Hi Alan and group,
It is true as Alan has surmised that assembled couplers
are being phased out. Once current stock of the assembled
couplers is gone, they will only come back under special
circumstances. Availability of kits has not changed and
likely won't for a long long time.
Please don't assume this says something about the
health of the business, because business is good. It says
more about different directions that I would like to take
the company in the future.
Assembled versions were offered initially as part of a
plan to attract new customers. The goal of the plan was to
become the standard coupler in the HO scale world. Then I
would quit my day job, buy an island somewhere, and
retire. It didn't turn out that way exactly. At nearly the
same time we started offering assembled couplers, we
launched an advertising campaign, and we started
approaching retail shops to get product on their shelves.
We even came up with some really nice packaging that any
retailer would be proud to display. Unfortunately, there
were very few shops that agreed to take on this new
product and I respect their decision not to do that.
However in the meantime, the online business really took
off. So, the effort to
get Sergent couplers in the "mainstream" of the hobby
sort of died, but that was OK because I was still
selling all the couplers I could make, and could sell
them directly at full retail price instead of selling to
dealers and half retail. That wasn't the way I planned
it, but it is kind of nice to get to know your customers
directly and the fact that I was getting a fair price
for my labor kept me content.
The problem with how
this "plan" worked out is that I still can't quit my day
job, buy an island, and retire. In fact, if I could buy
an island, I couldn't enjoy it because I'd be too busy
assembling couplers. For the last ten years or
so, business has been slowly growing through almost
entirely online sales. We are stuck in a place where
business is good, but not so good that I can sit back
and pay someone else to do the hard work. I came to this
realization probably five years ago, but have continued
to offer the assembled couplers because I hate to admit
defeat. I am more than happy to continue selling kits,
but after personally assembling nearly 30,000 couplers,
I've decided I have better things to do. Sorry.
Assembled couplers have historically sold pretty well
verses kits. Still, the vast majority of the couplers sold
are as kits. This is no doubt mostly because of the price
difference and the fact that it doesn't take a nuclear
physicist to assemble them. (Care to guess what my daytime
job is?) Maybe some
young entrepreneur out there can fill the need for
assembled Sergent couplers. If you think about it, you
can buy bulk couplers from me at $0.58 each, spend about
two minutes each assembling them, and then turn around
and sell them for $1.75 each. That's about $35 per hour.
If you can assemble them in one minute, that's $70 per
hour. Not bad for a part time work - if you aren't
looking to quit your day job, buy an island, and retire.
It takes me about 45 seconds to assemble one, but I've
built 30,000 of these things and I'm pretty sure I've
done it while I was actually asleep!
Bottom line is that I'm really sorry for folks that
really prefer the assembled version, but I can't justify
continuing to dedicate a significant portion of my time
assembling the couplers in hopes of explosive business
growth that is simply not going to happen. Thank you for