Located in New Market, Auckland, ModelAir is conveniently located on one of the more popular stretches in New Market where shops of all kinds are only within a walking distance apart. ModelAir has been operating in New Zealand for a long time as far as hobby shops are concerned in New Zealand. First established in the 1930’s by the MacDonald family, the shop then focused on balsa model planes. Apparently flight was the talk of the town at the time. As times progressed, so did their stock and eventually moved into the realms of plastic kitsets. Since its initial opening, the Thompson family has assumed ownership of the shop and continues to thrive in this business.
The store does very well to make a huge first impression for all customers walking through the entrance as you are first greeted with a display cabinet containing 1:32 air craft kits that are beautifully weathered and prominently displayed in a glass cabinet. Following the cabinets, you are then greeted with a wide variety of kits ranging from the large stock of plastic car kits down to the armor kits located on the other side of the shop. Being a large store in terms of floor space, the owner had the luxury of creating ample spaces between the aisles without customers having to worry about knocking boxes off the shelves unintentionally. All stock was grouped appropriately with car kits located on the right wall of the shop while armor is on the left and planes right upfront. The most impressive part of the shop in terms of first impressions had to go to the endless number of assembled kits on display. The shop have over 5 medium to large glass display cabinets displaying beautifully assembled armor, figures and planes of various scales. What captured my attention most was the number of M113s which the owner had assembled and “kit bashed” to depict the more current models used in the New Zealand army. Please refer to the photos for more details.
range of products
ModelAir has a great range of model kits, which are prominently displayed and sorted by Brand. It is truly great to see that the Dragon range was given as much lime light as the Tamiya products indicating that they (Tamiya) no longer possess the market dominance it once had on the armor scale kits and the display shelves. The shop carries the major brands like Dragon, Tamiya, Revell and Italeri to name a few. The shop owner complements these models by selling a huge range of reference books consisting of nearly the entire Osprey collection to the full coloured picture series of the Special Ops range.
A local hobby store is truly only as good as their staff and this shop certainly ranks as one of the higher ones in my books. Including experienced modellers, the staff have the background to effectively provide both an in-depth detail of a product as well as tips on how to improve ones modelling skills. Their expertise is fully justified with their ability to physically reference their own work on the display shelves in the shop. Let’s face it, you can’t argue with someone who has the evidence in front of you even though you have chosen to ignore the many years of experience under their belt. It was truly a humbling experience when one of the experienced ground staff took the time to provide me with some much needed modelling tips despite having other customers browsing the shelves and requiring some kind of assistance. While having a conversation with the shop owner’s wife, Nicola, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she too was an avid modeller of figures and like the rest of the staff, a display of her work was prominently displayed among the other armor kits.
ModelAir offers a comparable price range across all their kitsets without any obvious advantages when compared with other hobby stores around Auckland. For example: ModelAir currently offers the Dragon 1/35 SdKfz 251/22 Ausf.D kit for $59.95 while other local hobby shops are offering the same kit for $64.95. When comparing the Dragon 1/35 SdKfz 251/6 Ausf. C Command Vehicle however, ModelAir currently sells it for $59.95 while the same kit can be found at $51.35 in several other hobby stores around Auckland. With this in mind, it always pays for modelers to shop around first in order to find the best deals.
Similar to other local hobby stores around Auckland, the online site tends to be its biggest let down and does not provide the same lasting impression as the physical shop. The online site provides a healthy level of background information on the shop’s beginnings however fails to deliver on its fundamental purpose of allowing an online customer to view its catalogue and often returns with no results when one selects a range of products based on the links provided on the site. For example: Selecting ‘Plastic Kits > Military > 1/35 Military>Dragon’ returns no results. The inability to customise and register on the site leaves a somewhat ‘static’ and infrequently updated impression, characteristics of which are of crucial importance when retaining online customers. Further development on their online site would certainly boost their attractiveness and effectiveness to the online community. >/br>
ModelAir certainly left an overall good lasting impression on me as I had experienced excellent customer services and was certainly left with amazement by the extensive range of models on display. Display cabinets in hobby shops are often underrated and not enough emphasis is placed on them simply because customers aren’t as willing to spend huge dollars on a completed kit. What many shop owners tend to overlook is that display cabinets do give prospective buyers a clear indication on how a finished kit would look like and therefore provide more motivation in carrying out the transaction. ModelAir has certainly capitalised on this form of marketing and is clearly the more strategic of the shops around Auckland.
The online store certainly is its biggest let down by not catering to the online community in the form of registration and customisation. Adding to this, it fails to deliver on its fundamental function of providing an online catalogue as viewers are often greeted with no results when navigating through the links provided.
ModelAir does provide a comparable price range and does offer a smaller price tag on selected items only.
Overall this shop is recommended for both local and international customers who are physically in the New Market region. Online customers would have to remain in the back burners until such time where further development is done onto the website.
Richard & Nicola Thompson
12 Kent Street, Newmarket
Phone: 64 9 520 1236