E Day arrives

I thought it would never happen, but Fighting 15s is no longer the EU agent for Eureka Miniatures and AB Figures. My agency ends today (4 September, or “E Day”) and Fighting 15s embarks on a new journey as a manufacturer in its own right.

It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago I emailed Nic Robson of Eureka Miniatures when I saw his new 18mm British Napoleonics on a forum, and asked whether he had a UK agent. When he replied that he didn’t, I asked if he wanted one. The result was that in fairly short order boxes of 18mm British Napoleonics and 28mm Seven Years War bears appeared under my desk and I began the work of introducing Eureka Miniatures to the UK and Europe. It seems hard to believe anyone could get so lucky today, now that internet use is so commonplace.

I’d like to thank Nic for putting up with me. I’m quite difficult to deal with when I know what I want, and I can say what I want pretty bluntly, for which I blame 20 years of journalism and being paid to be right about everything. It has been a blast dealing with him, Tony Barton of AB Figures, and the various members of Eureka’s staff in my time: Tony Ramsden, Jack Garley and John Chadderton.

I’ve said that I’m basically taking semi-retirement to focus more on the house and garden. But rest assured, I have plenty to do: Gladiator Miniatures (the former Black Hat 15mm) needs reorganising to be fit for the next 10 years, with new moulds, new horses for some ranges, and better photographs of what are some quite marvellous figures (and new versions of the less marvellous ones). Martian Empires needs completing. Those Oddzial Osmy 15mm Napoleonics I’ve owned for years may eventually appear now that I have time to rework and remould them. Plus I aim to start expanding the 40mm offerings for the former Flashing Blade and D’Arlo ranges. As to the question, where to start? rest assured, the answer is new photographs for Gladiator Miniatures!

Oh, and I may find time to take a paintbrush to some figures for the first time in years.

Ian
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures

Fighting 15s: now running on live stock levels

Work on changing the Fighting 15s shop to live stock levels is almost complete: just the 28mm Wars of the French Revolution range from Eureka Miniatures and the 15mm Ancients from AB remain to be done. That means that the most popular ranges are available to buy again and that in theory it should only be possible to order what is either in stock or can be cast to order. The shop does tend to randomly hide categories, so please contact Fighting 15s if you feel a range is missing or unavailable.

Of course, live stock levels depend on the accuracy of the counting, breakages, and on mispacks by suppliers, but hopefully they will provide confidence to customers that any code once ordered will be in stock.

The shift to live stock levels means that Fighting 15s will be ready for the change in agency for Eureka Miniatures and AB Figures on 4 September. On that day, the shop will shut for maintenance, and reopen later (probably on 5 September) with only our own ranges and the actual remaining stock from Eureka and AB available to buy. The ranges will only be removed completely if the new agent for Eureka and AB opts to buy Fighting 15s’ stock outright, otherwise Fighting 15s will simply run down stocks naturally.

We repeat that any order placed by or on 3 September 2019 for AB or Eureka Miniatures that are cast under licence by Fighting 15s in the UK will be honoured, and licensed casting will continue after 4 September only to complete those orders.

Fighting 15s stops being Eureka’s and AB’s agent on 4 September 2019; the new agent takes up the reins on 5 September 2019. Because the changeover is only just more than six weeks away, Fighting 15s is not ordering into stock new releases from Eureka Miniatures or AB Figures.

Changing to live stock levels is one of those ghastly, massive efforts I was hoping not to have to do once Fighting 15s was just Gladiator Miniatures and my own figures, because it is not an appropriate system for a manufacturer that casts to order because everything is either in stock or can be made. However, to be fit to be able to have holiday in August, the shop was either going to have to close to orders for a week or I would have to disappoint customers by being unable to supply items that had become out of stock because someone else had ordered it first. Hence the upheaval now, making the most of the fact that I have caught up on orders and had the time to start the work.

I am particularly glad it’s almost over. And that I won’t have more upkeep on the live stock system caused by new stock arriving, and increasing the workload considerably.

Ian
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures

Fighting 15s shop: live stock levels

Parts of the Fighting 15s online shop are inaccessible at present because I am switching the whole of my stock to live stock levels. This simply means that if an item is shown in stock, then customers can buy it up to the stock limit.

