Digital Imaging Reporter’s 2020 State of the Industry

Digital Imaging Reporter’s 2020 State of the Industry

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The Imaging Industry Shows Resilience during Covid-19

2020 State of the Industry. The imaging industry has gone through a lot in the last 20 years. We’ve seen entire shifts in technologies that taught us the art of adapting. We’ve seen entire product categories decimated by replacement innovations that forced us into new business models.

Moreover, we’ve seen behemoth retail competitors that forced brick-and-mortar retailers to transition to a new world of online shopping. It seemed that we had been through the worst and came out on the other side. Then Covid entered our world.

For our annual State of the Industry report, we customarily ask industry leaders what they anticipate will happen in the coming year. However, given the challenges we’ve all faced in 2020, we thought that hearing wisdom about how they tackled the Covid crisis was more instructive.

2020 State of the Industry: Resilience

While reading the essays from industry members on the following pages, I found one word that weaves them all together: Resilience.

I looked up the definition and it is perfect: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability to spring back into shape.

The imaging industry’s continued recovery from this pandemic is inspiring.  Retailers had to adapt their stores and keep their employees motivated while understanding that customers were not really sure when they could safely return. Manufacturers had to anticipate production while there was uncertainty all over the world. Business owners figured out PPP loans and how to pay the rent. All the while, we tried to recognize what strategy would save us.

It appears from the contributions to this article that the answer was universal; it was understanding the customer. And it was recognizing what they needed, not necessarily what we needed. Customers needed to feel safe walking into stores. They were looking for things to do while the world seemed to stop around them. They were recognizing how important family was to them. In addition, they had time on their hands to rediscover some of their passions that went dormant over the years.

Photography came to the rescue; our resilient industry responded. We offered online classes. We offered entertaining interviews with famous photographers giving their most personal tips. Also, we got to watch Mark Comon get creative every day on his Facebook page. We showed people how to organize and restore their memories. And we knew customers didn’t want to spend a lot of time in our stores, so we adapted. Importantly, we gave our time and our money to charities for those less fortunate. Yes, once again we were resilient.

Community

I don’t think there’s ever been a time more challenging or a scarier episode in our lifetime. Hopefully, life will get back to normal soon, but it will never really be the same. However, if this experience has taught us anything, it’s that we can lean on the people we trust. We can also forge ahead, even when the world is collapsing around us.

Furthermore, the coming months will create more challenges; the worst may not be over. But now we know what we’re in for, and we can see the end in sight. I’ve never been prouder to be part of the imaging industry. You should all be proud that you’ve risen to the occasion and understood that the relationships you have with your customers, your employees and, of course, your families and friends can get us through the toughest times.

I thank those who contributed to our 2020 State of the Industry issue. You’ll find their words on the following pages both thoughtful and inspiring. Please stay safe!—Jerry Grossman

Mike Kahn, Chief Marketing Officer, AEE Technology

There Is Gold Data in Digital Images

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Mike Kahn

“May you live in interesting times” is the cliché of all times this year. In my 30-plus-year career in the imaging industry, I have witnessed our industry reinvent itself year after year . . . from the days of silver halide to compact digital cameras to auto HDR mobile phones. We have always been a resilient industry. However, this year is beyond our imagination. Despite the times, there is still opportunity.

A few years ago, I transitioned to aerial cameras, commonly known as drones. While the drone industry is still in its infancy and government oversight and regulation threaten to slow the rapid year-over-year sales growth, technical development continues to drive drone business upward.

I would like to touch on the evolving opportunity in Orthomosaic imaging that many have overlooked. Quite simply, we need to stop looking at photography from a traditional point of view—to consider the rich cache of data behind the classic digital image, literally. Metadata—everything from dates and times to location—are captured and stored on our digital images and include extremely useful information. You may have heard the term “big data”; in this case, the golden opportunity is in the EXIF data captured behind the drone images as they fly overhead.

