The 2016 PRO Convention

Product Technologies and Profit Techniques Abound


“Camera stores can profit from certain traits of the millennials,” Matt Britton told the 58th annual PRO convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. Using the alphabet to trigger different traits, the author of YouthNation told the world’s largest gathering of English-speaking camera store operators that “A” stands for “Access over Ownership.”

Millennials prefer renting to owning, especially items like exotic camera lenses or high-performance video gear. While older generations might have desired ownership, millennials happily pay per use.

The “D” in the alphabet stands for “Drones,” which millennials embrace. This tied into the first U.S. public showing of the new DJI Mavic drone at the PRO trade show.

Even guest camera stores from the U.S. Canada and Australia were invited to add their perspectives to the myriad formal and informal discussions at the convention. And new product introductions were almost as common as new marketing techniques. Retailers captured images through the new Rokinon 14mm Autofocus lens for the full-frame Sony E mount. In addition they got to test-drive the new Tamron SP 150–600mm G2 lens.

Natalie Nelson-Hughes (Fort Worth Camera, Fort Worth, Texas) tries out the Tamron SP 150–600mm G2 lens on the new ProMaster gimbal head. © Kozi Photography

Jay Vannatter, Nikon senior VP, showed spectacular images from Nikon KeyMission action cameras. He gave detailed explanations of the products’ capabilities and displayed all three new models. He also updated product delivery times in the aftermath of the April Kumamoto earthquakes.

Arriving from the photokina trade fair, Yuji Igarashi, general manager of Fujifilm’s Electronic Imaging division, met with individual retailers. Igarashi shared the marketing plans for the Fujifilm GFX 50S medium-format digital camera in development. This 50MP mirrorless camera is part of Fujifilm’s ongoing commitment to providing total imaging solutions.

John Bruehl, vice president of Specialty Retailers at Sony Electronics, seemed to be everyplace at once. He briefed dealers individually and in groups about product availability through the holiday selling season. Retailers appreciated his candor and support as the industry rebuilds after the earthquake. The new Sony a99 II was a hot discussion topic as well.

Vannatter also gave a breakout session on virtual reality, as did Adam Larson of Kodak PixPro. Scott Crawford (Nikon Sport Optics) shared new optical technologies/models. He also unveiled profitable sell-through retail methodologies to create a new revenue stream within a retailer’s existing cost structures.

The newest Foto Source members, Roy and Julia King (Lens & Shutter, Vancouver, Canada) evaluate ProMaster products. Foto Source’s chairman, Neil McBain (McBain Camera, Edmonton, Alberta), shared insider secrets for successful tripod sales. © Kozi Photography

In addition, PRO, IPI and supporting vendors like Tamron presented low-cost, successful social marketing initiatives that are available by combining their existing programs.

Traditionally, video tours of member stores have introduced the audience to people who could be sitting next to them. This year, attendees saw a video tour of a vendor’s operation.

Tamron was selected to highlight their three-day lens repair turnaround. Spontaneous applause greeted news that this service is available to all Tamron customers, regardless of membership in some restrictive club. Tamron stated that gray market lenses would not be repaired in their facility. The company also reiterated its policy of being the only vendor to pay 100% of their Instant Savings by check within five working days. As the video ended, a standing ovation reinforced to Tamron’s management that their policies were appreciated and supported by independent retailers.

Additionally, Jerry Grossman, executive director of the Imaging Alliance, introduced this new industry association that was created from PMAI (Photo Marketing Association International) and PMDA (PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association). The Imaging Alliance has released a white paper outlining the impact of President Obama’s executive order that requires increased overtime pay for many photo retailers.

PRO Member Services

The Photographic Research Organization (PRO) has become more sophisticated in its services to members and vendor partners. Operating as a co-op, the organization emphasizes reduced operating costs, allowing more margin for retailers and lower operating costs for vendor partners. PRO additionally offers marketing support, rebate processing, credit/billing services, retailer training and other services done more effectively by the group than by individual vendors or retailers.

ProMaster introduced the Ultrasoft Bi-Color LED. From B&C Camera in Las Vegas, Ronald Phelps II (left) helps light Prince Beverly (center) while Kyle Okjec shoots the scene. © Kozi Photography

ProMaster: The PRO Brand

PRO also owns ProMaster the largest brand of quality photo accessories. Among the dozens of new ProMaster products introduced were a high-end ProMaster gimbal head (MAP $399) and five LED panels. Also debuting was the ProMaster 100SL (TTL) speedlight. Its LED output provides on-camera enhanced light for stills or video.

Under the direction of Mark Leonard and Paul Orzel, PRO has redoubled its efforts to make the ProMaster product line the highest quality products for the price paid. The brand offers the ProMaster Promise, the industry’s strongest and broadest guarantee.

The ProMaster 100SL on-camera speedlight also has LED for videos. Third-generation retailer Robby Yankush (YM Camera, Boardman, Ohio) test-drives the new, lower priced model. © Kozi Photography

“ProMaster is putting its money where its mouth is to support the frontline salespeople. Retailers can sell ProMaster with confidence, knowing the brand is behind them,” said Mark Leonard, PRO’s director of Forward Momentum.

The ProMaster brand spearheaded the earliest push to educate consumers on the benefits of hardened optical glass filters with Repellamax coatings. PRO introduced new ProMaster HGX Prime with Repellamax II coatings to add antistatic characteristics to this high-quality line. Attendees heard how filter elements come from European, North American and Japanese suppliers, to ensure the best possible components for these optically ground filters.

Member Expansion Plans

In addition, retailers who just opened new or remodeled locations held sessions. Members also shared their expansion plans, including new/renovated retail spaces. Terry Ngoy (Penrith Camera House, near Sydney, Australia) explained how he sold $3 million annually in 743 square feet. ProMaster represents less than 10% of his sales but 20% of his store’s overall gross margin. This allows him to prosper despite the outsized rents he pays for a high-volume location.

Orders at PRO’s trade show appear to have broken sales records. This indicates the PRO family of retailers believes in a strong 2016 fourth quarter as well as good news in 2017 and beyond.