- Around the time of the IPMS Scale Modelworld I put out a flyer with the plans for the next year, as has become a tradition. This has in light of a conversation with a fellow kit producer, now been revised as the planned Loch class 1/350 kit is no longer in our plans. A lot has happened in the last few months of last year to change the outlook on future kit production, since we now have the in-house faciltity to produce high quality, 3d printed resin parts, this method will be used for a high proportion of the smaller components of kits. Alongside my currently fairly rudimentary but developing CAD skills, it is hoped that time allowing, production of kits should be quicker and quality again improved. Some kits will also feature parts from Black Cat Models to add that extra layer of finesse.
- Those kits currently out of stock will be returned when possible, unfortunately the master of the Atlantic HMS Ark Royal has degenerated such that it will have to be rebuilt, although this does give the opportunity to provide an upgrade with some 3d printed parts. However it does mean it will not be unavailable for several months yet.
- In terms of planned releases, progress is as follows, with the closest releases first.
- Coastal Cargo set 1/700, now at the production stage, hopefully available in around 4 weeks.
- Atlantic HMS Caesar, waiting on resin cast then instructions, hopefully 4-6 weeks.
- HMS Yarra / HMS Wellington, much delayed but at the design stage and progressing well, expected around 3-4 months.
- HMS Sea Rover, at the design stage, also around 3-4 months.
- 1/700 River class kit, expected summer.
- HMS Kent / Bristol / Andromeda, waiting for design time (not doing these myself) so towards the end of the year with the latter more likely next year.
- Tug Challenge, late summer /autumn.
- The other kits will be entirely in house so really depends on available time over the course of the year.
- There will of course also be periodic releases of 3d printed parts and photoetch, with decal sets. As always it is an ambitious list and not all will be achieved this year, but it is worth a try!
Just over six years ago I started Starling Models with the intention of producing some etched parts that were no longer available after the demise of White Ensign Models. At the time I was still in full time employment and this was only intended to be a sideline which could be managed alongside the day job. At the Telford show that year I spoke to Jacques Druel, the previous owner of L'Arsenal who suggested to me that since I had a website, why not sell some of their products as they were no longer available from a UK supplier. That year had to that point been a difficult one, I have a chronic illness that was making full time employment difficult to manage to the extent that I had by the time of the Telford show applied for and been granted an early severance package and had left work just a few days before. This seemed like very good timing and the opportunity to fill some of the demand for model ship kits and parts in the UK led to some of the money being invested into an expanded business.
Over the last few years the number of small and large companies producing ship models has exploded, largely on the back of advances in 3d printing which make designing kits a much easier proposition than the previously hand made patterns. It was a fortunate time to start a company specialising in ship kits and accessories and within a couple of years Starling Models released the first kit of a range of resin models. Alongside this the range of companies stocked greatly expanded as the business grew far beyond the expectations of April 2015. It has been far more successful than I ever anticipated. but this has now come at a cost.
Running a small business is a time consuming occupation, recent changes have added to this and there are more on the way. At some point we all need time away to do other things but this has become increasingly difficult over the last year to the point where it is now severely impacting on my health. A few months ago I announced that all the kits under the Starling Models label would be limited edition only, at the time this seemed like a reasonable way to try and reduce the workload a little. After a break of a few weeks and time to think more clearly about the future direction, with discussion with an accounting professional and some reference to sales figures and stocking, I have decided on another direction.
The current situation of stocking almost 50 brands is not sustainable for a business of this size and I have no capacity or indeed will to take on staff to help. Additionally the business has grown to the point where some legal and financial changes are required and these can be summarised as follows -
1) Starling Models ceased trading on 6th April and a new business, Starling Models Limited came into operation on April 8th.
2) The business is now VAT registered and all prices include 20% VAT for UK customers only. For non-UK customers this will not be charged.
3) As the UK is no longer a member of the EU customs charges and import taxes may apply to any orders you make. There is no flat rate on these charges so please be aware that they may differ between countries. As of 1st July the EU will introduce legislation so that VAT is payable to the buyer's country, not the sellers. This requires registration into a system to ensure payment to each individual country, this will create more work and expense, I will need to review the full impact of this and decide on the cost / benefit of sales to EU countries after this date.
