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

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

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.

Fighting 15s and Brexit Day

Brexit Day – or B-day*, as I prefer to call it – will from a retailer’s point of view very soon be upon us. I am already looking beyond Christmas for the arrival of new stock, and it is therefore time to think about the implications of B-day on the running of Fighting 15s. If you run a small VAT-registered mail-order business with continental EU customers, then at some point you’re going to have to do some similar thinking. Uniquely, small non-VAT-registered businesses are not affected.

Obviously, with the recent purchase of Gladiator Miniatures, Fighting 15s plans to carry on trading: Fighting 15s will continue selling to the UK, what’s left of the EU, and beyond. Fighting 15s will continue importing AB and Eureka Miniatures. Just so those topics are got out of the way first.

B-day properly is 29 March 2019. However, it may be that negotiations mean that customs regulations don’t change immediately because there may be a period of transition. So, I’m going to instead define B-day as being the date that customs regulations actually change: that may be 29 March 2019, or it may be some date further in the future.

There are only two outcomes on B-day, whatever the fine details of discussions with the EU and whatever the final deal struck: the UK remains in the customs union or it does not.

In the currently unlikely event that B-day arrives and the UK is still in the EU customs union, then good news: nothing is going to change. VAT arrangements and import duties stay as they are and Fighting 15s carries on as at present.

If the UK drops out of the customs union under the no-deal option, or has a compromise deal where cross-border taxes are handled as they are for Norway, Switzerland or in the Canada deal, then Fighting 15s will have to shut temporarily around the B-day period and estimates that period of closure will begin about two weeks before B-day and end about two weeks afterwards.

The reason for this closure is simple: the changing tax regime may catch Fighting 15s’ continental EU customers with a double tax whammy. Orders placed by continental EU customers prior to B-day will be charged VAT; orders placed after B-day will not. It is conceivable, therefore, that an order is placed with VAT charged, but not dispatched until after B-day, when it risks being charged import tax again, along with handling fees by the delivery company. The only way to avoid this is to close before B-day to be able to clear any orders to continental EU customers and ensure that these orders are dispatched in plenty of time before B-day. Fighting 15s will then be able to focus on UK orders, and work on changes to the online shop.

Note that while the UK is a member of the EU, it is Fighting 15s’ understanding that UK online retailers have to trade without prejudice to all customers in all EU countries: it is not legal to, say, shut off all of the EU except the UK – either a retailer is open to all or shut to all.

As I said at the start, non-VAT-registered businesses are not affected. They don’t charge tax to begin with: the only change is that after B-day a parcel from them will be taxed in the destination country, making their goods typically 20% more expensive (plus that handling charge) to continental EU customers.

If B-day – again, I repeat, from a customs point of view – is the earliest possible date of 29 March 2019, then Fighting 15s expects to be closed from mid-March to mid-April 2019, and it will not be possible for anyone to order during that period: the online shop will be put into holiday mode, and with regret it will not be possible to accept orders by phone, email or post because the online shop is used to administer such orders. I repeat that in reality B-day will probably happen at the end of whatever transition period is agreed.

Shortly after B-day, Fighting 15s will initially reopen online to UK and non-EU customers (such as those in the USA, Canada and Russia). Fighting 15s will reopen to EU customers once it becomes absolutely clear what the obligations are with regards to customs and duty and once the online shop is set up to run properly under the new customs and tax requirements. EU customers ordering from Fighting 15s after this point will have VAT deducted in the shop, and will be liable for VAT on import as well as any handling fee charged by the delivery company.

Fighting 15s therefore recommends that anyone with figure requirements for a major project in the new year, or in particular for Salute 2019 on 6 April, gets organised and orders early.

Please stay tuned to this article, as I will update it to reflect actual dates and the exact nature of the UK’s departure from the EU, and based on whether the intended transition period happens as expected or is extended.

Ian, Fighting 15s

* Here I prefer to fondly remember that Crocodile Dundee succinctly defined a bidet as something you wash your bum with.

PS. For the record, I voted Remain. However, I accept that daft though I think their decision is, a majority of those who voted wanted to leave the EU. I don’t believe the terms of that exit were made clear, that a lot of lies were told, but I have to live with what is decided because I believe in democracy. As we head to B-day, I simply point out more of the unforeseen consequences, which of course remain irrelevant to anyone who wants Brexit at any cost.