This has been largely irrelevant up until now because so many of the items I sell are cast to order, and because I can get key items quickly if necessary from Australia. However, as Fighting 15s heads towards the end of its status as agent for AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures, it’s important that all items from those manufacturers are set to live stock levels. That way, come E-day on 4 September, Fighting 15s can simply run down stock and I can provide an inventory for the new agent if they decide to take on the stock. There’s no guarantee of this, hence plan B is to continue listing items on the site until they sell out: live stock levels will automatically ensure that a code is delisted and hidden when it runs out.

Obviously, this is a huge amount of work, because I have to count the existing stock. Therefore, all items have been set to a stock level of zero until I have been able to count the stock for that code: one they have a stock level of more than zero they will reappear in the shop. So, although the shop looks empty in places, it will fill up again over the next week or so. I am focusing on getting all the AB codes live first. The Imperial French, Imperial Guard, Peninsula British and the 20mm WWII lines are already done. Eureka’s 10mm Fantasy and 18mm Seven Years War lines are also running on live stock levels.

I’m doing this now rather than nearer E-day because orders have dropped to a manageable level. My apologies if the short downtime for some items affects buying plans, but at least when codes are set to live stock levels customers can buy knowing that what they’ve ordered should be in stock – subject to my counting errors.

Gladiator Miniatures, Martian Empires, and Fighting 15s figures and flags are unaffected by the change because earlier this year I set them to high stock levels. They are therefore still available to buy. I may have to cast figures or get flags from my designer, but this usually involves a delay of one week at most. Shadowforge Miniatures and Laughing Monk are also set to live stock levels, but these ranges are clearance items.

Ian
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures

Countdown to E Day

Or should that be E-less day? But certainly not AB-day, which belongs in a bathroom. Yes, the bad jokes don’t stop.

With slightly more than two months to go before Fighting 15s stops being Eureka Miniatures’ agent, and therefore also AB Figures’ agent, what is going to happen?

Eureka Miniatures has now chosen its new agent. That agent takes up the reins from 5 September and may take orders from customers for AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures from that date, but no earlier. Up until that date Fighting 15s is still the agent and is the point of contact for orders for AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures in the UK and EU. For forthcoming new releases, such as Eureka’s 15mm Sumerians, the new agent is obviously the best point of contact now. All questions about stuff you’ve seen on the Eureka US site but which aren’t officially released yet or even available on the Fighting 15s site or on Eureka Miniatures’ site in Oz may also be directed at the new agent.

In accordance with Fighting 15s’ letter of notice to Eureka, Fighting 15s will continue to cast licensed figures and supply Eureka and AB Figures from stock for orders placed up to and including 3 September 2019. For new orders from 4 September, Fighting 15s will supply items from existing stock only. At some point we will temporarily close the AB and Eureka sections of the website for maintenance to introduce live stock levels – that way, when they are re-opened it will only be possible to order what is actually in stock. In practice, Fighting 15s will hide the AB and Eureka sections of the site sometime after hours on 3 September, and gradually reveal those categories for which stock still exists, along with live stock levels so that is not possible to order more of a code than remains in stock. The Gladiator Miniatures and Martian Empires sections of the site are ready for live stock levels to be enacted and therefore will not be switched off.

Licensed casting at Fighting 15s will cease on 4 September except to complete orders placed up until and including 3 September. The new agent does not have casting facilities at present, so all their stock is likely to come from Australia to begin with.

The new agent may decide to buy our remaining stock or if not, as outlined in our letter of notice, Fighting 15s will continue to dispose of any remaining stock. The new agent has already blocked me on Facebook, so the prospect of handing over remaining stock is in doubt.

Fighting 15s flags (Flags for AB) will remain with Fighting 15s and is unaffected by the change in agency. I will try to remove any Flags for AB branding as soon as possible.

