PIR Dealer Roundtable: Springing into Action

PIR Dealer Roundtable: Springing into Action



This was a most welcome assignment. You see, I live in the northeast, and after the winter we had up here, talking to dealers about their spring promotions officially signaled the season was finally here. 

It helped, too, that the dealers I spoke with had promo plans aplenty. Listen in . . .


Jeff Dobbs

Mike Crivello’s Camera Center

Brookfield, Wisconsin

Right now our plans are all about classes. We had a lighting class last night, and we have Canon coming in to sponsor a class on video with their digital SLRs, which seems to be what so many people want to learn more about. And we’re doing more of our intro digital SLR classes, which we seem to fill up every time we do them. 

Sounds like classes are big for you in any season.

It’s what people in the area are interested in. They always want to learn more stuff, and our classes are truly educational, not promotional sales-type things.


Not always.  We charge for some of them, but sometimes there’s a voucher for $20 towards purchases.

What’s the level of the lighting class? On-camera flash?

No, it’s a studio lighting class. The University of Wisconsin – Waukesha came to me and asked if I’d teach a class. It’s two nights—a portrait session one night and a product shoot the other. People bring their cameras, and we give them instruction on how to set up the lights and how to meter. Some of them aspire to become portrait photographers; some just want to shoot nice pictures of stuff for eBay. But it’s all studio lights, no on-camera flash—though we may do a class on that because people ask for it. 

You sell studio lighting units, of course.

Sell them and rent them. 

And the video classes?

We’ve attracted the professionals in the area. We started about a year and a half ago, and people really got interested. We put in Zeiss lenses for rental equipment and monitors and viewing attachments and things like that, and we’ve been very successful with it. A lot of young people from the university rent the equipment, and I’ve had guys come in here to do their own music videos recently. 

That’s a level up from what I was thinking.

Well, now we’re also trying to attract the amateur photographer through Canon and their tech rep, and I’m going to sit in on that because I wonder where the consumers are with video. But the pros are certainly embracing it. 

How do you promote these classes?

I know people at the universities, and I’m a board member at our technical school, so it’s been mostly word of mouth. And I believe I’m the only person in the area who rents out some of the equipment, so I get recommendations. And we’re doing a lot more on our Facebook page; we put up our classes and promotions and other things.

Other things like?

Like when Canon and Nikon were running rebates and that kind of thing to let people know it’s a good time to buy. 


Sherry Kadair

Kadair’s, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

We’re starting two new classes: how to photograph children and general portraiture. And we’re considering a little setup in the store so people can come in and have a child’s portrait made. We haven’t done any photography here in the past, and we’re considering that. The other thing we’re looking to do, and promote, is getting our Facebook page really going. We did a region-specific photo contest at the page . . .

Region specific?

It was a Mardi Gras photo contest. We had people upload their pictures to our Facebook page, and then people went on and voted on the pictures. It not only gave us Facebook exposure, but it had people interacting with each other, and that gets our name out there.

So you’ll be continuing that sort of thing and promoting it this season?

Yes, and the other thing I’m really excited about is a promotion we’re about to start through IPI [Independent Photo Imagers] that will tie into the store and the Facebook page and reward a customer for coming to the store or visiting the page. There’ll be a free gift every month for a customer. 

The children’s photo class—how did you find someone to teach it? Did you have to search in the area?

We have someone on staff here who moonlights and is good at it, and who also has experience teaching a class. It was, “Oh, you have this skill? Well, we have a desire to do something . . .” 

That worked out well.

A lot of times there are people out in the community who have the skill to be able to teach; you just need to find them. And you can always have different levels. Sometimes you just need to teach grandma how to be comfortable enough to turn on her digital camera. You don’t have to be an ace photographer to teach that class. 


Mike Woodland

Dan’s Camera City, Allentown, Pennsylvania

I have to tell you, Mike, that half my job is already done. I was on hold for about two minutes and I heard about five or six promos: Dan’s classes, a free camera clinic, a spring promo that said “Good weather is here, get outside and take some pictures,” a promo for Easter photos of kids with the Easter bunny, info about your iPhone app and Dan’s photo booth that will come to special events. You’ve got it covered. 

This weekend is the free camera cleaning and three days of classes and learning opportunities centered around the “get outside and take photos” idea. 

Hope you have good weather. Tell me about the iPhone app.

The key is that customers can order prints directly from the app. I think all the other phone-print programs ask you to choose images to upload to an album, and then you pick and order prints from that album. Our app lets you choose this photo, this many, this size, right from photos on the phone. 

And they pick up the prints at your store a day or so later?