 

 

Fighting 15s acquires Gladiator Miniatures from Black Hat

Fighting 15s is taking over the 15mm and 18mm ranges from Black Hat Miniatures, and ownership officially transfers this weekend at Colours.

All the 15mm ranges will be sold as Gladiator Miniatures – as they were before Black Hat produced them. The 18mm Martian Empires range will be sold under the Martian Empires name in the Fighting 15s shop.

All the codes have been uploaded to the Fighting 15s shop and will go live within the next week. I have been working hard to make descriptions consistent, and remove quirks of spelling. There will still be errors that I will kick myself over each time they become apparent…

Until the moulds and stock arrive, the pictures will be the same as used by Gladiator and Black Hat – some of these go back to 2002 and the era of modems and tiny image files, and are not satisfactory for today’s website. Some codes were never photographed. I will be updating and adding photos as soon as possible, but there are more than 800 codes to ink, photograph and edit, so please bear with me.

I have all the masters and production masters, and I should take delivery of the moulds within the next week.

Looking ahead, I aim to use Fighting 15s’ shows rep, Stuart Armstrong at Colonel Bill’s, to offer army packs of the Gladiator Miniatures ranges at UK wargames shows, but this will take some months to organise. Stuart already takes some AB, Eureka and Fighting 15s figures to shows.

Mark Severin at Scale Creep Miniatures will continue to carry the figures in the USA so there should be no disruption in service to US customers. Olympian will continue to carry them in Australia.

In future, all Gladiator Miniatures will be cast in lead-free pewter. This affects the costs of figures, originally priced for a much cheaper lead-tin mix, and because adding VAT will also affect the price to customers in the EU I have taken the opportunity to reorganise the contents of many of the packs to reduce the impact on the overall price.

Standard packs of Gladiator Miniatures 15mm infantry and cavalry therefore now contain 8 infantry or 4 cavalry to fit in with the rest of Fighting 15s’ ranges – and most of the rest of the wargaming hobby. A standard pack is now £3.40 inc tax. Chariot packs and elephant packs are £3.60 inc VAT. Command packs typically contain 5 foot or 3 mounted, and cost £2.55 inc VAT – the number in a command pack varies from range to range and descriptions of command as being “1 set” will be changed as soon as possible. Standard Martian Empires packs will be £3.60 inc VAT and continue to include 8 infantry or 4 cavalry.

Note that Mike at Black Hat Miniatures will continue to produce and distribute Coat d’arms paints, as well as focus on his 54mm toy soldier business, Imperial Miniatures. Fighting 15s will continue to represent AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures in the EU.

Ian
Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures

Links

Fighting 15s: www.fighting15sshop.co.uk

Gladiator Minatures: www.gladiatorminiatures.co.uk

Black Hat Miniatures: www.blackhat.co.uk

 

One day, all the pictures will look more like this

Fighting 15s: Privacy and the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make customers snooze it’s a piece on new EU privacy legislation, especially one for which all the official information is poorly explained as to its effects on small businesses and customers. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect on 25 May 2018, excels at being especially obfuscatory and confusing.

Fighting 15s has slightly tweaked its privacy policy at https://www.fighting15sshop.co.uk/privacy.asp to suit the new laws.

In short, because Fighting 15s does not ask and has never asked customers to sign up for direct marketing (email newsletters, promotions, and such), and does not engage in direct marketing, the GDPR has minimal effect.

The GDPR requires businesses to get customers to confirm that they want to receive direct marketing by actively ticking a check box consenting to such marketing. Fighting 15s does not send out direct marketing, and therefore there is no check box on the website in the checkout process. Our webshop provider does offer direct marketing tools but we have not signed up to them.

Fighting 15s holds essential information for the processing of customers’ orders: name, address, email and phone, plus the system will record the IP address used when placing the order. Obviously we need name, address and contact details so we can send out orders, confirmation emails, fulfil our legal obligations to provide a durable copy of the current terms and conditions, and to contact a customer in the event of questions about an order. The IP address is required in the event of digital product sales to help prove the origin of an order for VAT liability.

Customers who do not want such information held on record may request its deletion by simply emailing or writing to Fighting 15s, and we will remove it from the shop (the GDPR doesn’t seem to have considered a requirement for proof that the person emailing to have such information deleted is actually that person, but it would seem sensible). However, Fighting 15s is legally required to hold customers’ essential information for six years for tax/accountancy purposes, and therefore we can delete only what is historic information – currently information obtained before 6 April 2010, the start of the 2010-2011 accountancy year, because the last tax year for while Fighting 15s has filed a return is 2016-2017.

