Riding The Horse – Part Fifteen – When Is A Hobby Shop?

Not where – when? Where merely defines the location of the premises; when lets you know what you’re standing in once you enter the door. Not all hobby shops are hobby shops.

Take a for-instance – we’ll look at Bunnings – an Australian restaurant chain that sells sausages at the front of the premises and hardware as a sideline. Bunnings shops appear to many to be large warehouses full of toilet fittings, paint swatches and MDF sheets. So they are, but they are more than just storage sheds – they are hobby shops for any number of people. Here is how they reach that status:

  1. They sell things that are specifically intended for building or making. There are no end of things in there that can end up being useful or decorative. Many of them will take skin off your hands as they do so.
  2. They sell things that no-one else has. This is partially because the things – the stainless steel clothesline router hammers – are specific to one job and partially because no-one else in the town wants anything to do with them. Sometimes you find things in there of which Bunnings want no part, but have a large selection…
  3. They sell correlated items. From the timber to the screws to the brushes to the paint you can trace an organic connection on the shelves.
  4. They sell expensive stuff. Stroll down the tool aisle and glance at the price of the Dremel cutting bits – if you dare.
  5. They sell stuff that gets you in. Okay, it’s not as simple and wholesome as buying nickel bags of marijuana down an alley and progressing to full-blown heroin addiction. But it’s just as insidious. A few screws here, a router bit there, and pretty soon you’ve spent the food and rent money on a pallet-load of Meranti and a pocketknife and started whittling. Just say no…
  6. They sell things that get you laughed at by others. There is no respect possible when you bring home toilet fittings. The very nature of the thing brings out the cloacal jokes in people. 
  7. There are clubs that use the goods they sell. Some are harmless, like the Medieval Torture Society, and some, like the Over-60’s Mens Shed, are positively menacing. Bunnings makes no stipulation on what their customers might do with the twenty-penny nails and the barbecue coals, but.

The truth is that any shop may be a hobby shop depending upon what the customers have decided to do with the goods. Officeworks employees and water-pump agencies might well be surprised at what they see at the Annual Spreadsheet and Irrigation Show in the State Library. It might startle them, but I’ll bet it will not stop them selling cashbooks or brass flanges.

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