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Bad News for Tomix and GreenMax building distribution in the USA


cteno4

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well it had to happen here, Mokei in St Louis is retiring this fall. He was going to do it earlier this year but all the hobby shops screamed for one last order so they could stock up! that container should come in this fall and thats sposta be it!

 

Mokei is an importer that brought over containers of mainly tomix and greenmax structure kits and supplied most of the lhs in the US that carried that stuff at all. He also would bring over a smattering of kato and tomix trains, but i dont think that business went very far. while i dont think he is an official tomix distributor (there are, from all i have heard, none for the us officially) he must have gotten in somewhere low in the distribution chain in japan to bring things in bulk over at decent prices as the final retail here in the states was about japanese retail. hes been around forever, i saw his tiny add in a model railroader i had as a kid. he is now in his 80s. his wife is japanese so thats why they were able to set up the successful import business and worm into the japanese distribution channels that are pretty tight and layered.

 

he tended to stick to the things that would sell well for other uses in the US, not just for a US japanese modeling market. from time to time one of our regional dealers would send me his list of japanese trains he had on stock (usually just one or two trains of any model) with maybe 50 or so models. prices were 20-40% higher retail than importing from japan and usually stuff i had or odd stuff i usually was not so interested in. he never really advertised a lot and would only do wholesale to dealers, no direct sales. i think his volume was too low on this stuff to get the price competitive to japanese retail the way he did with the cheaper structures stuff.

 

last few years i think he brought over some tomytec and maruka items as well. lee of leestrains.com has known him for a long time. i use to get great odd stuff that lee would have mokei special order and someone back out on or mokei would end up with like green max catalogs, the tomix diorama book, few other odd books. going to miss that! i treasure that tomix diorama book. he use to also bring over the tomix and kato catalogs. usually was about 3 or so months behind when it hit the street in japan, but you could get it shipped here in the us for about the same as the retail price in japan and then you had to double that for shipping of them from japan, so it was worth the wait! we use to do larger orders and lee would just bring them to the timonium train show and we would save more on local book shipping even.

 

now i wonder who, if anyone, will fill his shoes?! getting in at a level to get the tomix and green max stuff and still keep the price down after shipping a container over and doing the distribution will be tough. his wife's language skills were also a needed part for an operation like this which most US distributor types wont have. may be a small boon to hs, hw, and plazajapan. i also expect he had a big chunk of change invested to fill a container (or even a partial container) and get it over here.

 

dont relish ordering larger buildings from japan as the shipping pushes the price up. luckily i have a pretty good supply laid in here.

 

someone want a new business? maybe he would be open to selling the biz or at least getting someone the connections!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Krackel Hopper

This is a shame..

 

It was thanks to Mokei that I was able to get the add-on to my 923 Dr. Yellow set.. without paying 2x retail on ebay.  The girlfriend (Rapitbunny) called him up from his ad in N scale magazine, turned out he had one sitting in his inventory.  She said he was incredibly nice to talk to and very helpful.

 

A somewhat local train store (Kansas City) is owned by a man who grew up in Japan.  He has close ties with Mokei, and his shop is stacked with Greenmax, Tomix & Kato buildings and kits for maybe 10% over retail.  A few Tomix commuter trains (marked up quite a bit) along with other odds and ends.  The owner invested pretty heavy in the Japanese buildings, but they seem to sell poorly.  I make it up there every few months and it's pretty well all the same stuff.  He stocks a lot of American stuff (both N and HO) and that stock seems to be rotating constantly.  One of my first trips there I was able to find the Tomix Pachinko hall for like $15.00.. a long sold out item..

 

Anyway, back to the point - I think there could be a decent business opportunity there.  I mean, Mokei has been around for a long time.  He wouldn't have stayed in business if it was unsuccessful.

 

I can't imagine how much the up-front costs would be on purchasing a container full of Greenmax & Tomix kits.  I would love that job, waiting for a container to be dropped off.  Spend my work days sorting through cases of kits to repackage and fill peoples orders. 

 

I do see a lot of potential in setting up a traveling Greenmax shop.  Follow the "Worlds Greatest Hobby" tour and hit all the major train shows.  Many of these people have never seen or heard of Greenmax.  If you had some (good quality) diorama displays, you could probably make a killing.  Most people in the US are used to the plastic kit prices associated with Walthers and Woodland Scenics..

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the brick and mortar shops seem to have the problem in moving the tomix and greenmax structures. dealers like leestrains.com who do their biz thru mail order and train shows seem to sell a good steady supply. lee said a lot of other dealers were caught by this as they sell a steady stream of stuff. lee kept his prices low as he had no brick and mortar store, just his garage so he usually got a good deal for us.

