The Last Word: Market Accordingly—Customers No Longer Buy for Photo Gifting

The Last Word: Market Accordingly—Customers No Longer Buy for Photo Gifting


You are the industry influencers and that is why I am writing to you. As a lonely, little photo retailer, I have noticed a troubling shift in our world that is keeping me up at night. And it has nothing to do with politics. Instead, it has to do with photo gifting, or specifically, the lack of photo gifting.

The vast majority of the shoppers at our store are not buying gifts. That ship is sailing away. Hell, I can’t even see it from the dock anymore. Our customers are buying for themselves, and they are doing it all year long. In addition, the only reason we still see any seasonal buying peaks and valleys is because our industry discounts and promotes in this imaginary, antiquated cycle. (This just applies to hard goods. Soft goods and services still get traction during the holidays; we still need to follow the cycle as well as promote them accordingly.)

My observation was reinforced during this past Christmas season, which confirmed and matched what I saw last spring. This trend seems obvious to me, and it is frustrating that our manufacturers and vendors aren’t changing with the times.

The fact is 92% of our camera department purchases come from customers who are buying for themselves—not as gifts. Why then do we focus our advertising campaigns at this small target? Why does our industry think droves of buyers will see a Mother’s Day ad and rush to Horn Photo to buy a camera, a flash or filter for mom? Give me a break!

Let’s Stop Marketing for Photo Gifting

Because of this holiday gift-buying mentality/pattern, we are offered “buy-in deals” from these vendors. However, they ultimately cause us to fall into an overbuying, overstocked, cash flow mistake. So, we follow along and slip right into thinking the same way with our own marketing: “Gosh, mom must want a new prime lens and camera bag for Mother’s Day!” Really!!!

Our customers buy for themselves because they love photography, and they buy all year long. Moreover, they purchase because it’s springtime and they want to take photos outdoors, not because it’s Mother’s Day. Further, they buy in late May and early June because they have a trip or event coming up, not because they want to give a tripod to a high school grad. Get my point?

Fresh Marketing Needed

Our industry needs to shift its attention toward today’s customers; the ones who buy for themselves because they love photography.

I do not claim to have all the answers. However, I believe that we need to stop following the same old program. We are all following instead of leading. We need to put our heads together and come up with some new ideas so we can lead this industry in a better direction that will benefit all of us.

I welcome your thoughts and discussion. Please feel free to send a reply or call my cell phone: (559) 917-1434.

Shelly-and-Stan-Grosz photo gifting
Shelly and Stan Grosz

Stan Grosz and wife, Shelly, are the owner and president of Horn Photo. Stan, a cow expert, mixed his knowledge of cows with his passion for photography and became the heartland’s top cow photographer during the 1970s and ’80s. He and Shelly, an ag financial consultant, took a chance on buying a small camera store in 1991. Horn Photo is now a 6,000-square-foot powerhouse with 23 employees.


  1. Hi Stan, I thought your Last Word article was a perfect bookend to what Jerry Grossman wrote about in the Strategy Session regarding content marketing. I do have some fresh ideas on how independent dealers can provide better content on their sites at the “buy ready” moment. If customers are buying for themselves and not as gifts, provide content that helps them make their decision when they are ready to purchase. I would love to discuss.