This GIS data is used to construct 2D and 3D visual models that are extremely valuable to industries from construction to inspection. The applications are just beginning to be data mined. Oh, and by the way, the mapping image industry is not limited to drones; adding in GPS/RTK antennas to our photog bags allows us to reinvent our beloved industry yet again. There truly is gold data to be found in our digital images; the future looks brighter and brighter. aeeusa.com

Tom Gramegna, President, Bergen County Camera 

Facing the Crisis as a Community

2020 State of the IndustryTom-Gramegna-2018
Tom Gramegna

Bergen County Camera is grateful to work with peerless organizations in the industry—PRO, IPI and TIA. Our ability to share innovative best practices and ways to navigate the Covid crisis brought a deeper appreciation for the work they do to keep the photo industry successful. I’d emphasize that each of us as members of the industry need to make sure these organizations are supported and remain strong.  Virtual meetings with fellow ingenious retailers have been vital, inspirational and practical for our reinvention.

The mindset needed to deal with crisis is simple; maintenance of ridiculous flexibility and a positive outlook. We have to be okay with spending resources on making a plan and then jettisoning it in a heartbeat, as external issues render the plan useless. And we can’t allow our attitude to sour. We must be responsible first to ourselves as leaders to maintain our own “full wells” to properly support those looking to our leadership; in speaking with peers, this is routinely overlooked!

BCC’s lauded educational programs and 1:1 consulting transitioned to Zoom in a flash. Subsequently, we garnered more participants from further afield with longer engagement times. A website also launched to archive our recorded programs; some exceed 10K views!

Our management team filmed ourselves at home for cable TV news commercials. We let the public know the ways we could serve them during closure. The ads announced the progress of our phased reopening. Moreover, a continuing stream of innovative new products keeps customers engaged. Many manufacturers also delivered top-notch retailer educational content we could leverage. Tamron stands out for matching our speed in developing rich content early in the pandemic.

Challenges Remain

The challenge is keeping our frontline workers safe, properly compensated and motivated to work in less than ideal conditions. Manufacturers could give more recognition to those staffing our stores; the industry’s “essential frontline workers” deserve more support than ever.

While we’ve made our stores safer and more welcoming, client visits are brief and goal-oriented. Most don’t linger long enough to browse. As a result, we’re missing valuable add-on sales.

Finally, I’m incredulous that every other industry but the photography industry recognizes and harnesses the immense power of our medium, with their constant use of still and video images to pull at customers’ heartstrings to motivate purchases. It’s true that photography is both the international language and that a great photograph is more powerful than 1,000 words. Let’s make sure all our industry ads prove that! bergencountycamera.com

Tatsuro “Tony” Kano, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon USA

Coming Together to Find New Successes

Tatsuro-Tony-Kano 2020 State of the Industry
Tatsuro Kano

Canon USA quickly learned that the Covid-19 pandemic would bring a new set of challenges for the digital imaging industry; one that already faced many obstacles in recent years. Our resilience was again tested; we needed to adapt swiftly to steady the ship.

When faced with an incredibly unique challenge like Covid-19, a practical strategy is to go back to basics. These are uncharted waters; Canon decided to focus on a core principle that has brought the company much success in the past: engaging and listening to our customers.

When work from home and distance learning became the “new normal” for our customers, Canon was the first company to introduce a high-quality, easy-to-use webcam solution. Working diligently to meet this customer demand, we launched the EOS Webcam Utility software in a few short weeks. Consequently, it turns select Canon EOS ILC and PowerShot cameras into high-quality webcams to improve the look and feel of videoconferences for our customers.

Moreover, it’s no surprise printing saw an increase in popularity with more people working from home. Canon is front and center with products like the PIXMA TR150 and TR8620 printers to make the transition for our customers that much easier.

When trade shows were canceled, Canon needed a way to engage with customers in an impactful manner: insert virtual product launches. Canon employees from all over the country came together to produce two successful virtual product launches. They introduced revolutionary products like the EOS R5 and EOS C70.

When sports returned, Canon received inquiries from production companies about best practices; certain large broadcast lenses require two people working in close proximity to correctly mount them on a camera. Canon jumped into action, sharing guidelines that outlined the necessary steps those companies can take to ensure employees’ health and safety.