 

its great you guys were able to get the dr yellow directly from mokei! he use to only want orders to come thru a dealer. did he sell it directly to you or did you end up ordering it thru the dealer in kansas city?

 

I wrote him as a kid and he nicely wrote back with a couple of local dealers i could order thru and a nice list of things he had i was interested in (i cant remember what it was). i had found him in the model rr mag ad. i think all it said was mokei imports, address and send sase for catalog. ahh the old days before the internet and even word processors!

 

it would be a fun biz. nice thing about the wholesale biz is that your marketing is really targeted and more direct than to the retail market. also orders are usually larger and you are not mickey moused as much as you are with retail orders. but you need get paid (always a problem with wholesale where your clients usually want some terms) and you need room to store and sort large amounts of stock. even with the lower margins the volume usually means a lot less work per $$ made. friends with side businesses have tired quickly on the retail ends of their products, even with the high margins they felt they were making like $5 per hour, but on the wholesale side they could make a good stream of revenue with much less total work.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Samurai_Chris

Well, I am in Japan... Maybe I can help out?

 

Tell me what you want, and I will see if I can get it..

 

Chris

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I always thought the import/export biz was a good racket to get into, but the start up costs kept me out of it, just as it kept me out of the FOREX markets, that and the exchange rate against the yen right now is at an all-time WTF.

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Martijn Meerts

I'm like the other way around, never was interested in import/export, unless it's importing hard to get stuff from small companies etc.

 

What I'd really like is some old-fashioned toy store with large displays and a nice atmosphere. I still remember going to stores and seeing large demo layouts you could run trains at, and these massive cities built from Lego etc. Nowadays the toy stores only have as many shelves as possible crammed into tiny spaces, and all filled with pokemon and the 43245235423 variations of it ;)

 

It does make sense though, an old fashioned toy store probably wouldn't even break even, let alone earn enough to live on.

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Well, I am in Japan... Maybe I can help out?

 

Tell me what you want, and I will see if I can get it..

 

Chris

 

Chris - I just PM you....wondering if there are any Japanese modelers who would be interested in joining this forum.

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Well, I am in Japan... Maybe I can help out?

 

Tell me what you want, and I will see if I can get it..

 

Chris

 

Chris,

 

thanks i think we can get most everything, its just that the shipping on these heavier, but cheaper items starts pushing their costs up. somehow mokei was able to import enough at good prices so that he hit the retail price here the same as japan. its not horrible, but more just of a bummer as i doubt we will see the greenmax and tomix structures around the us as much now.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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its great you guys were able to get the dr yellow directly from mokei! he use to only want orders to come thru a dealer. did he sell it directly to you or did you end up ordering it thru the dealer in kansas city?

 

I wrote him as a kid and he nicely wrote back with a couple of local dealers i could order thru and a nice list of things he had i was interested in (i cant remember what it was). i had found him in the model rr mag ad. i think all it said was mokei imports, address and send sase for catalog. ahh the old days before the internet and even word processors!

 

Well...people are more than willing to do business with you when you offer to pay up front.  :)

 

He was very nice - had the most Texan accent you can imagine.

 

"Dr. Yellah?  Innit that one o' 'dem main-tain-ance trains?"

"Yeh.  I'll ship it out.  (Begrudgingly)  Gotta go take the boss....shopping....first."

 

LOL.  I love it.

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Well, I am in Japan... Maybe I can help out?

 

Tell me what you want, and I will see if I can get it..

 

Chris

 

Chris,

 

thanks i think we can get most everything, its just that the shipping on these heavier, but cheaper items starts pushing their costs up. somehow mokei was able to import enough at good prices so that he hit the retail price here the same as japan. its not horrible, but more just of a bummer as i doubt we will see the greenmax and tomix structures around the us as much now.

 

cheers

 

jeff

When you try to bring a hobby shop full of stuff home in your suitcase you start to understand why shipping costs so much. :grin

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This is an interesting topic.  I've wondered why there are at least 5 or 6 different importers of European (primarily German) stock in North America which generally have prices consistent with what you'd pay in Europe, but really not many importers of the Japanese stuff.

My conclusion is that the European importers are really riding the wake of the generations of fans of the Marklin brand which helped with the distribution and the early dominance in N Scale of the German/Austrian brands in N Scale back in the 1970s.  The evolution of US based importers for Japanese brands has not had a similar history.  Interesting topic.

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Ooo, now I am curious of what you bought home Westfalen.

