Profit Prospects: Reading Fall Tea Leaves

Profit Prospects: Reading Fall Tea Leaves


Let’s read the fall tea leaves based on PRO’s recent 61st annual convention/trade show. Buying, enthusiasm, strategic planning and more all went full speed, led by 79 speakers over two days, at the PRO event. This annual “barometer” projected a solid fall season for the photo specialty channel.

Attendance and order writing appeared to surpass all expectations. Moreover, trade show traffic was steady and engaged. Sizable orders were written, in part due to vendor incentives. Retailers, whose new SKU selections expanded their in-stock offerings, were willing—often eager—to try new brands as well as new product categories within the brands.

Making Some Noise with Ken Schmidt

Absorbing ideas from keynote speaker Ken Schmidt, author of Make Some Noise, will impact the future of photo retailing. Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson, challenged the photo specialty retailers. He asked if they wanted to be market dominators or “me too retailers,” easily forgotten, bottom feeding and struggling. There is no middle ground. Engaged retailers accepted his challenge. In a mammoth three-hour presentation and workshop, retailers and their teams answered these three deceivingly simple questions:

  • What are people saying about us?
  • What do we want them to say?
  • And what are we doing to make them say it?

The commitment level of the assembled retailers to delve into these questions and redirect their customers’ conversations was palpable. It was a lot of work at PRO; however, it will be a lot more work as retailers continue at home.

Rather than traditional “seminar breath,” where infected attendees’ enthusiasm lasts only a few days, Schmidt’s concepts showed sticking power. Furthermore, his audience understood the need for constant adaptation to the new retail reality. ProfitProspects-11-2019 Fall Tea LeavesIn addition, the extensive discussions provided support to those ready to seize their market dominance. Most PRO members reported a good 2019. Schmidt’s message allowed them to hit the afterburners for a superb fall quarter.

Idea Cross-Pollination

At its core, PRO is a buying group; it offers vendors specific benefits that translate into lower product acquisition costs for members. While that attracts the new PRO member, the veterans all say the exchange of information at the conventions has the most impact.

An example of the industry’s cross-pollination of ideas started when Paul Maietta (Fitzgerald Photo Imaging, North Perth, Western Australia) attended this year’s IPIC show. He told how his website added a $10 enhance image option, which generated significant revenue for his lab. What this service provides is the lab doing everything practical to enhance each image, short of a full restoration.

Consequently, Stan Grosz (Horn Photo, Fresno, California) heard this idea and took it back to his lab. Being a Californian, he knows the magic—and long lines—of Disneyland. Grosz decided to add an additional service beyond “enhance.” He calls it FastPass. For an extra $10, the online order can go to the head of the line. The customer is asked to insert a desired pickup or ship-by date.

Grosz reported to other PRO members that there were multiple orders where the enhance and FastPass fees added up to more than the base print costs. It was obvious these prints were important to the customers, and Grosz found a way to cover the cost of handling small orders. Moreover, he gave customers more control over their orders. (Horn Photo, as a matter of policy, doesn’t impose any rush charges on services for funerals.)

Bring Salespeople Up to Speed

An East Coast retailer shared that they offer “premium prints” at 25% higher prices. Their online adoption is more than 50%, but in store it’s below 15%. “What does this show?” the candid retailer asked. Clearly, it’s a salesperson issue, not the customer balking at investing in better quality.

Extensive discussions and breakout sessions dealt with how to best help salespeople understand their obligation to explain every option in a way the customer can easily understand the benefits. Too many salespeople either don’t understand the value of what is offered or they’re afraid of the customer rejecting it. As a result, they don’t ask. Explaining and inspecting sales counter behavior was a common solution.

Personnel issues are always big when retailers gather. Back for her third year at PRO, Emily Yankush shared an obvious—but often misunderstood—philosophy: “Why Recruiting Requires Your Marketing Skills.”

She effectively challenged the retailers to dump their “help wanted” signs and instead craft messages that entice target employees. Yankush also shared numerous examples and did audience exercises, wordsmithing recruitment messages. She is the wife of DIR’s E-tailer of the Year, Robby Yankush.

In short, PRO members are positioning themselves for the best fall ever and a fantastic 2020.