Next day. But the way the app is set up, if you have your phone’s location services turned on, you can search which of our 12 neighborhood photo stops [drop off and pickup] is closest to you. You may see there’s a photo stop three miles away, so you don’t have to come 10 miles to the store. 

The thing is, what about the quality of the prints people get from their phone pictures? Regardless of how good your printing is, the phone’s capability is the real issue, right?

The phrase we hear countless times is, “It’s good enough.” Yes, there’s no flash, and it has its limitations, but people have been dealing with the technology long enough that they know what to expect. And not necessarily in photographic terms; they know in terms of what they do and don’t like about the limitations of the device.  

So they know which of their pictures they should select for prints?

In my opinion, yes. Younger people know that technology; it’s integrated in their lives, and that’s where we wanted to have it—at their fingertips for those times when they have something that we could convince them was print worthy.

How long have you had this app? And where’d it come from?

The app is a private-branding version of LifePics’ app, and they did it for us just before Christmas.

What’s the story of the photo booth that comes to special events? Your phone promo said something like, “Your guests hop in, photos are taken and instantly delivered.”

Right, it’s the old-fashioned photo booth, only better. We custom designed it from scratch a couple of years ago. For our first trial we went to an after-prom party at a local high school and set up some lighting stands and cloth backdrops and mounted a camera and a printer and had this horrible looking setup, but the end result so floored the students we knew it was a winner; we just had to dress it better.  

We now have six photo booths, and this year we’ll probably hit close to 200 bookings with them. It’s now our largest department in terms of the number of staff involved. It has taken off well beyond our expectations, into the range of dreams.

You book it by time, right?

By time based on the number of guests, not photos. We print a photo strip for each person, with our branding on it. We offer a conventional four-photo strip that’s 2×6 and also a 4×6 and a 5×7. What’s been really successful for us also is taking the booth out to fund-raising events. We donate it to causes, and people leave the event with our branded photos. The photo booth is so multifaceted in how it helps the business and how it helps us stay in front of people.


Art Esquibel

Camera & Darkroom, Albuquerque, New Mexico

One of the things we’ve been promoting is used equipment, and that comes from us looking around and looking at our strengths. The economies of scale change how things work, and one of the things we have is the ability to deal in used equipment, so we’ve been pushing that pretty hard. It represents a place where our expertise can be turned into money.

Is finding the equipment difficult? 

You have to have somebody out there who knows what he’s looking at and has some idea of what the market looks like. We’ve been making every effort to mine in our small area for vintage cameras. We have a couple of places we can turn them over, and there’s always eBay. 

We have signs up in the store, and I run a couple of Internet ads and have a couple of guys calling around. What we want is, of course, vintage equipment that has retained a certain amount of value, and that’s not everything. The thing is, who has these things? Well, older people have them, but you can’t go to nursing homes because they’ve already divested themselves of everything. So I’m thinking of how to advertise in places where older people gather, like churches. We’re working on it.

A few of the dealers I spoke with mentioned doing well with classes. 

Over the years we tried it a couple of times, but the problem is organizing it and having more than one guy teach it—and realizing that simply knowing stuff is not the same as teaching it. Fifteen minutes selling a camera is different from maintaining interest for 45 minutes. But we are thinking of what we can do, sorting things out and moving in the direction we want to be in as a purveyor of high-end equipment for people who want to take good pictures.

What comes to mind as class subjects that would be appealing to your customers? 

We’re thinking about an intro class—let’s get shutter speeds and f/stops and depth of field straight; what you need to know to be competent. And a class that comes from the community and what the customers ask about, and that’s lighting and photographing small objects—for eBay and to photograph jewelry for websites. So much jewelry is made in New Mexico, and we see so many people selling from their websites and on eBay, and they need to know how to take good pictures. The idea is the simple tools needed, and how to use them. 


Brian Noble

Noble’s Camera Shops, Hingham, Massachusetts

To be honest with you, this is the day I sit down to think about our spring promotions.

Then my timing is perfect. Tell me what you’re thinking.

Basically, past promotions that worked, and the most successful thing I’m selling lately that I can promote even more.

And that would be?

Our “scan by the box” promotion. The box is 8-1/2×11 by about five inches deep, and customers can fill it up with prints and we’ll scan everything in it for $199. It’s been working great; it’s a big plus. 

What do you use to scan the prints?

One of the Kodak scanners. As fast as you can feed prints in, it takes them.  

How do you promote the service?

We have an e-mail list of people who either bought cameras or used the online photofinishing—with a cool graphic of a box full of prints.