model train set on track

SVC Trains–A dealer’s perspective of the Internet train business

e*Train Issue: Feb 2003   |   Posted in: ,

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 hour!

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 years.

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 merchandise.

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.

Bill Oberst
SVC Trains
2417 Highmarket St
Georgetown SC 29440