Great American Train stores today?

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Great American Train stores today?
Posted by pbjwilson on Saturday, December 31, 2005 8:05 AM
Do you think if someone tried this idea today it would work. I really liked those stores. They werent for the hobbiest but great in bringing trains to the masses.The one that was located near me seamed to heavy into the Thomas stuff, and a little light on Lionel. But they offered alot in HO and N.

Any thoughts. Could a train store chain survive today?
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Posted by cnw1995 on Saturday, December 31, 2005 8:08 AM
I loved them too, Paul, and was intrigued by a Thomas the Tank Engine store in Water Tower Place a few years ago. I wonder if it is still there - it was way out of the main traffic flow. They failed as I understand it because they tried to expand too rapidly. I don't think such a chain today would survive - I'm not sure it would draw enough sales.

Doug Murphy 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...' Henry V.

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Posted by Big_Boy_4005 on Saturday, December 31, 2005 8:24 AM
I was very familiar with them. I don't think their failure was due to their fast expansion, it was due to their high overhead locations. As such they needed to sell everything at or above list. They missed the hobby market and were left with tourists. You can only sell so many tee shirts and coffee mugs.

They had raised capital by going public with stock, but when that money was gone, so were they. It was fun while it lasted. I do kind of miss them, my Big Boy tee shirt is almost worn out after 13 years.[swg]
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Posted by pbjwilson on Saturday, December 31, 2005 8:32 AM
If they had only thought of selling coffee and bottled water along with the trains, maybe they'd still be around.
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Posted by nw611gwc611 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:06 AM

I was one of the first employees at the Columbus, Ohio store...from set-up to opening and months until moving from the area.  I felt as though their locations were in awful high market areas.  Like the Columbus store...in the pretty elite down-town Columbus mall?  Prices had to be too high to cover the overhead.  I fel they could have made a better go of it had they not chosen such high-priced locations...RR stations, high-priced malls, etc...why?

Would they still be around today (2018)?  Perhaps, if they'd had a better business plan, chosen different locations, and such.  Yes, it was 'neat' to go to Union Station(s) and go to The Great American Train Store; however, just to curb the novelty of it didn't pay the bills.  Lost track of them after moving away and not having one near where I moved so not sure if they got into the on-line business at all or not...if they had and had not had such high caliber locations, they just might have made it.  

With more and more business going to on-line it's doubtful they could open store fronts today...which is too bad, cause I really love going into a store and seeing, handling, discussing, and so on what I'm going to buy, what's new, chat, and so on...while on-line might be 'easier, more convenient, quicker' it's really not all that much cheaper, what with shipping bo so absorbantly high...one can drive quite a ways on what is charged (spent) on shipping...IMHO!  Thanks!

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 5:23 PM

Talk about raising a thread from the dead!

We had a Great American Train Store up the road in what I'd call a mid-range mall, not upscale, but not dirt cheap either.  I liked the place, especially the books and videos they had for sale, the selection was amazing!

There always seemed to be a good crowd in there too, plenty of walk-in traffic.

And then they were gone.  What a shame.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 6:24 PM

I didn't work at a GATS but I did work at the Twigbee Shop accross the way from one in 1990.  This was at the Tower City Center in the ex-Cleveland Union Terminal complex, right in line with the high-end mall theory.  Twigbees was a 1940's(?) offshoot of the Higbee Co. designed as a pop-up store that only kids were allowed to shop in.  You took the kids around and helped them buy little inexpensive holiday gifts for everybody on their list.  (Lots of manicure and sewing kits! Big Smile)  So for the couple of weeks that the Twigbee shop was open I had a ball visiting the GATS when I was off work.

It was also the only job I had that I could ride the train to work!  Big Smile

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

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Posted by dlagrua on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:33 PM

Many years back I went on a business trip to the Minneapolis area and had to arrive on the weekend to save air fare. On Saturady I visited the Mall of America and a Great American Train Store was there. It was a nice place and well stocked but as you would guess prices were high. I had fun looking around and purchased a few magazines. About a year later I had heard that they closed up nationwide.

