2013, for many, was a rocky year. There were many ups and downs. But for all the peaks and valleys, it's interesting to look back on the year and see what products remained popular while everything around them changed. As with every year, we look back on the previous 365 days and look at the most popular and profitable products in our store. For the second year now, we're sharing that information with our readers, along with some editorial on why we think that product made it on the list. As with last year's, this list isn't limited to products that came out in 2013. These are the top performing products in our store, by profit dollars, for this calendar year.
Because we devise this list by profit dollars, it does skew the list toward more expensive items - this way, the list isn't all CA glue, glow plugs, and shock fluid. This is about the marquee products in our line up. So let's get to our Top 10 Products of 2013 countdown!
5000mAh 2S 20C LiPo
Position Last Year: 7th
Last year, the Duratrax Onyx 5000mAh 2-cell LiPo made 7th place. Since then, we switched brands over to the Dynamite Reaction line. This allowed us to slash prices on LiPos, going from a $60 down to $40 for an equivalent battery pack. While our margin isn't as high, sales haven't disappointed, and the Dynamite Reaction batteries are a clear 'win' for hobby shops looking to do battle with online wholesalers from overseas. With their competitive price point to their 1-year warranty, the 5000mAh 2-cell LiPo has been a staple in our line up.
Horizon's commitment to their dealer network allowed these LiPos to make it to market. Making it to number nine on our list is impressive, and all the more so when you consider they released in March. Without being available for the first three months of the year, the Dynamite Reaction batteries managed to make our list at number ten; an impressive debut year that, I'm sure, will be improved upon in the new year.
Position Last Year: N/A
I like the Ruckus. Despite having some minor misgivings with ECX's handling of hop up parts, I think the Ruckus is a good truck. Its longer wheelbase than the Traxxas Stampede means more traction for the front tires; it's hard to steer when the wheels are in the air. It's durable, up-gradable, and sports a mean looking body. All of these features make it a beacon for first-time R/C drivers. Toss in the 2-amp peak charger, and you've got a package that's competitive with nearly anything else on the market.
Along with its cousin in fourth place, the Ruckus proved that you don't have to have 'Traxxas' on the box to sell. Wherever ECX goes from here, the Ruckus has given them a good head start on the rest of the pack. And that's why it lands the number nine spot on our countdown.
Estes Proto X
Position Last Year: N/A
It's hard to believe, but we almost didn't pick this micro-quadcopter up. There was a lot against it: it was from Estes, a company not traditionally associated with radio control. It was only $40; how good could it be? And there weren't any replacement parts listed. All in all, it didn't look like a product we'd want gracing our store shelves.
But, as I have been many times before, I was wrong to judge this quad by its cover. Replacement blades ended up being available. The $40 price point meant nearly anyone could afford one. And Estes knocked it out of the park in terms of control-ability. How good is it? Well, we have a stable of R/C helicopter we can fly around the store, but it's the Estes Proto X that ends up being flown the most. It's fun and inexpensive, two great qualities in a quadcopter. We've sold more than one hundred of these little guys in the two or so months we've had them. That meteoric success lands this little guy in eighth place on our countdown.
Blade nQX RTF
Position Last Year: N/A
It's only been since mid-June that the Nano QX has been available. That means it had to sell exceptionally well to make the list at all, let alone reach the seventh spot. And sold well it has. Quads are all the rage these days, and Blade's reputation for quality helped propel the nQX ahead of it's competitors. The SAFE technology on board minimizes mistakes, while turning it to agility mode allows for impressive flips, rolls, and loops. And the price is right too — at just under $100, the nQX is a great value.
Blade's continued pursuit of excellence lives on in the Nano QX. And if history is any judge, the nQX will be a mainstay in hobby shops around the country for a long time. With only half the year to make it's mark, the Blade nQX leaps onto the number seven spot on our countdown.
Traxxas Slash 2WD
Position Last Year: 4th
With Traxxas' prices all over the place this year, combined with increased competition from ECX, it's not surprising to see the Slash 2WD fall from grace, just a little. But even all those issues combined couldn't drop the Slash off our list. It's still our go-to vehicle for any beginner, because the Slash is, hands down, the best value in radio control. With the pantheon of upgrade parts, aftermarket support, and optional accessories, a Slash owner will never run out of things to do. Only one other vehicle offers as good a value as the Slash 2WD (hint: it's our first place product).
While the Slash may have finished behind the ECX Torment, there's no question that it offers more to the beginner, and veteran driver alike, than anything in the ECX stable. It's true that Traxxas stumbled a bit this year. But it seems like they've got their game back, and we'll look for the Slash 2WD to regain ground next year. For now, though, it sits at number six on our countdown.
