Recently I posted about business practices from another time, coming from some German/Austrian model train manufacturers and sellers. Here is another crazy novelty from Fleischmann…along with some good news.
UPDATE 19-AUG-2013: Good news for customers. In its newsletter, the Fleischmann/Roco group announced a change of policy ‘after numerous customer requests’. It is now possible to order the special editions (and other articles) with direct home delivery. What Fleischmann doesn’t say however, is whether train dealers are now again authorized to order the special editions, for in-store display and “walk-in” sales. If not, that’s not a good news for them: this would mean they are now completely out of the equation for the limited editions. In any case, the following lines are now (already) irrelevant.
The 1zu160 forum is probably the most active N scale forum I know of (providing you speak a bit of German). I came across a post that revealed a weird move from Fleischmann.
Fleischmann has decided to release some models only through their online store. A very recent example are the (wonderful) Taurus locomotives with Wagner/Verdi livery (see here).
Here is the thing: according to the German model scene, Fleischmann is planning on releasing many models like this. I don’t know how true this is. And anyway: exclusive online sale of limited editions is nothing wrong, is it? Actually, it’s even weirder. You order on the website, you pay online, and then you need to go retrieve your model in a local Train Store when it’s available. Seriously !
Beyond the obvious question (what you are supposed to do if you don’t have a Fleischmann dealer nearby?), lies another fact. They supposedly support local brick and mortar stores, but in reality, they are biding you with the catalog price (that, fortunately, many dealers haven’t respected for a while).
My very humble opinion: this mixed online-retail model brings me no advantage. In fact, it combines the drawbacks of online pre-ordering and those of brick and mortar purchases: you don’t see or touch the model, plus you need to go somewhere (potentially far away) instead of waiting for DHL…all this for more money that you may have paid usually. There is absolutely no information on the website on how this works in details (do they chose the store for me? Do they ask?).
Don’t get me wrong: Fleischmann models are good. Especially the Taurus sound locomotive given as an example. But I won’t be supporting a business model that combines all the possible disadvantages for the customer. I will continue to buy Fleischmann products in stores, online…too bad if I miss a few models.
In the meantime, stocks of Fleischmann models are diminishing in the stores. So while Märklin is pushing their “My World” toys starter sets to stores that had stopped selling trains years ago, Fleischmann is partially retrieving itself from the only stores that actually still carry their products (good old fashioned, sometimes a bit rusty, train stores). At the end of the day: it may be good for Fleischmann, it may be food for stores… my uneducated guess is: it is the exact opposite. But I am a number person, and I don’t have the figures, so I hope they are doing the right thing.
In my initial post, I was complaining that manufacturers didn’t release free online catalogs. Well, I am glad to be proven wrong…by Fleischmann as well. It seems the take over by Roco (actually “Modelleisenbahn Holding GmbH”) isn’t all bad after all! As someone pointed rightfully in the comments, they seem committed to modernizing the business. I can’t vouch for the sales strategy above, but for the catalog part: I can only applaud.
The new catalog is available to download now on the German part of the website: http://www.fleischmann.de/de/profile/catalog_download/index.html
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