I work about 5 minutes drive from one of the SE of England's biggest retail centers, Lakeside. So you would think that if I needed to buy something it would be an easy matter to pop out during my lunch break and get what I need. You would be wrong.
Today I needed some matte varnish. I have been using Vallejo varnish on my gaming pieces but its still a little too 'satin' for my liking. The finish just isn't flat enough for my current project and I need an alternative quickly. But as a gamer and painter I find myself almost completely uncatered for in Lakeside. There used to be a few places I could buy art materials, but one by one they have either reduced their ranges or disappeared altogether. All that remains is a branch of Model Zone that does a limited range of Humbrol products and the almost obligatory branch of Games Workshop. With the realisation that "beggars can't be choosers" I set off for GW only to find they were out of stock of Matte Varnish!
So with over 250 stores, literally on my doorstep, I can't buy something as basic as varnish. It looks like the Internet will have to come to my rescue yet again. In fact most of my 'hobby shopping' takes place on the net these days. It's rare that I actually get to hold a product in my hands before parting with my cash. Which is the main reason why I look forward to shows like Salute. I get to shop across a wide range of retailers and manufacturers but more importantly I get to enjoy the visceral nature of handling my purchases before I decide to buy them. It's the sort of simple pleasure that normal people (i.e. non gamers) get to enjoy every day.
The moral of the story? If your lucky enough to have a proper game hobby store near you, you should try to support it. They are fast becoming as rare as hens teeth and in the current economic climate I expect many more will fall by the wayside. The gaming community could wake up in a couple of years time and find itself in a blasted wasteland of coffee shops, mobile phone retailers and fast food outlets. Oh and branches of Games Workshop.... Eeek!