We don’t record other information about customers. We have no idea what wargames periods you prefer, other than by general patterns of your orders, or of any other interests, penchants or peccadilloes. The privacy policy is a general purpose document that allows us to know these things in the event that we have customers’ permission to collect them.

Financial information is handled by third-party processors, so we never see payment details if customers place and pay for orders through the online shop. Our payment processors are PayPal and Barclaycard.

Our preferred means of passing on news is via Facebook and our WordPress blogs (Fighting 15s news and oozlumgames.com). If you don’t want to see what we do on Facebook, unlike and unfollow the Fighting 15s page (https://www.facebook.com/Fighting15s/). The power to sign out of following a WordPress blog remains solely with the follower: WordPress site administrators do not, repeat do not, have the power to delete followers. Details of how to unfollow a WordPress blog may be found at https://en.support.wordpress.com/following/.

Of course, non-EU businesses that record details of EU customers are supposed to adopt the GDPR. As with reporting VAT on digital products, Fighting 15s by and large cannot see businesses outside the EU conforming. Except the UK after Brexit. Good old law-abiding Blighty will be the only country that conforms to a law that also encompasses Martians and Venusians should they start direct marketing to the people of the EU.

In summary, Fighting 15s’ policy remains as it always has been: we won’t bug you by sending out a relentless stream of marketing drivel. If you want drivel, you have to come to us…

Fighting 15s, Colonel Bill’s and the future of wargames shows

From August, it will be all change on how Fighting 15s deals with wargames shows in the UK as we expand our relationship with Colonel Bill’s.

Since Salute in April this year, Ian of Fighting 15s has been helping out on the Colonel Bill’s stand, which means that 15mm AB Figures have been available to buy at selected shows. Our agreement with Eureka/AB, however, has meant that AB Figures can only be on the Colonel Bill’s stand while Ian is physically present, with the result that the figures have not been available at other shows.

This situation will change in August. As a result of discussions with Tony Barton and Nic Robson, Colonel Bill’s will be able to carry 15mm AB Figures in prepackaged units to shows even if Fighting 15s is not helping out, meaning that AB’s fine 15mm Napoleonics will be available to buy at the 40 or so shows a year that Colonel Bill’s attends. Britcon in Manchester will be the first show to work this way.

All the 15mm AB Figures sold this way will be licensed castings made by Ian at Fighting 15s, cast in lead-free pewter. Units will be sold in packs comprising 24 foot or 12 mounted figures. AB Figures, however, will not be available by mail order through Colonel Bill’s; Fighting 15s remains the EU mail order outlet.

Ian, however, will still be attending shows and working on the Colonel Bill’s stand, according to Fighting 15s’ shows schedule. Ian is able to take advance orders for those shows only. The remaining shows that we plan to attend with Colonel Bill’s in 2017 include Claymore, Colours, Derby Worlds, SELWG, Crisis and Warfare.

Fighting 15s’ ability to provide figures for Colonel Bill’s to take to shows relies on them being licensed castings made in the UK. Therefore items cast in Australia, including the whole of the 20mm WWII range of AB Figures, will not be available at shows except to advance order through Fighting 15s.

Colonel Bill’s remains Fighting 15s’ sole authorised outlet at shows for our own 15mm medievals, Eureka’s 18mm Seven Years War range, and Bartek’s pin-up playing cards, all of which can be ordered in advance for shows through Colonel Bill’s.

Saunders spin casting machines

Saunders Mark V spin casting machine

I’ve starting running a series on my personal blog on the Saunders bob-weight spin casting machines I use at Fighting 15s. I’ve never been able to find out much about the machines, made by the now defunct N Saunders Metal Products Ltd. This is my personal experience of using them to get the best results, and the articles have been prompted by the acquisition of a second machine that needs repairing and refurbishing. Other users’ mileage may well vary.

Part 1, introducing the machine, is at: http://wp.me/p9K3f-5Q

Part 2, dealing with a personal mod to get casting pressure right, is at: http://wp.me/p9K3f-a2

Part 3 looks at repairs and refurbishment. It’s a work in progress and is at http://wp.me/p9K3f-d4

Part 4 looks at a new arrival – a virtually mint Mark V Saunders. https://orun.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/the-saunders-casting-machine-part-4-they-call-me-mister-saunders/

Part 5 will cover casting tips.