Coming Together

I am extremely proud of how Canon employees have come together to navigate through these difficult and unprecedented times. The combination of teamwork, loyal customers and the impactful products Canon recently and will continue to launch give me a great sense of optimism and hope that 2021 will be one of Canon’s best years yet. usa.canon.com

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association

 Covid-19 Has Hastened the Digital Transformation

2020 State of the Industry Gary-Shapiro-SoI-9-2017
Gary Shapiro

The technology industry—along with many others—is undergoing change. Financial implications from the pandemic are evident across industries, including digital imaging. Camera sales and profits dipped, even before Covid-19. Supply chain issues and smartphone camera innovations are adding to the decline.

Change is hard, especially amid uncertainty. However, change also brings opportunity. As successful innovators who have weathered a changing industry in the past, tech businesses are well positioned to adapt to the unknown. According to SLR Lounge, leaders in the imaging industry are restructuring and investing in new technology.

Emerging technologies—from artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G to robotics to digital health and self-driving vehicles—are evolving from innovative, new technologies to necessities for health and survival.

Indeed, consumers are shifting to contactless delivery and at-home entertainment. According to  research  from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), since the pandemic more than half of consumers (53%) have used or are considering contact-less delivery services for groceries. And just under half say they’re watching live TV (49%) and online streaming videos (48%) more often than normal.

For tech to continue to flourish, the U.S. must maintain global leadership by ensuring we lead the world in connectivity. We must promote, not attack, our nation’s crown jewel tech companies. We also must encourage innovation-friendly policies by laying the groundwork for rules that create jobs, improve public health and foster innovation.

If we adapt, pivot quickly and innovate, we have an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. cta.tech

Gary Pageau, Editor, The Dead Pixels Society

The Industry Will Meet the Challenge

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Gary Pageau

The photo-imaging industry is no stranger to cataclysmic change. Change is the name of the game in the photo industry. We’ve witnessed transitions from black-and-white film to color film to instant film to one-hour minilabs to digital photography to mobile imaging and on. All of these challenges were met head on.

Covid-19, however, has presented a different kind of challenge. It is a completely external event that struck at the core of the industry. Photography is inherently a social process; Covid-19 meant no birthday parties, no high school graduations, no family vacations, no photo walks or any other typical photo behavior.

As “14 days to slow the spread” extended to weeks and to months, the lockdown exposed the weaknesses in a lot of businesses. Retailers who rely predominantly on walk-in business and physical locations found their customer pools dried up. Businesses that thrived on personal interaction or service found their unique selling propensity denied them.

However, rather than dwell on the problem, let’s look at the solutions. At the Dead Pixels Society, we have focused on meaningful responses and trends. Clearly, strong, well-financed companies are in a position to capitalize. We’ve seen acquisition after acquisition, as private-equity funds take advantage of opportunities. On the other hand, players in slow-growth areas like camera hardware are struggling with declining demand. This will bring further consolidation.

As these changes echo through 2021, let’s remember the vital role photography has in preserving family lives and history. No matter the circumstances, the industry will meet the challenge. thedeadpixelsociety.com

Jenn Sherry, Sales & Marketing Manager, Delkin Devices

Positive Attitudes and Energy Focus on Recovery

Jenn-Sherry-SoI 2019 State of the Industry
Jenn Sherry

Delkin continues to press on, as all other companies are doing in this crazy year of 2020. We believe retail and the photo market are always evolving; 2020 is no different. We must stay flexible in our approach to business and relationships.

Delkin Devices is also considered an essential business, not having a supply chain focused on China. This turned out to be a good thing. We have seen add-on sales take a hit, as additional items have become harder to offer curbside and through web sales.

However, we also find that consumers are not shopping or tire kicking. If they come into the store, they are there to purchase. The attitudes and energy are positive, as we are all focused on a recovery. New cameras, innovation and reminding customers how important our memories are is absolutely the way back! This too shall pass! delkin.com

Suzanne Seagle, Director of Marketing, DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation

Pivoting with New Business Models and Products

Suzanne-Seagle 2020 State of the Industry
Suzanne Seagle

It is an understatement to say 2020 has proven a difficult, challenging year for the photo industry. Our valued customers and partners—from professional photographers and photo booth operators to retailers and amusement parks—have felt the effects of the last eight months with a decrease in events and social gatherings to keep others safe.

