I know it's cliché, but wow, 2012 went by fast. And yet the beginning of the year seems like a long time ago. So much has happened this year in the hobby industry, it's hard to know where to begin. How about the biggest misses of 2012, then maybe some great hits? Sounds like a plan to me!
Miss #1: iHobby Expo is a Ghost Town
This may be a bit of inside baseball, but it's still important nonetheless. It's the iHobby Expo's lackluster debut in Cleveland. With industry giants bowing out of the show (Great Planes, Traxxas, and Testors were among those that regularly attend but were not there this year), iHobby's attendance was low. Ghost town low. And while Cleveland has more hobby shops around it than Chicago, fewer dealers attended the show. I assume this is due to the aforementioned companies not attending. The iHobby show is in Cleveland for two more years, minimum. Given 2012's attendance, I hope the show lasts that long. With it's abysmal attendance, the iHobby show is a big miss for 2012.
Miss #2: Scout CX Upper Rotor Blades Backorder Fiasco
Another miss of 2012 was Horizon Hobby's inablity to foresee the demand for Blade Scout CX upper rotor blades. The Scout did very well during 2011's Christmas. But the new Scout owners soon found themselves with a helicopter they couldn't fix. While Horizon did try to get more in via air freight, it only quelled the demend for short time. The blades didn't really start shipping en masse until the end of February - a long two months to wait for the parts to fix your Christmas gift. Even though they did their best to fix the problem, Horizon demonstrated a lack of forsight in letting the outage happen in the first place. The backorder of upper blades for the Scout CX is a huge miss for 2012.
Biggest Miss of 2012: Traxxas R/C Helicopters
Probably the biggest news of the year occured just a few months ago. When Traxxas announced it was getting into the radio control helicopter market, everyone had an opinion. Most of the feedback we got following the annoucement on our Facebook page was positive. More than one person commented that they've been wanting to get into helis, and Traxxas getting into the game meant he could start flying with a name he trusted. But, as our recent blog post talks about, the Traxxas helicopters, for us, were a letdown. With six out of eight being defective from the get go, we've decided to hold off on the Traxxas helis. Only time will tell if they fix the problems and renew the trust of their customers. As far as I'm conserned, the Traxxas Helicopters are the biggest miss of the year.
Hit #1: HeliMax 1SQ Quadcopter
A surprising hit for the year was HeliMax's 1SQ quadcopter. Traditionally, we haven't stocked HeliMax products, as we are quite happy carrying the Blade line of helicopters. I generally think that the HeliMax line is sloppier and just generally less polished than their Blade counterparts. But the 1SQ quad is a standout from the HeliMax rank and file. It's an amazing little helicopter! It's stable (and the TAGs gyro system is remarkably smooth). It can do flips and rolls with the best of the quads out there. And with it Ready-to-Fly for under $100, it's a pretty awesome package. We've sold far more of these little guys than I would ever have dreamed. That means the HeliMax 1SQ is a big hit for 2012.
Hit #2: ParkZone Ultra Micro Spitfire
The Ultra Micro Spitfire had a lot on its shoulders. It was the first (and to only) ultra micro airplane under $100 to ship with Horizon's AS3X 3-axis gyro system. But while it was originally slated for a May release, the Spitfire was delayed. When it finally came out at the end of September, it sat on the shelf for a couple weeks without anyone even looking at it. But when the first one sold, it was like the levees burst. We went through our inital four in a couple weeks. We have since re-ordered multiple times. While it's not the best selling ultra micro airplane we carry, the Spitfire is a solid contender; all the more impressive when you consider that it only had two months to do it in. The popularity of the Ultra Micro Spitfire makes it a great hit of 2012.
Biggest Hit of 2012: ECX Reboot
The biggest hit of the year is the reboot of ECX. For those of you not aware of ECX's rocky history, allow me to fill you in. ECX (a division of Horizon Hobby) came out in 2010, with the Circuit. For about six months, the Circuit was a decent selling R/C stadium truck. But right after the Ruckus (a 2WD monster truck) was released, ECX vehicles started having radio problems. A lot of radio problems - enough that we pulled the line. When it was announced in October 2012 that the ECX cars were being completely re-outfitted with new (and waterproof) electronics, including a new 2.4GHz radio system, we got excited. And when the new ECX vehicles finally arrived on the shelves, they sold out quickly. We've re-ordered ECX vehicles at least four times during the Christmas season, putting them up there with Traxxas in Christmas sales. The remarkable transformation of ECX is easily the biggest hit of 2012.
Well, there you have it. Some of the biggest hits and misses from the hobby industry in 2012. For some, 2012 will be a great year to remember. For others, it's a year they'll hope to overcome in 2013. Overall, I think the year was a pretty positive one for our industry. What do you think? Sound off in the comments or, better yet, on our Facebook Page! Happy New Year, everyone!