We sat down with a select group of imaging retailers to chat about what’s working in their stores. In an industry that is all about telling stories in the form of picture books, we thought we’d borrow a page, so to speak, from that mission statement and put together a little visual tale of our own.
We’ve gathered a few stories and pictures from retailers around the country that center around what they do best—catering to their customers. For some it’s all about merchandising, while others excel at promotion. You’ll see great customer service still reigns supreme, and in many instances it’s technology from the manufacturer that spells profit for the dealer. You’ll also see it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that yield the greatest gain, so you don’t always have to shoot for the stars with your thinking.
Social Media Mavens
Frank Tona, Store Manager, Crown Camera, Redding, California
Crown Camera always tries to embrace new technologies and this includes social media outlets Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Store manager Frank Tona took a 4×4 flip book from Lucidiom that walks consumers through the company’s white-label photo site, Photo Finale Web, and converted it into a YouTube video (youtube.com/watch?v=rlEMlmm1zqE&fmt=18). Now his customers can learn more about the website’s features—RSS, sharing, editing, member benefits, etc.—by watching a brief video.
“We have put some of our manufacturer videos from YouTube on our website in the past, but this was the first time I took a printed marketing piece and converted it to video,” said Tona. “We simply used ProShow Gold to input the slides and add music and then converted it to a YouTube video.
“With the current business environment, we need to take advantage of any media that might drive more business to our store. The more your store becomes a destination, the more likely you’ll survive a downturn. With that in mind, we are offering more classes on more subjects. We also had several Ladies Nights that have been very successful.” crowncamerashop.com
Move to Mobile Saves Camera Case
Bob Stumpner, Owner, Camera Case, Hartford, Wisconsin
36 years ago Bob Stumpner, photographer, bought a small camera store in Wisconsin and promoted himself to small business owner. He called the company Camera Case and slowly and steadily grew his retail business, eventually buying a Kodak minilab and getting into finishing.
Business was pretty good in his town of 8,000, but things started to change. Digital cameras killed the film and processing business and profit margins weren’t as robust as in years past—a familiar tale.
Then a longtime customer asked him to sell her a cameraphone. “I’m sorry, but we don’t carry them,” was his response. She persisted, saying she knew if she purchased it from them, they would take care of her and show her how to properly use it. That was the start of the cellular story for Camera Case. Stumpner claims it was the most profitable decision he ever made, as it “saved my camera business and showed me how to focus on making more money versus just trying to make more sales of low-margin products.”
He added, “Without cellular, we’d have gone out of business long ago. The imaging business has changed. Film and development services have all but disappeared and margin on cameras is pitiful. We also found we made more profit selling cellular car cords than we made on all the point-and-shoot cameras we sold for the entire year.” cameracase.com/hartford.html
Turning Crop Parties into Profit Parties
Gabriel Arango, Owner, In & Out Photo, Cumming, Georgia
What does a custom framing business, a photo studio and a Noritsu QSS-3211 have to do with scrapbooking? Everything, if you’re Gabriel Arango, owner of In & Out Photo of Cumming, Georgia.
Arango has been growing his business since he first opened his custom framing store about nine years ago by adding a photo lab (and that aforementioned Noritsu QSS-3211) and then a photo studio. His goal? “For the customer to leave with something they can hang on the wall, not just a box of pictures.”
Arango began opening his store after hours for crop parties (gatherings where crafters get together and create scrapbook pages).
“You have to know who your customers are, especially if you see them on a regular basis,” advised Arango, who always greets his customers by name. And if they’re taking or printing a lot of pictures, you know they’re “into something, and primarily it’s scrapbooking.”
With average attendance around 18–22 people, he’ll see about six new faces each time, which translates into potential customers—some of whom admitted that “I never knew you were here.” To generate interest in the initial gathering, he offered 100 free prints and continues to offer incentives to the scrapbookers who come to the meetings. inandoutphoto.com
Exchanging Ideas. What a Concept!
If you’re not a regular reader of Bill McCurry’s always-enlightening Idea Exchange (photoimagenews.com/mccurry.htm), shame on you. His unique take on all things imaging retail produces an insightful and fun look at the goings-on at photo retail, and we’ve borrowed a few of his recent “exchanges” with dealers to share with you.
The Zeff Photo “Red Box Deal”
David Gordenstein, Zeff Photo, Belmont, Massachusetts
First off, we give you David Gordenstein of Zeff Photo, who explained how he loves to offer value in a red box, even if it isn’t packaged in a red box.
“For each digital camera we sell, we offer our customers a package of extras with a retail value of more than $200. I originally thought I would put this stuff into a red box that would contain the camera as well, but have you ever tried to find red boxes at a reasonable rate? Someone once said, ‘Continual improvement beats delayed perfection.’ So we use red envelopes stuffed with these goodies: 50% off our two most popular classes at Zeff U; 10 free prints a month for 12 months from our in-store kiosks; 25 free online prints; photo editing and ordering software; a Zeff magnet for the refrigerator; and a one-year extension of manufacturer’s warranty,” Gordenstein explained.