Colonel Bill’s, Fighting 15s UK shows agent, will be unable to place new orders for stocks of AB Napoleonics and Eureka SYW from Fighting 15s as from 4 September. Because Colonel Bill’s has paid for and therefore owns its existing stocks of these figures, remaining figures will continue to be available through Colonel Bill’s while stocks last. Stuart at Colonel Bill’s will be taking on some of our Gladiator Miniatures lines of figures. Eureka’s new agent will be taking AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures to shows at some point in the future.

I intend the transition to go as smoothly as possible given that it’s a massive change. I look forward to your custom for AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures up to 3 September, and for Gladiator Miniatures, Martian Empires and Fighting 15s flags and figures afterwards.

Ian
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures

Last arrivals from AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures

Fighting 15s has received the last of its new arrivals from AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures. These are orders that Fighting 15s committed to before advising Eureka that on 4 September it would stop being the agent for these two manufacturers.

The new releases include AB’s 20mm WWII Germans in greatcoats and camouflage jackets, the British Western Desert universal carrier crew, and its 15mm Brunswick staff officers for 1815. Restocks of some of the 15mm Napoleonic staff sets have come in, including Russians, Austrians and French, and the website has been updated accordingly.

From Eureka, the new releases are the 28mm Renaissance civilians – the “Romeo and Juliet” figures. These figures are available only in sets of each code. In addition, a few restocks have arrived in the 28mm Civilians line, including more sets of the jazz band.

All the new releases are listed in the New Arrivals section of the shop.

Fighting 15s is not back-ordering items from Eureka and AB: stocks are being run down and only items that are in stock are being supplied. Any orders placed now at Eureka would not arrive until September, that is, after our agency ends.

Note that although Fighting 15s will stop being the agent for Eureka and AB, any stock remaining after 4 September will continue to be sold through the shop and removed from the site only when out of stock.

Nic at Eureka is still in the process of evaluating applicants who want to be the next agent. Fighting 15s has no more details than that.

Fighting 15s, Eureka Miniatures and AB Figures

Fighting 15s’s visit to Salute each year is also the time I get an opportunity to talk to Nic Robson of Eureka Miniatures and Tony Barton of AB Figures about the future. This year there was a bit of a shock in store, because I gave Nic five months’ notice that Fighting 15s will stop selling Eureka Miniatures and therefore, by association, AB Figures in the UK.

Fighting 15s will, therefore, cease to be Eureka’s agent from 4 September 2019. The plan is that Fighting 15s will continue to cast licensed figures and supply Eureka and AB Figures from stock for orders placed up to 3 September 2019. From 4 September, Fighting 15s will supply orders from existing stock only. During the notice period Fighting 15s will not back-order items.

My aim is quite simply to take semi-retirement. The unsociable hours that have resulted from the pre-Brexit rush for orders have simply prompted me to take the decision a year earlier than I intended. I want to concentrate on my own ranges, on revitalising the Gladiator Miniatures and Martian Empires lines acquired from Black Hat Miniatures, and on my much-neglected hobby and garden. The Flags for AB range will be rebranded Fighting 15s flags and continue to be available through Fighting 15s. And Fighting 15s’ shows representative Colonel Bill’s will add Gladiator Miniatures ranges to its offering at UK shows. I will no doubt be able to find time to modernise the website and take the required new pictures for Gladiator Miniatures.

In answer to the obvious question: I would have to stop being Eureka’s agent at some time in the future, and this is simply a good time to do so. Nic, Tony and I remain good friends. I have hugely enjoyed representing their ranges over the past 15 years for Eureka and 13 years for AB.

Nic and Tony will be discussing what will happen about Eureka and AB in the UK, and what they intend will be revealed in due course. Please don’t unduly pester them for information: an announcement will happen when they have made a decision.

Ian
Fighting 15s

Fighting 15s: Brexit update 11 April

In light of the announcement that Brexit is extended until 31 October (or 1 June if the U.K. does not hold EU elections), Fighting 15s reopened today to new orders.

Please note that Ian is on holiday and will not resume work on orders until 16 April at the earliest. Also, Fighting 15s is not currently back-ordering items that are either out of stock or that go out of stock.

