I buy new models and paints and such fairly regularly. Like most of us, I tend to buy from the same stores most of the time, but occasionally I’ll try a new place, and see what they’re like for one reason or another. My retail go-to for years was always Maelstrom Games, though we know how that one panned out. I tried Wayland Games a few times around then, as well as during and even after the decline of Maelstrom, but shipping was always more expensive, slower to despatch, and their customer service was seriously lacking. No links for you!
Since then, my go-to retailer of choice has been Firestorm Games in Cardiff, Wales. Friendly and efficient service, a 10% discount, free international shipping, and a willingness to sort things out very quickly. Orders placed are typically picked and sent out within a few hours. Great to deal with and my current #1 choice.
My secondary retailer for International orders has often been The Troll Trader in Cornwall. They also offer free shipping and a 10% discount, and have a different range of stock to Firestorm in general. Lately they haven’t has the stuff I’ve been wanting to order, and so I haven’t ordered from them in ages now. I still check their site when I’m after something, and hold them in fairly high regard as a retailer (Though their eBay postage costs are insane as they don’t really combine shipping in a realistic manner.)
Lately, I’ve been using Arcane Scenery and Models an awful lot. In fact, I’ve been ordering from them more frequently and in larger quantities than Firestorm, and TTT has dropped out entirely. This is because I’ve been buying more Historical stuff, for use in games like SAGA, Kings of War and (theoretically) LotR and Hail Caesar! They don’t have any discount scheme in place, but they do offer free worldwide shipping, and Steve, the (the owner?) has great service. Arcane is another retailer who has your order out the door within a couple of hours of ordering. They have possibly the world’s worst website to deal with – it’s as slow as hell and the search function is hidden on the “contact us” page, but the quality and speed of service make it worth the time it takes to navigate their site for me.
This week I ordered from both Arcane and Firestorm – I often find that they make a great combo when there are things I want to buy as I can take advantage of both stores’ stock levels – and both had my stuff on its way within hours. I love it!
This week, I also tried a couple of “New” retailers (to my experience).
The first of the two was Brigade Models, who I tracked down recently as the current owners of those metal skeletons I picked up recently.
They have pretty reasonable prices for their models, though their website suffers from a bit too much of the dreaded “No Image” image.
My usual response to this on almost all miniature websites selling me stuff at retail is to skip them entirely. I persevered a little and placed an order of Skeletons as well as a rules bundle for Celtos, as it was priced very fairly. The reasons I was willing to order from these guys is because I like the specific models that I ordered (I like sturdy metal undead models) and also because they state that they remove the 20% VAT for non-EU orders, and they actually have very reasonable shipping costs.
Sadly, and I guess that this is my own fault – but after ordering I saw the “despatch times” for Brigade.
Brigade Models is very much a part-time business. Because we have full-time jobs, these sometimes must take priority, so bear this in mind if your order is delayed. Please allow up to four weeks (six weeks overseas) for your order to arrive. We strive to get orders turned around much faster than this – in ‘normal’ periods (ie outside of sales) 95% of orders are sent out within two weeks. However, sometimes Real Life overtakes us and it takes a little longer. If your order is particularly large or contains lots of resin items that may also affect delivery time. We can also get very busy during our sales, when we sometimes receive as many orders in a week as we do in a month ! In the case of severe delays we will send partial orders, or at least let you know about the delay. If you really, really need some items in a hurry then contact us before you place your order and we can let you know if we can ship them within your timeframe.
Ouch! Up to 2 weeks to send my stuff out at best? 4-6 weeks delivery? A bit of a chance from the instant-2-day despatch and week in transit that I’m used to from UK companies. I guess I’ll see my Skeletons sometime in mid-late June. Hopefully?
Finally, I placed an order with Ral Partha Europe – or as they tell me they’re wanting to transition to – RPE. (Time to register a couple of URLs, guys. – RPE.com and RPE.co.uk have squatters on them, though). I only became aware that these guys even existed recently, initially through Goblin Aid for Kev Adams, and then a few months later when a colleague at work (who I just found out is also into wargaming) told me that he’d bought a ton of Heartbreaker Kev Adams Dwarves from Ral Partha Europe. I followed up and found that they also have much of the range of Heartbreaker Kev Adams Orcs and Goblins that I’d picked up back in the 1990’s, as well as more of the Bob Olley Ogres that I’d also bought a couple of in the ’90’s. They have a nice little range, and so I added quite a few things to the bunch of Ogres that I’d come to the site for. I had quite a nice chat on the phone with (I believe) Martin who was pleasant and friendly to talk to, and answered a few questions I had.
Encouragingly, they say that they charge actual postage and also that they will (manually) refund VAT for non-UK customers. “If you pay by Paypal and are from a non EU country we will refund the VAT on orders over £10 in value, before discount and not including postage cost.” They also say that orders are usually posted within a week, and please to allow 28 days for delivery before worrying. Basically, I’m happy to pay actual shipping OR VAT to UK retailers, since the VAT comes to 20% anyway which goes towards shipping. I’m NOT willing to play with places that have those horrible 1980’s-1990’s style “add 20%/25% of the total for shipping” – and even worse are the ones who do that and then keep the 20% VAT on top.
So, at this point I ordered from both Brigade and RPE on Wednesday night (my time) which is around Noon in the UK. I haven’t heard anything from either yet, the time of writing being late Sunday afternoon my time. I did get a newsletter from RPE yesterday touting their new releases and also mentioning that they had electricians in for most of last week, so had to put regular business on hold for a few days – fair enough. I guess we’ll see how this one pans out as well! I’ll keep these two updated!