“Over a $200 value. The extended warranty often closes the deal,” he added. “And the processing and class promos help bring people back into the store. Having this package of ‘extras’ also gives us an answer to people who say they can find a camera for less at a big-box store or online.” zeffphoto.com
Add-on Sales Still a Vital Cog
Barry Warner, Mack Camera, Springfield, New Jersey
With all that is going on in the photo industry today, dealers must find ways to add accessories with every sale. Barry Warner of Mack Camera is quick to add that while most dealers are aware of this fact, it’s important these add-ons are done the right way, and he offers up a few simple suggestions for making sure you get this part of the sale right:
1. Listen to what your customer is saying and use it to your advantage.
2. Take the “No” out of the answer to any questions you ask. (Not, “Do you want a memory card,” but “Do you want a 4- or 8-gig card?”) Or in our case, a Diamond or Regular Mack Warranty.
3. Lastly: If you don’t ask you will never sell it.
“The dealer must find ways to add to their bottom line, and they have to let their staff know their jobs depend on it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; you might surprise yourself and sell more,” he explained. “Remember, let the customer know the price of all your products as a package. The camera that might be $10 less at the BB store can be $20 less at your store when bundled with the other items they need.” mackcam.com
High-Margin Gift with Low-Margin Hardware
Leo Calagaz, Calagaz, Mobile, Alabama
Last fall, the folks at Calagaz wanted to embrace the Tamron accessory lens line and needed something to jump-start the program.
“We came up with the idea of adding a free 16×20 gallery wrap canvas ($100 value),” explained Leo Calagaz. “The old-style Tamron 18–270 all-in-one zoom lens that had a $150 mail-in rebate allowed a great sales story for the salesperson at the counter to tell. It also let us showcase a very profitable service to a ‘camera customer’ that is something all of us in the hardware business struggle with.”
And Calagaz added, “We can sell a bunch of cameras at low margin but getting those customers back in for a service is a challenge. It was a huge success!!”
Tamron was excited, the salesperson was happy, the customer was happy (call to action free 16×20 canvas) and, of course, Calagaz was happy because their sales of lenses with filters, tripods and other profitable accessories increased as well. calagaz.com
Scraps Turn into Wads of Cash
Pat Tracz, The Photography Center, Malvern, Pennsylvania
The Photography Center purchased a large-format scanner off eBay that immediately attracted the attention of the store’s scrapbooking customers. The unit handles 12×12-inch pages that are so popular in the scrapbooking world.
“It takes a long time to create a scrapbook and if it is a gift, it’s hard to let it go,” explained Tracz. “We scan their scrapbook pages and give them a CD and print an 8×8 album. That way they can have a copy for themselves and for family members who might be interested.”
Tracz told the story of one customer who spent almost a year on a heritage album and realized both she and her sister would like a copy. The woman was ecstatic when she found that the store could do that for her.
“I also scanned 22 albums for a divorce case and have scanned a book of dried flowers for a local arboretum. Although it can be time consuming, there’s little cost involved, and it’s been a good revenue source.” thephotographycenter.com
Going to the Dogs, in a Good Way
Robert Bagliolid, Bell Arte Camera Foto Source, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Robert Bagliolid of Bell Arte Camera Foto Source explained that his local police department has a K-9 squad and one of their activities is a local school visit with educational programs for younger students.
For many of the students, this can be the first contact they have with a police officer, and the program helps establish officers as real people who are friendly and willing to listen to children.
“Bell Arte Camera Foto Source supports this program by providing trading cards for each officer and their K-9 partner. The children are encouraged to collect the entire set,” Bagliolid explained. “The bottom line of each card says ‘Photo courtesy of Bell Arte Camera.’ This gets our name throughout the community to that key photo consumer market, families with children. It doesn’t hurt our relationship with the government purchasing agents who also appreciate our support of law enforcement.” bellarte.fotosource.com
The Data Doctor Is In
Peter Michael, Michaels, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Michaels registered the Data Doctor logo and promotes the fact they can professionally recover their customers’ content from just about any kind of disaster. Owner Peter Michael added that the growth of hard drive cameras (think videos) is creating another service opportunity, as many stores are afraid to touch these data rescues.
Michaels positions itself as the reliable resource for those suffering from potential data/image loss. Their website page for memory recovery warns customers by stating, “We strongly suggest you bring your damaged card directly to us and not to less experienced stores/services or operators—unfortunately, we have received cards that have been permanently destroyed by less experienced operators doing ‘their best’ to recover images.”
Michael added, “Customers who believe they have lost their files/pictures are highly stressed. Create an environment where you can reassure them and that you care. You’ll be rewarded with their appreciation and patronage.” www.michaels.com.au
Hard Drives to Go
David Guidry, Lakeside Camera Photoworks, Metairie, Louisiana
Whether you’re doing shoebox scans or backing up CD/DVDs off your kiosk, there’s the nagging feeling that with technology moving at the rapid pace it does, the media you put the images on won’t be readable in a few years.
However, prints will always be enjoyed by customers, and that theory forms the basis for a new service offered at Lakeside Camera Photoworks.
Lakeside offers customers the opportunity to have their images “Future Proofed” by returning their scans and files on an external hard drive. The images can be downloaded onto any computer and the images retrieved and/or used to share family memories.
“We buy the hard drive from local suppliers and include it in the cost of the project, not as an individual line item,” Guidry explained. “We’re not in it for the profit (or lack thereof) on the hard drive. We’re doing it to be sure our customers’ images are accessible for generations to come. Our customers know we care and are serious about image protection.” lakesidecamera.com