Fighting 15s: Brexit update 21 March

Fighting 15s is currently closed to new orders, as expected, until 16 April. We apologise for the inconvenience, but it’s not as if we aren’t working hard trying to clear international orders before a possible no-deal Brexit on 29 March: we are down to the last few before we turn to outstanding domestic orders.

At the moment of writing, the EU is considering whether to extend the Brexit period to 22 May. Update (22 March): The EU has granted two extension dates to Brexit: 12 April if the UK does not agree to the current deal, or 22 May if it does. Parliament also still has to change the law to prevent the UK leaving the EU on 29 March for either of those dates to be valid, so a no-deal Brexit on 29 March is still a possibility. (Update: The law was changed on 27 March.) The first extension date falls within Fighting 15s’ closure period and will have no effect apart from delaying when we can implement changes to the shop; the second may well force a second temporary closure period on us, again so we can clear orders to international customers.

In the run-up to B-day, however, some things have become clearer.

First, on 13 March, the draft import tariffs for the UK were published. These reassuringly show that the expected extra duty on toy soldiers will be 0%, so imports from Australia of AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures will not be any more expensive than they already are. So we will be able to continue importing them to the UK.

Second, yesterday HM Revenue and Customs very kindly sent out what to do in the event of a no-deal Brexit advice with regards to imports. Nine days to go and HMRC sends out advice that was needed three months earlier. But basically Fighting 15s will be filling in far more customs forms than usual.

Third, our post office is now displaying advice that any parcels for the EU that are sent as from 25 March will need to have customs forms (the CN22) on them just in case. This means, of course, that we need to give EU orders a bit more leeway on safely departing the UK tax free, and so this weekend will be devoted to dealing with them. Update: The post office cancelled this advice after the new possible Brexit dates were announced.

So, if you have an order in at Fighting 15s, rest assured we are working hard to complete it. International orders are receiving priority, EU ones first, so they can be sent by 24 March. We’ll then pick up the slack on domestic orders. After that, hopefully the position on Brexit will become clearer and we can sort out the tax regime for each country in the online shop, ready to re-open on 16 April. Update: All domestic and international orders were cleared before the original B-day deadline of 29 March – Fighting 15s is now on holiday, and provided that the shop can be updated in time will reopen on 16 April (a no-deal Brexit on 12 April will probably make this impossible until the shop ca be updated).

Update (2 April): In the event of an abrupt no-deal Brexit on 12 April, please note that Fighting 15s will initially reopen only to UK customers.

Please note that it is still possible to add items to the shopping cart in the Fighting 15s shop. However, it is not possible to check out. We could hide every single item in the shop, but feel that would stop the shop being used to plan future orders – plus it would look damnably empty.

Fighting 15s’ closure 15 March to 15 April 2019

Fighting 15s is closed from 15 March to 15 April 2019, and will be reopening on 16 April.

The closure period was originally intended as our Brexit closure period so adjustments could be made to the online shop to account for changes to cross-border taxation, and so that we could clear all international orders before any such changes took place. We have at all times assumed the worst – that a no-deal Brexit will happen on 29 March. At the time of writing, it still might.

Accordingly, we booked holiday for some of this period so that Brexit could blow over in peace, so even with potential changes arising this week from decisions in Parliament, Fighting 15s was always going to be closed for two weeks. Some of this “holiday” time was going to be used to rearrange more of the workshop, sort out parts of the online shop, and in general get Fighting 15s fitter for business on 16 April. Plus, with Ian going away for a few days the business is going to be a bit short-handed at this time.

Fighting 15s has been experiencing something of a spate of panic buying from customers. When three weeks’ worth of orders came in last week, we knew we had to shut anyway to cope. This amount of work takes us up to and beyond our holiday period, so we decided to stick to our original closure dates. We work full time on Fighting 15s by the way, and we’re currently running flat out. Even so, we will not get some orders completed, and accordingly are focusing on international orders first.

We appreciate that the spate of temporary closures is inconvenient for customers. However, it is important that we serve those many customers who have already placed orders, and get their orders out as promptly as possible.