HobbyZone Champ RTF
Position Last Year: ??
It didn't feel like we sold nearly as many Champs this year as in years past. That was obviously not the case, as the Champ held its own and then some, climbing to 5th in the standings. The Champ has started many of our local pilots on their way to becoming full-fledged R/C hobbyists. With all the new beginner-oriented airplanes that came out this year (the E-Flite Apprentice S, the HobbyZone Delta Ray, and the HobbyZone Duet), I wasn't sure the Champ could weather the storm. But, as it has many times in the past, this little airplane proved me wrong.
The versatility of the Champ, its ability to fly virtually anywhere, and its sub-$100 price point make the Champ a strong contender on our list. It's going to take more than the new aforementioned aircraft to take down the king of beginner R/C airplanes. And this year, the king sits at number five on our countdown.
Position Last Year: N/A
The Torment has a lot of things going for it. Short course trucks are still popular, and the Torment's sub-$200 price point makes it an attractive buy. And with the support of Horizon Hobby behind it, it's not surprising that consumers responded positively to the Torment. While there is still plenty of room to improve on the truck, it can't be denied that the Torment is a good value for any beginner in the hobby. It has the same great features of the Ruckus, but packs them into the more durable short course platform.
ECX has a ways to go before they can truly beat Traxxas at their own game. But if this year is any indication, Traxxas should keep an eye on ECX, and the Torment is the leader of that pack. And that's why the ECX Torment comes in forth place on our countdown.
Blade mCX2 RTF
Position Last Year: 1st
The rise of quadcopters this year hurt the mCX2, just a little bit. And while the Blade nQX managed to make our list, it's worth noting that it couldn't overtake our most popular helicopter. The Blade mCX2 is still the best way to learn to fly R/C helicopters, full stop. It's stable, durable, and accessible. If you can't learn to fly with the mCX2, you can't learn to fly. It's that easy. Get it trimmed out right, and you can set the controller down - it will hover in place on it's own, as if by magic. It's an impressive little copter to demo - and even more impressive when almost every demo ends with another prospective pilot ready to take to the skies.
It's true that the quadcopters have eaten into the mCX2's sales (how else would the nQX reach the seventh spot?), dropping it from first to third. But this little heli that could is more than the sum of its parts, helping it to keep the crown as the top helicopter in our store, and third overall in our countdown.
Hitec X1 AC+ Charger
Position Last Year: 2nd
It's a testament to the evolution of the industry that this charger nabs the second spot for the second time in a row, and very nearly nabbed the top spot. Only a few years ago, having a battery charger near the top of our list would have been impossible. But now, with the majority of the industry aligned behind electric powered products, it's of no surprise that our favorite multicharger keeps up the pace. Its versatility and value are unmatched, especially considering Hitec's excellent customer service.
When you add all the features, price tag, and fantastic service and support together, you get a product that serves all four major divisions of R/C (cars, boats, airplanes, and helicopters) with unparalleled ability. And that is the key to making it to number two on our countdown for the second year in a row.
Traxxas Slash 4x4
Position Last Year: 3rd
The Slash 4x4. Last year, I said it was my favorite vehicle we've ever carried. I still feel that way. The more I sell this truck, the more I like it. The more hop-ups come out for it, the more I like it. And the more people come back, exceited about their new truck, the more I like it.
This year saw Traxxas release an LCG version (and later an LCG conversion kit), giving the Slash 4x4 an great boost to awareness. Not only is the Slash 4x4 our top performing by dollars, it's the top selling vehicle by numbers sold as well, making this truck a clear winner.
There's nothing to dislike on the Slash 4x4. It's a platform that's seen improvements over the year, and with each adjustment, hop-up part, and tweak, the Slash 4x4 keeps getting better. When it comes to a truck that continues to offer value years after purchase, the Slash 4x4 delivers. And that's why it's the top product on our countdown.
That completes our look at our top ten products of 2013. As we close out 2013 and look forward to the new year, I'm left wondering what new products are on the horizon. What new gadget or technology will change the playing field? How will our list be different next year; how will it be the same? I suspect we'll see some new players join the list next year, and some others will be left off. But one thing will be a given: while the list and the products we carry changes, our passion for this industry and our desire to share that passion with our customers won't diminish. We've seen a near magical transformation of our beloved hobby industry over the last 30 years - but the enthusiasm we seen in every one of our customers has endured. Here's to 2014: a new year and new challenges await!