Follow up to my review of Salute.
Evidently, my review of Salute has generated a lot of debate, which I view positively. For those interested in further comments to my article, may I direct you to my own Quatre-Bras Forum where a large number of intelligent and differing views have been posted or to one of my favourite forums – The Miniatures Page (TM) – link http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=73496
May I thank everyone who has added fuel to the debate either on my blog, forum or elsewhere. It is self-evident that the issues raised in the review are ones that have been raised by many times before and it’s clearly understood this is NOT an industry awash with cash – I never thought it was – and from the comments to my review made on TM by a number of smaller traders, who correctly point out that most organisations are small who have a greater interest in the hobby than actually making money -a sentiment I laud. Games Workshop, Foundry and Front Rank to name three have achieved a lofty status within the industry by investing in talent and providing the very quality of product and service that I, the consumer, desire and have come to expect from any company I buy from today. The question is how did they get from there to here?
A key issue raised in my review related to the quality of traders and manufacturers web sites – often poor in design, lacking clearly discernible images of products available (whether painted or unpainted) if any at all and with little or no e-commerce capability. Again, many sites are run by organisations who don't have the financial muscle to afford the glossy html formats of the three companies I mentioned earlier – point taken – but is this really an excuse? My preference to view beautifully painted miniatures on a trader or manufacturers web site is an understandable luxury that few can afford, but ta rader or manufacturer who doesn’t even show me an unpainted mini – well, it beggars belief!
Traders Web Sites
One key route to market in this age of globalisation is to produce a clear and effective web site – YOUR SHOP WINDOW – that displays your products in the best possible light so that we customers can make an “informed” purchasing decision. I, for one, will continue not to buy any lead online from a company that doesn’t show me their product and still don’t understand why so many continue with this strategy - a short-sighted one that can only continue to generate poor financial returns – a viscous circle?
The argument that web sites are expensive to design, build and operate is not one that stands up to scrutiny anymore. Several years back this was possibly the case but not today. Gone are the days when you needed to rely on some flashy web design company to design, build and host a dedicated domain for you. Today, it can all be done by you from the comfort of your own PC. But to do it yourself, you must be IT savvy, a trait no amount of money can buy and maybe, a key reason why we see so many poorly designed sites. Let's add some ,substance to this argument by offering an example or a bit of constructive advice …
Before beginning, let’s give a simple example of someone who has a passion for the hobby and who wishes to disseminate this passion at little or no expense…well, for those that shy away from anything IT related or cringe when having to download a new bit of software, the cost to host my dedicated domain name, build and design my blog, and update it daily with as many images as I desire costs precisely £0, that’s $0 or €0…just in case any of you out there are interested in starting your own.
To the more serious issue of a trader upgrading their existing web site or building a new one from scratch at little expense, here's an example.
STATE-OF-THE ART COMMERCIAL WEB SITE for £60 per month!
Firstly, there are now tons and tons or ISPs offering highly-competitive commercial web packages. I've taken BT in the UK as an example and their “Business Web Package” – NOT my personal preference but a company all UK readers know – and the cost today, £60 per month – hardly a big dent to your operating cost. So what do you get:
- Domain Name - choose from available ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.org.uk’
- 120mb web space – enough for up to 2,000 pages [surely that will cover your inventory?]
- 110 Business Email lite (POP3) addresses – allowing you to personalise your email addresses by employee or department e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
- 20 roaming accounts - allowing you to respond quicker to enquiries, access the internet & email whilst away from the office.
- BT Website creator – no software or technical knowledge needed (that’s means no HTML coding necessary)
….the above cost £5 per month plus £25 per month for BT Broadband access, i.e. a massive total of £30 per month (£360 pa).
To add a shopping basket to your web site that you can design yourself and offers a secure online credit and debit card payment service that you can add to your e-commerce shop or website – is a furhter £30 per month – expensive, I think not!
So we have a total cost of a whopping £60 per month (£720 per annum) to build a state-of-the-art “commercial” web site, with a web design facility offering the choice of hundreds of template pages that can feature photos of all your miniatures, combined with a secure on-line shopping cart and payment service! That’s £720 per annum to have a super-dooper web site that you can design from the comfort of your home! So guys, don’t give me the excuse that “commercial” web sites me are expensive…they are NOT! And to those of you that reply saying you don’t have the time to build one…well, I don’t have the time to listen to your unprofessional approach to this industry.
My advice and help is offered constructively in the hope that in the foreseeable future, I’ll be able to browse more than half a dozen web sites that provide the quality of product and service that I, the consumer, desire and expect today. The question is whether you have the desire to change and improve your offering to me? I do hope so.
My second issue was the “Painting Competition” at Salute. Before I am bombarded with the same barrage of replies stating, Salute is not about a painting contest, but is treated as shopping day where one kind find conveniently most of one’s favourite manufacturers, traders and suppliers under one roof. OK, so Salute is a shopping day out, nevertheless, it does host a painting competition and is host to a vast number of wargaming clubs who brilliantly demonstrate wargames across a wide variety of periods and genres. I may be in a minority, but I went to Salute to look, study, marvel (often) and above all learn from the miniatures on show whether on a gaming table, a stand or in a painting competition. Unlike some on TM, I great enormous enjoyment and inspiration from viewing beautifully painted minis in the cold light of day and NOT online – there’s no comparison.