One customer asked why only Fighting 15s is affected, and the answer is down to the nature of our business and the products we sell. In short:

1. We are VAT registered, so there is a potential for double-taxation on international orders placed this side of Brexit but posted the other side of a sudden no-deal Brexit. The terrible uncertainty of what trading conditions are going to exist is one of the reasons why we forecast Fighting 15s would have to close from 15 March to 15 April to get all orders out the door and to adjust the website to cope. All that stuff on the news about businesses clamouring for clarity? It’s true.

2. We don’t have the staff to deal with an abnormal number of orders caused by one freak event. It’s not worth employing anyone with no experience just to get over a short period of high numbers of orders, when normality will resume somewhen.

3. Our products mostly come from the other side of the world. Customers are concerned about the future, easy availability of the high quality ranges that we sell. For wargames businesses in the UK that make and sell their own ranges, there is only the uncertainty of future metal prices and of the future availability of rubber moulding discs. There is no question about the future of our own ranges, such as Gladiator Miniatures, for example.

Fighting 15s fully intends to continue to import and represent AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures beyond Brexit. We have just placed orders for new releases from both manufacturers, but with manufacture, dispatch and shipping taking nearer three months nowadays these will not be arriving in the UK soon. Our first restocks for the year are now arriving and a number of items marked out of stock on the site will shortly be restored.

Fighting 15s will be at Salute this year on Colonel Bill’s stand. We are not taking orders for the show (although Colonel Bill’s can for the unit packs it stocks) because the show is actually in our holiday period, and because Eureka and AB are there as well. Ian has booked several days in London around Salute with the aim of talking to AB’s Tony Barton and Eureka’s Nic Robson.

Fighting 15s: Brexit update 11 March

Incredibly, with 18 days to go, there is still no clear idea of trading conditions in a post-Brexit world. Parliament will decide this week whether to accept or reject Theresa May’s deal with the EU, and if the deal is rejected Parliament will then decide whether to have a no-deal Brexit, whether to extend the negotiating period, or potentially whether there should be a second referendum.

A no-deal option basically throws trade with other countries into chaos with regards import and export taxes, and back in January – because Fighting 15s has to plan that far ahead – a short closure period for Fighting 15s looked like the only option. Back then, closing from 15 March to 15 April looked as if it would avoid most of the immediate tax issues and allow orders to customers in EU countries to be dealt with in time. The period from 15 March to 28 March was envisaged as a period where Fighting 15s would clear international orders first, then deal with domestic orders.

Ian booked holiday to escape some of the madness, so whatever happens this week in Parliament, Fighting 15s will close from 29 March to 15 April with just an appearance at Salute (6 April) on the Colonel Bill’s stand to show Fighting 15s is still active. The online shop will be shut during this closure period.

If this week Parliament decides to put back Brexit by, for example, two to three months, to allow more negotiating time, Fighting 15s will, of course, remain open up to and including 28 March and then work out the next planned Brexit closure period. [Update: The government didn’t act in time so as to guarantee more negotiating time, so Fighting 15s has kept to its temporary closure plan.]

Please note that Fighting 15s has not been, other than items to complete customers’ orders, ordering in new stock. Nic at Eureka and AB Figures has been busy completing our shipments that were ordered in November and December 2018 with the aim of them arriving before B-day (29 March). Fighting 15s is still expecting two consignments before then, and has two recent arrivals to unpack and sort that will bring some of the out of stock items back into stock. The reason Fighting 15s is not ordering new stock is simple: until any tariffs are known, it is madness to commit to buying stock at an unknown price and potentially selling it at a loss. As a result, Fighting 15s is not currently back-ordering items for customers’ orders if those items go out of stock. [Update: The draft tariffs were published on 13 March, and from the 1,478-page document it looks as if there will be no extra duty on imports of toy soldiers, so it will just be VAT on imports as is currently the case. But frankly, 13 March is a tiny bit late in the proceedings.]

Fighting 15s has a more than adequate supply of rubber moulding discs and casting metal to cover any immediate post-Brexit supply issues so there is no risk to the supply of our own ranges and of licensed castings. Fighting 15s is also financially secure enough to withstand a month of closure, so whatever happens this week Fighting 15s will definitely reopen, initially to UK customers, on 16 April.

This article will be updated when events this week in Parliament clarify what is happening.