifact of intrinsic beauty and
To in some measure illustrate the point, my 'neighbour' out here in
Calgary, deepest western Canada, is longtime professional modellmaker
and artist Mike Breuer....
Mike builds delightfully atmospheric custom-ordered, totally finished,
European-prototype station and lineside buildings in both 'HO' and 'O'
scales. Mike's buildings are so darn good that, with only the tiniest
bit of imagination, you can shrink yourself down to 1:87 or 1:43 scale,
sit down on the bench outside the building, and listen to the birds
singing, the cows mooing and the gentle pastoral sounds around you. And
believe me, people PAY for models of such quality. As is the nature of
such things, one-offs tended to become 'limited runs', with jigs and
castings made for just one model being reused for later (near)
duplicates, hence there are some economies of scale AND the 'learning
curve' for each new prototype is drastically cut once you get into
duplication of that specific prototype. I hope Mike won't mind me saying
so, but he used to offer kit versions of some of his models and 'key'
castings from them. But, bluntly, there was no profit in it, most kit
buyers were an (economic) pain in the butt to deal with (too much
correspondence, too many ridiculous questions, too much requested
'custom' work on what was after all supposed to be a standard KIT
component). And, to top it all, there weren't nearly enough kit buyers
anyway (sound familiar Tom?). Now, Mike faces the happy dilemma juggling
with healthy queues of would-be buyers of 'ready-to-plant' buildings,
sold at respectable prices that reflect the Value Added that Mike's very
real design, manufacturing and FINISHING skills justly deserve.
If Tom truly wants to stay only in the KIT design and manufacturing
business, I earnestly would suggest looking at the European market. The
American market for 'Depression Era' and 'Flyblown South-West/Mexican'
buildings has run its course. Those who remember such buildings fondly
(?) from their impressionable teen years (we ALL tend to fixate on these
so-called 'golden years') are either (1) dead, (b) have advancing
arthritis and crapping out eyesight, (c) are living on tight pensions,
or (d) are a commercially insignificant body of would-be customers (10
copies per prototype kit is a sure recipe for commercial suicide).
Besides, for those who haven't noticed, North Americans have become
terminally 'cheap' of late, as we have become satiated with quality
goods from the Far East and now no longer understand or even care what
goes into making them, just that Wal-Mart can supply them (and destroy
our hard won manufacturing and skills base in the process).
If you move to an INTEGRATED line of quality FINISHED items, to a
recognised model railway scale (I would strongly suggest 1/35), then
both Military and Railway modellers can admire, collect, use and/or
'plant' them on their showcases (most) or in their dioramas (quite a
lot) or their layouts (not many). The 'problem' with European vernacular
architecture is that it tends to be pretty regional (d--n, how I hate
all that Faller 'Black Forest' medieval half-timbered plastic c--p in HO
:-), BUT differing designs from differing areas can be made to work
together. But please, please don't end up making awful pastiches like
VLS Custom Dioramics 'European' railway station in 1/35 - a ghastly
mockery rather than even a 'flavour of' :-) If you want 'atmospheric'
station buildings, look no further than the 60 cm. Calvados system [the
little gems at Lion-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer immediately come to mind] or
the metre gauged Tramways de la Corrèze (my friends will recognise
'special pleading' for Le Mortier Gumond coming in here :-) , whilst the
once oh-so-numerous light railways of France, Germany, Italy and Spain
have more than enough delightful lineside buildings to keep Tom going
WELL into his [well paid] dotage :-) I'm certain that if more Europeans
knew of Tom's Porto Vecchio Water Tank AND could buy it ready made on a
wooden base, complete with indolent leaning figure in appropriate
'regional' garb, he would have sold many, many more of them.
Enough rambling (courtesy of a delayed flight on Air Canada and air
traffic control 'difficulties' courtesy of NavCan) :-)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
...who for 20 years has modeled the prototype two-foot(ish) gauge on
3/4" gauge ('On3') track in 1/32 scale, but who has also built and
enjoyed 13x 'O' scale, 2x 'HO' scale and 1x 'G' scale Tom Yorke kits
over a 30 year span.
- --- In Yorke_Kits@yahoogroups.com, Mike South <mikesouth@...> wrote:
> What follows is a strictly personal point of view, but it has
> hope) carefully considered... :-)XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
If you think that building structures and dioramas one at a time and
selling them easily is a snap, then i suggest you take a shot with
your best effort on ebay and see exactly how many bids and final
selling price you obtain. I think you would be in for a shock.
Oh and do not forget, you have to figure out how to ship that wonder
you built, so the thing doesn't end up in pieces as tooth pics or in
hydrocal dust. Take it from one who knows and has built 462 dioramas
in HO And O scale.
There are really on two kit manufacturers who have lasted. George
Sellios of Fine scale Miniatures fame since 1967 and Bob Van Gelder
of South River Modelworks since around 1990. Both do only HO scale
and produce 500 + of their once a year releases. But they are
concentrating on the most popular scale and their items are more
collected than built.
Tom Yorke has been around since the 70"s producing both HO and O
scale plus some G. Too attract the collector/builder one must have
full page colour adverts in the magazine of full blown dioramas of
their kits, these cost around $6000.00 ONE TIME.
Goof just once on your selection to build and offer a design and if
the public doesn't care for it, ya cannot eat it.!!!!!!!!!
FSM has had a couple that did not sell well and took 2-3 years to
sell out of those kits. It takes them 9 months to design and produce
a new kit. So its not like you can just rush to market with something
else. Not the ideal prescription for success.
Lots of people have all these great ideas about "the road to
success", but they are usually university business professors sitting
contented in their 'tenure' and not facing the real world of business
and getting out there and scrapping for orders. Pie in the sky
- Here is my thoughts on all this (from one who rarely posts):
An old "girlfriend" of mine once told me that the surest way to ruin a
pleasurable hobby is to try to sell it. To those of you who sell
kits, more power to you. Rest assured that I'm more than content to
buy the kits that I like (even though I doubt that I'll live long
enough to build them all!)
Have a great weekend.