During this time, DNP has always held the health and safety of its customers and employees as the organization’s first priority. Moreover, it has focused on doing what it can to support this industry and emerge from this crisis successfully.

At DNP, we are fortunate enough to continue to provide our customers with new products and media expansions. They include the launch of two brand-new products: the Wireless Connect Module (WCM) and the IDW520 passport/ID photo printer. As the photo industry continues to pivot with new business models and offerings, DNP is proud to provide its customers with new products to support these changes.

While it has been a difficult year, DNP witnessed the photo industry come together as a community to share experiences and insights and to learn from each other. DNP’s partners, brand ambassadors and competitors have shown great resilience and love for the industry; this will help everyone come out stronger than ever before.

We are looking positively ahead at DNP, as we begin to see the industry slowly reopen and emerge from the pandemic. We also anticipate the future of the industry will be full of new ideas, products, events and photo memories like we have never seen before. dnpphoto.com

Bill McCurry, Chairman, McCurry Associates

Stronger through the Pandemic

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Bill McCurry

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As we plan for post Covid-19, let’s evaluate useful past lessons.

Two decades ago, we had great names like Vlassic Pickles and Rubbermaid lose their way; it was because they followed the siren call of big-box buyers that exerted devastating control over their vendors. Harvard Business Review in 2007 asked, “If Brands Are Built over Years, Why Are They Managed over Quarters?” Leonard M. Lodish and Carl F. Mela assail short-term thinking like repeated price promotions that teach consumers to only buy on sale. They poke fun at managers who are “left to wonder what went wrong.”

Marketing guru Seth Godin summed it up best: “Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas. The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Plant, tend, plow, fertilize, weed, repeat.”

Photo specialty is stronger through the pandemic. Customers interested in photography as a hobby have found their way to their local camera stores. It is the early 1960s again. Hobbyist camera buyers want to network with knowledgeable mentors to grow their skills. Manufacturers competent in marketing will create strategies to embrace these new customers through photo specialty retailers; it is the only channel that cares if photography survives.

Post Covid-19 manufacturers must decide to partner with people who will grow their customer base. Smart companies will align with those with marketing competence and passion for spreading the joy of photography to enthusiasts and hobbyists. mccurryassoc.com

Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc.

During Tough Times, the Creative Spirit Continues Onward

2020 State of the Industry Jay-Vannatter-SoI-2020
Jay Vannatter

This has been a challenging year for everyone across our industry and around the world. Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic has not been easy; however, it has provided a unique opportunity for inspiration through ingenuity and creativity.

At Nikon, we are incredibly proud of how our employees adjusted to the rapidly shifting situation; they discovered new ways to stay connected and continue doing business while working remotely. As a brand, we mobilized to develop creative, innovative ways to inspire, educate and entertain our community within the safety restrictions of Covid-19. For example, the Nikon Creator’s Hour was a content series that lived on our website and social channels. It offered compelling, timely challenges and activities; educational content, including free Nikon School Online courses; as well as tips from Nikon ambassadors. We’re excited to see creators of all skill levels expressing their creativity and connecting with others through imagery.

To meet the evolving demands of creators, imaging tools must continue to push boundaries. The Nikon Z series mirrorless camera system is expanding rapidly. It offers superior image quality, an extensive feature set and incredible capabilities only possible due to the innovative Z mount.

Within just two years, the Z series consists of six mirrorless cameras and 16 NIKKOR Z lenses and teleconverters; much more is still to come. The introduction of the new Z 6II and Z 7II is the exciting next chapter of the Z series; they showcase Nikon optical innovation and the renowned expertise of our talented engineers.

We look forward to continuing to work with our employees, partners and customers to provide support and inspiration while bringing to market the incredible tools to help fuel and amplify the creative spirit through difficult times. We encourage everyone to stay safe; together we will get through this. nikonusa.com

Marc Allcorn, Sales Director, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company 

Saluting Our Retail Partners’ Tenacity

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Marc Allcorn

To say today’s retail environment is challenging is an understatement. The Lumix team appreciates the new ways retailers have been interfacing with both their customers and their representatives.