The reason why so few are interested in Salute’s painting competition is simply because it has little or no value – entries are scant - and as one or TM message cynically states, “the only people around the platform during the announcing of the winners were the entrants themselves and those hoping to win the Salute £500 draw. Well, I think they’re spot on but if a “Showcase” were to be organised and valued at such or would visitors opinions change? Would such a showcase attract visitors in its own right? Better still, would it attract new visitors, people like me who want to see the best painters work in the flesh (lead)? Yes, yes, and yes would be my guess!
In essence, my argument is simple. If Salute is to advertise and feature a “Painting Contest” as one of its’ features then don’t run it half-cock! I feel painters and enthusiasts with a passion for this under-funded and cash-strapped industry would welcome the opportunity to see an organiser who takes up this mantle (or should I now call it a mortal coil) with a view to becoming the premier show for painters of miniatures (wargame units & vignettes of all sizes) in the UK. Maybe this is not for Salute but for one of the other shows? I don’t know as I have only visited Salute. My wish is simply to be able to view a sea of brilliantly painted miniatures, tanks, ships, planes or all periods by amateur and professional painters alike. Clearly, the UK does not have such a show – a great pity – and my contention is that Salute has a superb opportunity, from a strong brand and support base, with Treadaway, Dunn & Dallimore at the helm to establish such a “Showcase” – a key word!
A “Painting Showcase”
Personally, if Salute or any other UK modelling/wargame show were to take up this cudgel and provide a well-run and organised vehicle for painters of miniatures to display their work, I would opt for a “Showcase” rather than a ”Painting Competition” run on similar lines to flower/agricultural shows as an example. In other words, a show that awards commendations in the form of Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards along with a “Best in Class” and a “Best in Show” under clearly defined categories and awarded to painters where merit is duly earned and, finally where entries can be viewed in display cabinets where each shelf is lit.
Furthermore, I would search for a sponsor (starting now!) to cover the costs of the “Showcase” - possibly a Vodafone, O2 or the like – and publicise next years “Showcase” now (via Modelling Forums, Blogs like mine and Martin Kelly’s and possibly the best outlet of all CoolMiniOrNot.com.) Details on standards of entry or categories I won’t deal with. The hard part is to instil in a show organiser a commitment to take up the challenge.
I’ll leave it there as I have a blog to run, plates to design and figures to paint...safe in the knowledge that to quote the American writer and publisher, Elbert Hubbard, “he who gives great service gets great rewards.”
It’s great to see other Bloggers joining the fold and again I can strongly recommend a visit to fellow west country blogger, Martin Kelly’s site and his beautifully painted Prussian army. I only wish there was more of a Prussian involvement at Quatre-Bras but sadly they (the Prussians) had their hands full on 16 June 1815 dealing with napoleon at Ligny.
So what am I planning over the coming months? As readers have come to expect, I do jump from one project to another at a whim, for this I apologise. My efforts in the foreseeable future will continue in finishing the research of the Battle of Quatre-Bras covering:
1. Answering Emails
I apologise profusely to the delay in replying to all those who have taken the time to write to me. My first task (tonight) will be reply to this backlog in full and to set aside one evening a week to answer future correspondence.
2. My Quatre-Bras Forum
To further publicise the Forum in order to attract like-minded enthusiast from around the World to use as a meeting place to discuss the Battle, the Waterloo campaign, painting miniatures and swapping tips, views and comments. May I personally thank Uri for posting onto the forum his vast collection of painted Napoleonic miniatures – one that I hope will solicit others to follow.
3. Battle Map Plates
This is my current project, simply for a change of scenery, and one that is clearly tricky to put together as there’s little source material to work with. On the subject, I look forward to the release of Mike Robinson’s book, “The Battle of Quatre-Bras 1815” around Christmas and will keep you posted. The first map has been posted but I have already realised, will need to be updated once more.
4. Uniform Plates
This is a work in progress and I will finish posting uniform plates for the French before tackling the uniforms of Anglo-Allied Units at the battle.
5. Painting Projects
a. Squadron of Brunswick Uhlans (Perry Miniatures) – FOR SALE
Well, I have the Uhlans to finish, which I plan to sell on eBay! Having seen David Brown and Loughton Strike Forces awesome 15mm Waterloo display at Salute, I am more convinced than ever to recreate the units present at Quatre-Bras in 18mm built around Ian Marsh’s Fighting 15s web site and his AB & Eureka Napoleonic miniatures.
b. Painting Guide
As I promised when I began this blog, I will post a number of step-by-step painting guides. The first will be showing how I paint 25mm horses, the paints I use etc.
Well, now you know…and keep your comments coming!