4) The brands currently stocked will be reduced to those most popular, which will include Starling Models, Atlantic Models, Flyhawk and associates, Combrig, Black Cat, Master, Niko, Orange Hobby, Pitroad, Tom's Modelworks, Veteran and White Ensign Models will be the core of the retail side with a few others. The remainder will not be restocked after stocks have been exhausted.
5) Those brands not to be restocked will be reduced by 20% in price until cleared.
The main aim of these changes is to create more time to develop the Starling Models range of kits and accessories, which has been slower to develop than anticipated due to time constraints. Additionally stocks of those brands retained will hopefully be increased in time.
As ever I will look forward to bringing you the best in small scale ship kits and accessories following this 'reboot', not as many as before but I hope you can appreciate and understand the need for these changes and continue to help us let you enjoy this wonderful hobby.
As we near the end of 2020 many of us will be more than happy to see the back of it and hope next year will be easier. On a personal level the year started in the worst fashion imagineable with the death of a close family member and lifelong friend. It of course, did not get much better after that for reasons we all know. For those of us fortunate enough to be working in those kinds of business not affected by lockdowns, furloughs and the rest of the worrying impacts left in the wake of the virus, the cloud has had a silver lining. In terms of the business of Starling Models, this has been our most successful year regarding sales, next year is sure to prove more of a challenge. Success this year has come at a price though as related in the previous blog, which will not be repeated here. This leaves us looking at those planned kit releases that were so optimistically laid out just over a year ago to see what remains.
There are of course two strands to our kit production, most obviously those under the Starling Models label, but also the 1/700 Atlantic Models which need a little explanation. These are a mix of kits that have either been released, or were intended for release by White Ensign Models before their closure, which had been inherited by Peter Hall, their former designer who has his own company, Atlantic Models. Peter being very much a 1/350 aficionado wasn't keen to move into 1/700, so very generously passed the kits onto me to be released / re-released under his brand. The new kits, Ark Royal, London, Calcutta, Grey Goose and Swift turned out to be something of a challenge to bring into production, being designed several years ago and in most cases without any list of parts for resin and etch or just the resin parts. Something like trying to work out a jigsaw without the benefit of a box picture. More of future and pending Atlantic kits later.
Of the Starling Models range, intended for released this year and into next, there have obviously been severe limitations on what could be achieved this year so release dates will be extended well into next year at least. The list of planned kits and progress is then as follows.
Glamorgan 1/700 - moving towards production with some elements of the production kit in hand, others will take longer due to difficulties with regular suppliers. The aim is first quarter of 2021 for release.
Bangor class 1/350 - This is planned to be a joint release of the kit as HMS Rhyl / HMCS Blairemore. Although not well advanced this is still intended as a first quarter 2021 release.
HMAS Yarra - Some work completed but much to do, likely for summer 2021.
S-class submarine, Loch class, tug challenge (all 1/350) still in the stage of collecting information, realistically second half of next year and into 2022. River class, Andomeda, Plymouth, one, possibly two for release next year, Plymouth least likely due to the release of the Ostrich Hobby kit, this could be dropped in favour of another kit, depending on how well Glamorgan sells.
Of the Atlantic kits, Amethyst is just waiting on etch and for instructions to be written, this will be ready when we open again in February. Caesar will be hopefully first quarter, Swiftsure when I can face looking at another jigsaw puzzle. Eagle will realistically be 2022 now.
With such a list of kits planned this will of course require some considerable investment. Next year will bring additional challenges with Brexit looming, although at the time of writing, with just over two weeks to go before it happens, it is still, incredibly, unclear as to quite what that will mean. It seems certain that bringing goods in and sending out of the UK will be more expensive, more difficult, take more time to manage and be much slower than before. As a business which has considerable sales outside the UK, this is a worrying time. The equation then is quite a simple one, kits can't be produced without the financial resources to do so. It's going to be another interesting year...