I was thinking of a trip a few years ago before I discovered Hobby Search and Plaza Japan when I had to buy an extra suitcase, this time I mainly bought a few Kawai freight car sets. I really only devoted one afternoon out of 27 days to going round hobby shops, I'm starting to think my time in Japan is better spent watching and riding real trains and seeing more of the country now that I can get on line and buy stuff anytime.

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Ooo, now I am curious of what you bought home Westfalen.

I was thinking of a trip a few years ago before I discovered Hobby Search and Plaza Japan when I had to buy an extra suitcase, this time I mainly bought a few Kawai freight car sets. I really only devoted one afternoon out of 27 days to going round hobby shops, I'm starting to think my time in Japan is better spent watching and riding real trains and seeing more of the country now that I can get on line and buy stuff anytime.

 

I have a similar outlook.  Basically I have a 1/1 scale model "layout" at my disposal by just going to the local railway station- plus the trains are already "wired" for sound, lighting, and smell :laugh: One reason my interest in scale models focuses on older (pre-JR) prototypes is the modern stuff is just 20 minutes away out my doorstep.

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its great you guys were able to get the dr yellow directly from mokei! he use to only want orders to come thru a dealer. did he sell it directly to you or did you end up ordering it thru the dealer in kansas city?

 

I wrote him as a kid and he nicely wrote back with a couple of local dealers i could order thru and a nice list of things he had i was interested in (i cant remember what it was). i had found him in the model rr mag ad. i think all it said was mokei imports, address and send sase for catalog. ahh the old days before the internet and even word processors!

 

Bunny LOL that put a great picture in my head!

 

Thanks

 

Jeff

Well...people are more than willing to do business with you when you offer to pay up front.  :)

 

He was very nice - had the most Texan accent you can imagine.

 

"Dr. Yellah?  Innit that one o' 'dem main-tain-ance trains?"

"Yeh.  I'll ship it out.  (Begrudgingly)  Gotta go take the boss....shopping....first."

 

LOL.  I love it.

 

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I have been trying to get ahold of Mokei. The only number I have is 314-725-8413. If you frequent a hobby shop that used him, would you ask for a number? You would be greatly assisting the cause of keeping Japanese N moving into the USA.

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Mudkip Orange

I always thought the import/export biz was a good racket to get into, but the start up costs kept me out of it, just as it kept me out of the FOREX markets, that and the exchange rate against the yen right now is at an all-time WTF.

 

Lawl, when you posted that the USD:JPY xchange was at 81.93 and now it's at 76.49.

 

Guess who's NOT ordering Japanese right now?

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Lawl, when you posted that the USD:JPY xchange was at 81.93 and now it's at 76.49.

Guess who's NOT ordering Japanese right now?

 

That's only the USD. Not much change in the Loonie-Yen rate.

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Mudkip Orange

 

Lawl, when you posted that the USD:JPY xchange was at 81.93 and now it's at 76.49.

Guess who's NOT ordering Japanese right now?

 

That's only the USD. Not much change in the Loonie-Yen rate.

 

DON'T RUB IT IN, MAN.

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Just heard that Mokei Imports is in the process of final closing and the business is not being sold/picked up by anyone else.

 

Sad as he was around like 35 years bringing over japanese stuff for us shops. He was the main US import source for Green Max and tomix buildings. He had a very special in somewhere in the Japanese distribution chain to get him prices that were low enough that LHSs could buy stuff from him and resell at about what the japanese retail price was. He would bring over container fulls at a time so did some volume there and his wife was Japanese so he had a translator for business.

 

With Bob's passing and Mokei closing its going to mean big step backwards to Japanese stuff in the US market locally.

 

jeff

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Guest JRF-1935

I have been trying to get ahold of Mokei. The only number I have is 314-725-8413. If you frequent a hobby shop that used him, would you ask for a number? You would be greatly assisting the cause of keeping Japanese N moving into the USA.

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Guest JRF-1935

I have been trying to get ahold of Mokei. The only number I have is 314-725-8413. If you frequent a hobby shop that used him, would you ask for a number? You would be greatly assisting the cause of keeping Japanese N moving into the USA.

 

Too bad - Bob had the right idea
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I think bob did get ahold of him, I'll have to go thru some old emails from him.

 

In the end it sounded like mokei's was not into trying to sell the biz. I'm guessing that it was his contacts and history which don't always handoff well.

 

I did talk with bob about this quite a bit as I saw some parallels in their businesses.

 

Jeff

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bikkuri bahn

Unfortunate.  But have heard that model rr sales/distributing is a low margin business, and in this case very niche- it truly has to be a labor of love for someone to invest their time and money in it.  If there is a viable market, I suppose someone else will come in to fill the vacuum eventually.  Otherwise, it's dealing with Japan-based mailorder houses. 

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