As the 2017 GBWC event reaches it’s final heat in Japan, I have been salivating over the incredible work on show from all over the world, and I am left thinking as I annually do, I wish I had the opportunity to join this fantastic competition.
Being from the UK where the hobby is still very niche, and where kit sales are limited by a handful of highly competitive small, local and Japanese retailers without any UK wholesale agreements all vying to take business from the Goliath of international model kit retailers HLJ.com, it’s hard to gauge just how ‘big’ the UK scene really is in terms that Bandai will take notice of – actual sales. I wonder if HLJ.com report their sales by country? Would there be any benefit for them to do this even? I do however know one thing for sure. We have some exceptional talent that deserves a slot in the GBWC, and we would be a fantastic addition to a growing international event.
I find that here in the UK we are at a kind of impasse, where our talent meets the requirements but we’re simply held back by a technicality – for want of a better word. Is there a way to show Bandai how well their kits are selling in the UK? It would require, I would think a direct link to the event organisers and a concerted effort from all retailers selling to, and from within the UK reporting back sales figures, or a large wholesaler to take up the ‘risk’ of stocking Gunpla. I just can’t see this happening. Local UK retailers are working with crazy small margins to aviod been smashed by import charges and to not pass these costs onto customers – meaning smaller Japan-based retailers and individual sellers are able to undercut them on price. This is all business, and completely understandable – the demand is that people want the best prices for kits, and have little to no interest in paying that little bit more for the short term, for long term gains in terms of better deals for UK-based retailers – which would not even be guaranteed at this stage. It’s pretty obvious to state that if more UK retailers where selling Gunpla, competition would increase and prices will drop, but without affordable access to wholesale for small retailers, this is distant goal.
Don’t get me wrong here. This is no hit-piece for any retailers out there, I am just writing this as I see it with the experience of talking to retailers worldwide and wholesalers like Blue Fin over in the US, but this highly competitive nature of Gunpla sales here in the UK is definitely a stumbling block in the way of getting a GBWC event here in the UK. There are some questionable techniques in my opinion too employed by some retailers in social media that create these strange, factional echo-chambers with brand advocates exchanging pointless defamation for causes unknown. If your service, advertising and prices are good, and you have a good and expandable business model – there should be no need for such activity, surely one of the rules of business is to not limit your potential customer base? I will avoid these sellers, but would not begrudge anyone else wanting to get good prices, nor bear any ill feeling towards retailers having to work with no advertising budget and social/organic reach alone. Just like everyone else of course, I will look for the kits I want at the best prices and put ethics in last place (as bad as that sounds, it’s true for most of us on a budget) – and instead advocate for the hobby here in the UK as and where I can, recommending retailers on the basis of who is best for the hobby. In light of this, I am hoping that I can attend next years IPMS show in Telford along with a few other Gunpla fans (thanks to David for working to pull this together), to see if we can gain more interest in the hobby – because this is where it really matters for hobbyists and retailers alike. If you feel the UK needs representation in the GBWC, I urge you to do the very same. Talk about it, especially with your more nerdier mates, get them involved and show them just how incredible this hobby is. If you need a shout-out for anything social you are doing for the hobby here in the UK, have a facebook page, YouTube channel or blog to share, drop me a message. Always happy to help, and of course, get yourself a membership on the Mecha Lounge!