At CES 2018, DIR writers covered the big show floor in Las Vegas, gathering feedback from show attendees. They spoke with everyone from photo specialty retailers to manufacturer executives and reps.
Here is the first installment of our series of CES 2018 interviews.
Joe Dumic, President
Las Vegas, Nevada
Founded in 1971, B&C Camera is an attractive, 5,500-square-foot store located in a strip mall in one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country—Las Vegas. Joe Dumi first visited the store as a tourist himself, in search of a replacement lens. He wound up buying the business in 2009. And he’s happy he did.
“We cater to locals and tourists alike,” says Dumic. “Our specialty is providing our clientele with a broad spectrum of imaging products and services, to support the unique needs of Las Vegas photographers, videographers and vloggers. Many of our customers are working pros, but our customer base also includes mom and dad photographers and tourists. We serve a very wide socioeconomic spectrum ranging from folks with modest incomes to well-heeled celebrities. We’re also striving to appeal to millennials, as the percentage of older customers is decreasing. We’ve also faced some challenges in maintaining customer traffic since the tragic mass shooting in October 2017. But it helps that we’re a destination location in the largest city between the major national parks in the Southwest.
“We attend CES because seeing all the new gear in one place is very motivational,” notes Dumic. “I love the energy of the show, the masses of international attendees and all the imaging innovations that give me a glimpse of where the industry is headed in the near future. I’m especially interested in seeing the new drones, which are a significant product category for us. And I’m very happy to see new, full-frame mirrorless cameras. I’m confident they will sell very well in our store. In addition to mirrorless cameras and drones, we also do very well with DSLRs ranging from entry-level consumer to high-end pro, as well as sophisticated high-end, point-and-shoot cameras. We’re definitely checking out the latest offerings in these categories as well.
“Strictly speaking, we have no off-the-street foot traffic at all. We’re totally dependent on people driving to our location,” says Dumic. “We rely on e-mail marketing, social media advertising, billboards, radio and TV ads, as well as events to drive business. We see our homepage as the window to our store because it showcases our inventory and provides real-time information on our rentals, photography classes, events and contact information. You can even access the status of items being repaired.
“Going forward, we plan to concentrate on adding more cameras and accessories aimed at vloggers, expanding our drone inventory and enhancing our educational classes and support,” Dumic asserts. “In short, we’re very optimistic about 2018 in particular, as well as the continuing success of B&C Camera going forward.”
Mark Comon, Vice President
Paul’s Photo was established in 1961 by its founder and president Paul Comon, (Mark Comon’s father), who’s still active in the business. It’s an inviting, 3,500-square-foot camera specialty store located in Torrance, California. Torrance is a pleasant city of 150,000+ in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County that’s blessed with 1.5 miles of gorgeous beaches on the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to selling cameras and imaging equipment, Paul’s offers the LAB, which provides a variety of digital printing services, and the Creative Photo Academy that offers photo classes and workshops, including picture-taking adventures.
“Our business is growing at an impressive rate,” notes Mark Comon. “Overall, business was up by 15% in 2017 compared to 2016. The main reason for that rapid spurt is that we’re dedicated to enthusiastic customer engagement and providing unsurpassed customer service. We serve everyone from serious enthusiasts to family photographers. Moreover, 99% of it is a hands-on approach to helping customers. Right now only about 1% of our business is online sales, but our goal is to grow the online segment substantially over 2018.
“We attend CES to stay in touch with the current trends in CE, to learn about new trends in retail, to be relevant to our vendors and, most of all, to be informed for our customers,” Comon continues. “Customers are excited about connectivity options such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in the latest cameras. These features greatly expand and facilitate image- and video-sharing opportunities.
“Here at CES 2018, I’m on the lookout for examples of how artificial intelligence and augmented reality are integrated into cameras. Indeed, capabilities such as sticker captioning and electronically generated borders are already built into some smartphones. And this is just the beginning. I’m also checking out the new smaller, lighter, faster cameras and lenses offered by Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, etc., that appeal to the broadest market segment. New features and ideas generate excitement and bring in customers—whether they’re in mirrorless, DSLR or point-and-shoot cameras.
Bullish on 2018
“I’m very bullish on 2018!” Comon adds. “While brick-and-mortar stores are under attack by online retailers, government regulations, tax policies and consumer trends, and cameras are under attack by phone makers, we can succeed if we’re proactive and strive to be better and more relevant in the minds of customers, especially the under 40s. The upside is that there are fewer camera stores. And the advantages we offer consumers in choosing the right camera and in making better pictures are gigantic. Teaching them how to make the picture they want as well as inspiring them to make prints and share their memories is essential. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that customers vote with their wallets. Our job is to help them get what they want. We must make it fun and give them the best damn experience they can imagine.”