2015 was the year that not much happened in the hobby world. Many products from 2015 didn't seem to have a lot of sticking power; most came in and went away without anyone noticing. That's why this year was the hardest year so far to figure out the hits and misses - while there weren't many huge hits, there also weren't a ton of large misses, either. Let's dive into them.
Miss #1: Ominus FPV / Vista FPV
As well as we reviewed and sold the original Ominus, the Ominus FPV was a definite miss. It did sell well, but the failure rate on the quadcopter was tremendously high. The motors on that drone just didn't hold up at all, and it ended up getting discontinued ahead of the launch of the Vista FPV... which didn't happen in 2015. Originally, the Vista FPV was supposed to launch right aside the Vista proper, but got delayed. And delayed. And delayed. Now it's estimated to release in February of 2016, but we've heard that song and dance before.
While the market certainly exists for a streaming camera drone in the Vista FPV's price range, their production problems have opened the door to many other companies to take advantage of their situation. It remains to be seen if this issue ends up causing further problems for the Dromida quadcopter line. Personally, I kind of suspect that Dromida will simply cancel the Vista FPV and pick up with their next generation of drones; by the time the Vista is supposed to launch, they might just be ready for the next version anyway.
Either way, Dromida leaving their dealers and customers hanging with the Vista FPV is a miss for 2015.
Miss #2: Horizon's Drone Dilemma
When we started carrying helicopters in earnest, we chose Horizon Hobby and their Blade brand as our default stock. Blade is usually the most polished, well thought out, and best value R/C helicopters on the market for beginners and advanced pilots alike, and as such the vast majority of helicopters we carried in the past, and currently carry, are of the Blade line.
Since the inception of multi-rotors, however, Blade has almost always been behind the curve. They had to play catch-up when the DJI Phantom began taking over the camera drone market place (and did so very well, as their 350QX line, and later the Chroma, was very well received). Now, the company they are behind is their primary competitor in the hobby world: Hobbico.
It's been over a year since the original Dromida Ominus came out, and none of Horizon's brands have had an answer to that quadcopter. Now, Dromida is onto its next-generation Ominus, called the Vista, and still Horizon doesn't have anything to compete with it. The only thing close is the 180QX HD, and that costs more than twice what the Vista does (and it won't do flips with the push of a button, either).
Instead of competing directly, Blade came out with a bunch drones that, while they flew well and had that excellent pedigree, didn't sell for beans. Products like the Nano QX 3D and the Glimpse did so poorly that they got marked down within months of their release. Meanwhile, the Vista is our #1 Product for the year.
Given their reputation for quality, I'd much rather sell a Horizon product than pretty much anything else, but their inability or refusal to acknowledge the increased competition from their chief competitor isn't comforting. Hopefully we're just months away from a slew of new product announcements, but until such time, Horizon's lack of competitive drones is, in our opinion, a big miss of 2015.
Biggest Miss of 2015: 2015 Was Boring
It's true. Not much spectacular happened.
Most of the big releases and announcements were held until only a few weeks to go in the year, and while technically they occurred in 2015, things like the X-Maxx release and the announcement of the Traxxas Axon won't really be felt until 2016. Other releases, like the Yeti SCORE didn't leave much of a mark on the hobby world as a whole, and still others were nearly completely ignored by the buying public.
It's not like nothing happened; the Blade Chroma was a big success for us, and the Dromida Vista sits atop our 2015 Top Ten list, but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot going on in the hobby world in 2015. With some momentum going into next year, it looks like 2016 should be more dynamic, but for 2015, the boring year is the biggest miss of 2015.
Hit #1: Coloring Books Surge in Popularity
Coloring is no more restricted to the world of children. Coloring books aimed at an adult audience have recently been gaining steam as a favorable pastime for many; young, old, male, female... it doesn't seem to matter. Coloring books offer a way to simply enjoy something while allowing you to kind of shut off our brain and just be.
As a result of this recent trend, we transformed our Craft & Art Book department to serve those looking for coloring books, and we've seen an amazing 133% increase in that department since last year; our largest percentage increase in the store. That kind of increase is why coloring books are a hit for 2015!
Hit #2: Traxxas Price Drops on Rustler, Stampede, and Slash
Increased competition. That's what Traxxas was facing when they decided to drop the price on their entry level trucks, and I think we can thank those other companies for ushering in a period of unprecedented sales of R/C trucks, because when Traxxas dropped those prices, it opened the flood gates. We brought the Rustler back on, having dropped it when sales weren't keeping up — and now it's selling very, very well. The Stampede and Slash have seen a huge boost to their sales as well.
Given the quality and support for Traxxas vehicles, it's so much better having their trucks in the price ranges of some of the other, less-attractive options. I'd rather see someone go home with a Rustler than an ECX Circuit or ARRMA Vorteks. Kudos to Traxxas for responding to the influx of less-capable trucks and dropping their price; that's a sure-fire hit for 2015.
Biggest Hit of 2015: Business is Booming
2014 started out very worrisome. The "polar vortex" caused record-shattering and teeth chattering cold temperatures — which killed our first quarter sales; no one wanted to go play outside with their R/C trucks or airplanes. 2015, however, started out dramatically different, and beginning at the end of January, when we saw the numbers we put up in that first month, we knew something was different.
That momentum continued throughout the year. Never once did we dip below the previous year's sales; as each month passed, we knew that 2015 was going to be special. Once Black Friday hit, and we beat out last year's weekend (which was previously our best two-day span in history), the deal was sealed — 2015 was going to be our best year ever. The only question was by how much.
For our small, hometown hobby shop to pull off our best year ever says a lot about our community. It says that Saginaw and the surrounding cities, townships, and villages aren't being brought down by the economy, the looming healthcare crisis, or threats of terrorism. We're not going to let all the bad in the world prevent us from enjoying the good, and if our small store can somehow be a part of that positive outlook, then I think we're on the right track. Though our booming business might be listed as the biggest hit of the year, really, it's our customers that made that happen, and for that, all of us here at Roger's Hobby Center extend our deepest gratitude to everyone that shops small with us! You're the biggest hit of 2015!
That rounds on our list of the top hits and misses of 2015. Did you agree with them all? Think I was wrong on everything? Let us know on our Facebook page, and keep the conversation going!
Miss our other year-end content? Links below!