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Posted by Bob Keller on Thursday, February 15, 2018 7:16 AM

We had one in Milwaukee. I bought a few books there at list price (before the era of internet discounts ... yay railroadbooks.biz and ronsbooks.com) ... but everything else was absurdly priced, especially since you had several train stores within a relatively short drive. It was cool to see, but their market seemed to be parents of small kids and people who needed to buy old Uncle Buzzy a train-related gift.

 

Bob Keller

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Posted by BigAl 956 on Thursday, February 15, 2018 11:06 AM

GATS was an early victim of the Internet vs 'brick and morter' wars that, sadly B&M is losing. Customers would stop in to see the shinny new toys then go home and order on line and save $25-100. This practice is called 'Showrooming' and is the bain of any B&M business. Check out Circuit City and Radio shack...ahh no, I mean Best Buy..well maybe.

Bottom line, if you want to open a B&M store today youhave to ask yourself a simple question..."Can I buy what I want to sell cheaper on the internet?", if the answer is 'yes' stop, your store will not be successful.

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Posted by thesiding on Thursday, February 15, 2018 2:32 PM

There wer two more or less near me   both had ONE big problem    LACK OF SPACE

 

Virtually no room for layouts and a "staff" that knew NOTHING about the product

 

DID get a few things during going out of bussiness sale  books k line gp 38  BUT MANY products were gone WAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY Before the 11th hour

 

Also one store was showing a horror movie the other The Phantom Menace

 

It could work (Especially around NOV Dec )But as staetd d by some you got the internet to deal with plus rents everywhere are HIGH so that kills it

 

For those who buy Thomas (and MORE product is available now then 2001) it could work

 

but you need layouts fully landscaped or otherwise to help sell product as well as knowledgable staff  Family owned hobby shops are still out there but their days are numbered unless family owns building(S) and is established

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Posted by Michael6268 on Thursday, February 15, 2018 3:08 PM

DVDs and books are all I bought there. I wish somehow the one in the Mall At Steamtown could have stayed. It was always nice going across the the tracks on the overhead walkway and into the store at the mall after a day at Steamtown!

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Posted by Penny Trains on Thursday, February 15, 2018 6:17 PM

The one by me had at least 3 layouts including a G shelf system suspended from the ceiling.  It ran out of the store and above the sign and whistled every few minutes.  The only things I'm positive I bought there were a Corgi B&O bus and a GATS yo-yo.

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

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Posted by Michael6268 on Thursday, February 15, 2018 7:27 PM

Penny Trains

The one by me had at least 3 layouts including a G shelf system suspended from the ceiling.  It ran out of the store and above the sign and whistled every few minutes.  The only things I'm positive I bought there were a Corgi B&O bus and a GATS yo-yo.

 

 

The one near me was set up exactly the same.  The people in the mall loved when the train came out and whistled....

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Posted by POTRZBE on Friday, February 23, 2018 12:45 PM

I had one or two visits to the Steamtown area store.  Hard to comepete when Scranton Hobby and Gryzboski's are a few blocks away.

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Posted by cwburfle on Saturday, February 24, 2018 3:14 AM

We had one in a local mall. It was a nice store to browse. I think they had two small operating layouts, each under its own bubble. As I recall, they charged list price, or maybe even more. I don't think I purchased anything until they started their going out of busines sale.
I still have part of the roll of plain brown wrapping paper I purchased from them.

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Posted by Michael6268 on Saturday, February 24, 2018 8:00 AM

Even their going out of business sale had almost everything only down to msrp...

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Posted by BigAl 956 on Monday, March 05, 2018 11:56 AM

Why should they discount anything when the bankruptcy court will sell it all off at auction for pennies on the dollar? The mall retail model is not working anymore for most stores. The overhaed of a mall makes the markup pprohibitively expensive.

Taditional stores like GATS or malls for that matter can't exist anymore. Most malls in my area a converting obsolete retail space into entertainment venues.

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