I have been a customer of one particular business here in Perth since the day after I arrived in Australia in 1964. When we flew in we were taxied from the airport to a hotel and deposited to slough off our jet lag. As the parents sat there comatose trying to focus upon a pay television with the Tokyo Olympic Games on it, I lit out for a hobby shop.
I had seen it as we came past on the way to the hotel. As a kid I had a sure instinct for hobby shops and could spot them in any town we visited. It was a matter of some relief to find that the wilds of Perth were not so primitive that they could not afford one.
No kid assesses distance accurately – what I thought was four blocks turned out to be twenty-three, but I kept on walking. I was rewarded eventually with a house turned shop, several crammed rooms of kits, trains, planes, and toys, and a pleasant owner. I returned in the following weeks and bought a number of items, and took them off to our house in the hills. Later forays to Perth never actually got back to that location, but I discovered the four or five other hobby shops in the centre of the town that were accessible by railway.
Crikey – that’s over 50 years ago. The other shops have packed it in long ago – some to move to the suburbs and some to disappear forever. The original shop I visited moved to a railway suburb and kept there for 50 years…but I suspect it is now moribund. The location is perfect for them but their sales stock is depleted and their reputation dwindling away. They have been forced to become a tiny portion of their previous size and are fragmented.
Yet…They have a name that everyone remembers. Were they to relocate, restock, and promote themselves, I still think they could recover. Were they to combine with one of the other shops the whole town might benefit.
As for myself, however, I have a new shop a mile from my door on an easy road – with free parking out the front. I am a constant customer. Sentiment is one thing but practical life – even when it is a hobby – is another.
I suspect this might be the case for any number of other businesses in all forms of trade. People are spread out more in the Metro area – they are doomed to travel far longer distances to get the things they need from the disparate suppliers. Some have taken to the internet as a solution…but it isn’t. Others have just realised that a 30-mile round trip for a bottle of paint is just not practical.