The industry is changing:
There is an awful lot of stress in trying to keep a company going in this “Hobby Industry” and there are companies a lot larger than us that have recently folded under that pressure – but it would be fair to say that we are certainly struggling to stay afloat.
Few people fully realise the true cost of operations, the minuscule profit margins we try to subsist on or the radical ways in which the entire industry is shifting. Five years ago, three years ago and one year ago the market was completely different than it is today, and our sales were also completely different than there are now. Outlets such as Shapeways, Etsy, Thingiverse, Kickstarter, the availability, reliability and costs of 3D printing, the many, many “home-brew businesses” running laser operations with no overheads, the constant drop of prices forced into the marketplace by those factors….and the huge growth of these micro-manufacturers.
For years now we have been struggling to meet overheads and whilst some Hobbyist truly seems to believe that we live in Castles and drive sports cars the harsh reality is more like struggling every month to pay the (minimum) wages and hoping that next months sales are better…. having to run high-discount sales to pay the wages and then finding buyers wait for another sale before buying anything else…. leading into an endless cycle.
Kickstarters have helped on one hand, but harmed on another: they have radically changed the spending patterns of customers – monthly turn-over has become sporadic and the allure of large Kickstarters offering “the full package” of figures, scenery, game aids and the like, means that people can do a KS 1-stop-shop and no longer need to shop around for things to fill in the gaps in genre or themed wargames. Where big Kickstarters offer dozens or even hundreds of stretch goals and freebies, mass-produced in streamlined Chinese factories, trying to do similar with hand-cast resin is just not feasible and so smaller Kickstarters are often seen as not offering “enough freebies” to be attractive…and the biggest Kickstarters start to produce a per-figure, or per-model, cost to the customer that some people think is sustainable outside of Kickstarter – which it isn’t: mass-produced plastic models for a Kickstarter cannot be matched in cost outside of a Kickstarter.
Postage costs have steadily and inexorably risen, and yet most everyone nowadays expects free-post options or big discounts on postage – yet postage forms our largest monthly outgoing without fail, one that we have to subsidise to try to keep competitive. All of those subsidised postage cost eat out from the already thin profit per model and the, seemingly commonly held idea, that we (and every other wargame manufacturer) make oodles of money from charging postage fees is, to be perfectly honest, ludicrous and somewhat insulting – we don’t make a penny from postage and never have – the simple truth is that postage, internationally, in particular, is expensive.
Business Rates never go down, rent likewise, heating costs and communications costs, website development and maintenance costs…. “Why doesn’t your website support XYZ Phone/Tablet” “Why don’t you do Amazon-style dispatch and delivery” and so on and so forth – Everything cost us money and time and four people in Wem, Shropshire cannot be experts in everything, or have the time, to do everything big companies have now led most online shoppers to regard as “essential or we won’t buy from you”. “Use an external developer” is the usual answer, but where do you get the money form to do that? The Internet is full of people giving easy answers, few are ever realistically viable.
Everything takes a chunk out of every sales price and despite the short-sighted that claim “It doesn’t cost that much, the resin in that model I can get for only XYZ” – that is total nonsense – the price of the resin in any model is a small fraction of the true costs… and we DO have all of those true costs: rent, rates, wages, insurance, equipment and so on and so forth – just because you can cast a resin model in a shed “for next to nothing”, doesn’t mean you can operate a business like that… and let us not mention those people who “buy one and recast whatever else I need – it won’t do any harm”… Yes, it can, yes it does and “no” please don’t say that you are “supporting the hobby” and proudly posting your recasts in your favoured Facebook Group at the same time: Every single recast is a loss to us and one that is felt: you aren’t just stealing our designs, time and work, you are stealing our futures and the ability to house and feed our families – but, of course, “Its only a Hobby”, so no harm is done eh?
The bottom line is that hand-cast resin is expensive to produce requiring skilled and experienced staff that almost always deserve to be paid more than we can.
Chris Carter who has been running the Workshop and doing all of our moulding and a majority of our casting for the last 3 years+ is leaving us at the end of November: he is leaving to help his wife look after his two children who have Autism and ADHD.
He is leaving us on the very best of terms and we absolutely support what he is doing in putting his family first, however, losing somebody of Chris’ skill and knowledge will obviously affect AW.
Firstly it will affect USIMF KS delivery – dispatch for that has now started (with postage costs being sent out to backers), however, the length of production and dispatch for that KS will now be at least doubled (USIMF backers had a detailed update previously)
People with Chris’ experience are rare and finding somebody else to train up to his standards, exceptionally difficult and time-consuming…and often they fail. It would involve a lengthy training period, which needs managing and increased costs in wastage and so on and so forth…and we do not have the money, manpower or time to do that. We have tried to do the same previously and it resulted in a period of sub-standard casting, as well as very high costs that did not result in us ending up with qualified capable casters anyway. As such we will not be replacing Chris.
