If you want to sell model airplanes, there are three basic ways to do it: in a traditional bricks-and-mortar hobby shop, an online venue, or by vending at model contests. Many model airplane sellers use all three approaches. Before you begin, it is important to define your market, product line, sales strategy and budget. Other factors like local competition and your proximity to a modeling community will be important as well. It is best not to quit your day job right away, but down the road, you may be pulling in a decent income.
Things You'll Need
- Stock Of Model Kits
- Internet Access
- Storage Space
Selling Model Airplanes
List the products and manufacturers you want to retail whether it is static kits or remote control (RCs) kits--or both. Also, consider retailing accessories as well like hobby knives, paints, RC fuel, and so forth. The more products you offer, the greater your chance of drawing a wide customer base, although this also increases your monetary investment and potential risk.
Draw up a budget based on your available funds, accounting for buying stock, purchasing business licenses, commercial Web space, mailing supplies (if necessary) and for limited travel and vendor fees if you plan to sell at shows. If you plan to open a hobby shop and will be applying for a loan, you will need a business plan.
Conduct market research. Talking to modelers in your area to find out which products they prefer or use most often. You may want to attend a model competition and survey attendees as well. Locate shows and model clubs by going to the International Plastic Modelers Society website and checking out the chapters and upcoming events pages. (See Reference 1). If you will be selling RC planes, go to the Academy of Model Aeronautics site. (See Reference 2).
List the companies that produce the kits and accessories you want to sell. Contact their dealer representatives through the contact page and looking for "dealer" or "retailer" links.
Contact the manufacturers and ask about their minimum orders, terms and contracts, delivery and return policies and any other questions you may have based on your working strategy.
Acquire all necessary local, state and federal identification numbers and licenses. Contact your local chamber of commerce--officials should be able to clarify which permits and licenses are needed and how they may be obtained.
You can purchase a basic Web page and, with word-processing skills and effort, establish an Internet retail service for a modest amount of money each month. Many hosting sites also offer online retail-sales help.
One way to start without a huge investment is to enter as a niche seller. Choose one particular brand or style of aircraft and specialize. It can make a Website easier to find by helping you stand out as a retailer at a model show. However, keep your company name general in the event that you want to expand.
Out-of-state Internet sales do not require sales tax. For instance, if you are in Minnesota and your buyer is in New York, the buyer does not pay a retail sales tax. However, if you do a show in New York, you are responsible for filing a sales tax report in that state since a physical sale takes place there.
People will buy opened kits online and at shows, but unless they are rare, the price should be low.
If you plan to retail at shows, most shows provide tables but not shelving, so you should budget for that. Plastic crates are a lightweight and portable solution.
Do not sink your life savings into this or quit your job. The hobby retail business is not a high profit venture. Although RC modeling is growing in popularity, plastic kits have dropped in sales consistently since the invention of video games.
Sean Kotz has been writing professionally since 1988 and is a regular columnist for the Roanoke Times. He has also written for the Blue Ridge Business Journal, The Roanoker, 50 Plus, and Prehistoric Times, among others. He holds a Master of Arts in literature from Virginia Tech.