East Sussex Finescale
Mark Tullett in the Hobbybox
© Colin Watts
Sadly, the long-established model shop ‘The Hobby Box’ in Uckfield, East Sussex decided to cease trading and with the quietest of announcements it closed its doors on Saturday, 22nd July 2017. Just one of many model shops across the country who have succumbed in recent years.
The shop was started by the late Keith Nock in premises down Framfield Road; later moving to no.8 Framfield Road (nearer to the town & railway station). Affectionately becoming known in many quarters as the ‘Nocking’ shop, the modest premises didn’t prevent it from becoming a leading model shop in the south-east.
There was just one day when the shop sported an unexplained hand-written ‘Closed’ sign, for it transpired Keith’s wife had sadly passed.
In those days the hourly railway service had a twelve-minute layover at Uckfield and it was just possible (with prior arrangement) to visit the model shop and return by the same train (usually a 3H ‘Hampshire’ unit).
There were instances in the busy shop when Keith stopped serving a customer to take the card off somebody had just walked in the door. In passing across one of the (then green ‘Hobbybox’ bags) Keith would explain with a smile to the understanding and often amused modelling-shoppers that the person was returning home on the same train upon which they had just arrived.
When Keith retired, both the business and shop were taken over by Mark and Annie Tullett. However, with a burgeoning RC model aircraft (and boat) market they soon took on larger premises at no.121 High Street, Uckfield. This new shop was still under a ten-minute walk from the railway station and on-street parking was somewhat easier. For those with mobility issues there was a rear access by arrangement. The green ‘Hobbybox’ bags changed to yellow.
For a while there was a delightful tea-room at no.220 (diagonally opposite no.121). Serving excellent sandwiches (and cakes) this made a trip to the Hobbybox positively utopian!
In February 2016 Simon and Jackie (both experienced retailers) took on the business. Unfortunately, a significant decline in model aircraft sales rapidly ensued with the shop almost being forgotten by some ‘RC’ groupd. This was followed by the policies of some model railway firms which did not favour smaller independent model shops; these both taking their toll on the fortunes of The Hobby Box.
With the continuing lure of internet discounting (both aircraft and rail) the ongoing viability of the business was becoming difficult. Certainly, some modellers had unreasonable expectations as the level of discount an independent model shop could ever provide. Whilst prices can be found cheaper on the internet for those who can physically access a model shop there is the assurance of being able to inspect your purchase and see it test-run (not all models run freely) before then entering ‘browsing mode’ and the ’screams’ from one’s wallet!
Independent model shops are usually able to offer the purchase of all the small scenic items (etc), tools and materials that are so often difficult or elusive on-line. However, many small manufacturers of components (such as wheels etc) are finding they need to sell direct on-line instead of a supplier to the trade.
Rather than risk an uncertain future and with slowly dwindling returns, the straightforwardly simple economic decision to cease trading was made; this being a completely understandable alternative to risking any future financial failure. In the lead up to closure a 25% sale gave customers the opportunity to obtain a few last bargains before the shop quietly closed without ceremony.
A sad day for modellers and www.BloodandCustard.net wished Simon and Jackie all the best for the future as they departed with their heads held aloft.