I constantly hear and read that “We need to attract young modelers back to the hobby.” But beyond Make-N-Take events, I don’t see much effort to address that need. IPMS & some vendors offer Make-N-Take assistance (which we have used) but that’s about it.
My oldest son (13) got started in the hobby at age 9. However, he was (and still is to some degree) a closet builder. It may be just his perception, but apparently there’s a nerdy stigma associated with kit building. He is very careful with which of his classmates he will discuss his hobby. It’s a shame because we love the hobby and it always gives us (and his 8 yr old brother) something to talk about. Going to our club meetings is an event we don’t miss.
Given my personal interest in the topic, I’ve taken on an informal role of “youth coordinator” for our club. I’ve organized our last 2 Make-N-Takes in 2009 and planning a third this March. Our last Make-and-Take drew in 90 youth builders. Along with their parents, it brought in an estimated 150+ to our contest that otherwise would never have stepped into our show. And many bought kits from vendors on their way out.
I really believe that there is a vast, untapped market ripe for the picking. We could have easily doubled the number of builders with very little extra advertising effort. Yes, the event was free. But – we’re doing a follow-up Make-and-Take next month with attendees that indicated an interest in learning more about the hobby.. We filled 15 openings within 2 weeks of posting the event (and charged a small fee to help defray costs). That’s almost a 20% repeat customer rate – not sure if that’s “good” but its better than 0% without the event.
While I love reading Fine Scale Modeler, I don’t see much effort there to reach out to youth builders. (I’m not sure what that “reach out” would look like but…)
Around Christmas, I saw that Testors packaged some “all in 1” kits targeted at new builders (2 1/72 aircraft with glue & paint) that appeared in end caps and aisle displays in our local Meijer stores. But its just seasonal.
The price of kits at Hobby Lobby have jumped 20% in the past year. For our upcoming Make-and-Take, I could only find about 5-6 glue aircraft kits for $10 or less that were appropriate. Auto kits were at least $15. Armor kits for kids don’t exist. Our local Michaels is now carrying the 1/48 Revel kits for around $15. Don’t get me wrong, I think an $10-15 investment in a kit is a worthwhile investment (especially when Xbox and PS3 games start at $50). The difficulty is luring that first-time builder.
Dave Reed, Cincinnati Scale Modelers