Also, after 6 or 7 years of deteriorating eyesight, it has come to the point that close-in high-detail work has become harder and harder for me (Jed) to do, to the point where the final mastering stages of a model have become problematic with that type of work accelerating the issues with my eyesight. Without Chris checking and qualifying masters it will become difficult to reliably keep the detail and quality that I expect.
So, after 15 years in the Industry and with a view to how the wargaming market has changed and is changing, we do not feel that continuing to produce hand-cast resin models is viable in the long-term. Our long-term goal is to wrap-up resin-casting and change to selling 3D print files alongside our MDF laser-cut kits. We will eventually close our resin-casting capabilities entirely, but in the immediate future, we will be closing half of our resin-casting workshop alongside closing-down two of the four small units we have here in Wem.
Therefore: We will temporarily be closed from Friday 2nd to Friday 9th for downsizing (This will not affect ordering online, just production and dispatch will be impossible during that period)
We will be reducing our offices from the existing four small units to two – keeping the workshop and laser room but closing the other offices and retail shop units.
With the closure of the Retail Shop area, Nadine will also be leaving us in December.
That will leave myself and Ben running the reduced resin-casting facilities and the Laser workshop.
However, to do that, and really just to keep operating at all, we need your help: we need to clear our stocks of non-AW retail products – currently on a 20% discount https://www.antenocitisworkshop.com/product-category/modelling-supplies/
(On that note – some people have already asked us for a bigger discount… which rather missing the point: we still need to make money – selling the stock discounted below its cost doesn’t help us at all.
What we are asking you is to buy what you need at a good (20%) discount now rather than putting off that order “next month”. If you need Dullcote or Silflor or sheet materials, Evergreen and so on and so forth, please buy it now – we need the money….. and we need it now.)
And, on the note of moving forward with just Ben and myself running operations:
3D Print files and other AW products:
We have a number of existing resin models for Infinity and GOT and our MDF kits that will need to either be continued or discontinued depending on the individual models themselves – the more time-consuming less-profitable items will be removed from the store, and resin components within MDF kits are already being replaced and/or reduced.
Ultimately, as a company, we will eventually be producing 3D print files rather than resin and, with regard to that format, we have been in discussion with Stephane Chasseloup whose designs make up a considerable portion of the USIMF KS range of models.
Following those discussions, we are going to be able to offer 3D print file versions of his models and in addition to his designs, we will also release the STL files of much of our existing catalogue.
In fact, this needs to be our next priority: Our recent operating costs and material outlay means that we need a cash injection to continue through into 2019 and so we plan to put out a new Kickstarter that includes our back catalogue of 3D models as well as the USIMF 3D print files. As these are already “ready for print” and therefore delivery, this can be run and delivered within a very short period of time (before Christmas) and without impacting on the USIMF KS resin production.
As such we will be running a short, two-week Kickstarter for STL files starting around the 12th November.
This Kickstarter will include a lot of prints from five ranges:
Governance of Technology:
Designed for Infinity Vehicles:
Prairie Dog / Growler
Skunk / Cougar
Kodiak / Marten
Yellow Jacket / Scorpion / Gopher
We will be putting out some graphics and costs over the next week with a KS preview going up ASAP but some rough notes might be useful:
Some items such as the Dropship models and the Fast Panda will no longer be produced in resin, so this will be your last chance to get them, albeit as an STL.
Commercial 3D printing licenses will be available for some products (allowing you to print and sell those prints) – ALL Designed for Infinity models are excluded from those licenses.
There will be some massively discounted “Early Bird” packages available in limited numbers (max 50 backers) and plenty of “all-in” packages beyond those Early Birds.
Existing USIMF KS backers can swap from resin models to STLs if they wish to.
Delivery of STL files will be after the second week of December 2018 and all STL work is already completed.
We’ll have more details on the STL Kickstarter soon, in the meantime we really need you to place orders for supplies and materials if you need them, now at https://www.antenocitisworkshop.com/product-category/modelling-supplies/
During next week our internal network will be down, along with the entire office setup, so our Internet connection will be only from home or via phone/tablet – the store will be operating FULLY during this period, we just won’t be producing or dispatching until the following week.
Once we are up and running in the new offices we’ll put out a list of resin that will be discontinued providing you with a chance to buy those products – however, stocks will be limited to existing production moulds – we won’t be making new moulds once the olds moulds have perished.
We’re hoping that we can shift our existing stocks of supplies and materials ASAP and get ourselves ready for 2019 – we still have many, many products in development or concept that we can bring out, we just need the time and money to get into a position to get those produced.
So here’s hoping that we see you all in 2019.
Ben, Chris, Nadine, Jed.