At Panasonic, we truly salute our retail partners for their tenacity during these challenging times that will hopefully soon be in our “rearview mirror.” During the pandemic, the imaging industry has seen the introduction of many new products; it is our hope that this excitement will help generate traffic back to photo retailers’ stores from both new and existing customers.

Every retailer managed this crisis differently—whether they were open for business as usual, online or temporarily closed. To help the resellers in their new business model, Panasonic engaged with the retail sales associate through trainings and by providing remote support.

During the time when we are not sending our reps into the store, we are offering live events to keep photography top of mind. We are also doubling down on promotional activity to keep consumers interested in photography. We encourage all suppliers to do the same.

In addition, Panasonic continues to update the firmware for all G and S series cameras so they can now function as webcams, adding additional value to those working from home. Again, thank you for being our partner, and we look forward to an amazing holiday season! panasonic.com

Mark Comon, Vice President, Paul’s Photo

Increase Engagement and Inspirational Activities

Mark-Comon-9-2020 2020 State of the Industry
Mark Comon

What are the challenges to the imaging industry presented by Covid-19? They are an accelerated move to online shopping; a disengagement of the population; and conquering fears.

What are the opportunities? More free time as well as more disposable income in certain levels of the population. The need to embrace art and creativity as an outlet. The desire to try new hobbies and safe activities.

How can we capture this opportunity? We can increase our social media engagement as well as increase inspirational activities. In addition, we can build a safe in-store shopping experience.

How did we miss opportunities? We were slow to update our website and online offerings. paulsphoto.com

Don Franz, Publisher, Photo Imaging News

Assessing the Impact of Covid-19

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Don Franz

Lockdowns have changed consumer behavior. In a weekly Fujifilm study of 300 U.S. consumers, presented at the IPIC 2020 conference, 65% of respondents indicated they don’t feel safe in public places. Moreover, this number remained relatively steady over the 17 weeks from April through July 2020. Consequently, consumer/customers are spending more time on the Internet.

A Luth survey for the week of May 25 indicates that, for consumer spending on cameras and photo, 4% are spending more; 78% are spending the same; and 18% are spending less.

According to the Digital 2020 July Global Snapshot report, of Internet users aged 16–64 in major countries, 70% are spending more time on smartphones and mobile devices; 47% are spending more time on laptop computers.

In the U.S., 83% of those 13+ are using social media; 50% of the respondents report they have enduring plans to work from home. In addition, 39% of them use voice search and commands each month, and 22% use image recognition tools on mobile devices. Furthermore, 67% are worried about how companies use their personal data.

After the outbreak ends, 19% expect to make video calls more, and 23% expect to use videoconferencing more frequently. What’s more, 41% of those 16–64 bought something through mobile e-commerce. Additionally, 39% of all consumer transactions are m-commerce.

Companies are developing new marketing channels under Covid conditions and pulling out of major trade shows due to health concerns. As these channels succeed, will these businesses return to “live” shows? Will photo retailers also adopt new ways to reach their “changing” customers? photo-news.com

Cathi Nelson, CEO and Founder, The Photo Managers

Photos Tell Stories People Care About

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Cathi Nelson

My passion for the photo industry revolves around the belief that humans take photos to tell stories. The pictures stored away in boxes, hard drives as well as cloud subscriptions are the memories people care most about. That is why, as people went into lockdown, the “someday” project of organizing photos suddenly took on greater urgency. This accelerated an increased desire for organizing and archiving services.

Professional photo managers, rather than experiencing a slowdown, are reporting a significant increase in business. People are looking for assistance in all areas of photo archiving and organizing. “I feel so inundated with work I can hardly breathe. Such huge jobs coming in,” is what we’ve heard.

The results of Save Your Photos Month support this finding. More than 4,000 people from around the world signed up for our classes that focused on teaching people how to preserve life’s irreplaceable photos, videos and documents.

This leads me to an area of opportunity and growth—online education. In April, we pivoted from our annual in-person conference to entirely virtual. We increased attendance by more than 300% and are now planning a hybrid event for 2021. We also added a three-day virtual workshop on pricing strategies, because we now realize the revenue opportunity in online learning.

People continue to capture memories and seek meaningful ways to share, display and showcase the images they care most about. Offering engaging online classes, webinars and private Facebook forums provide unique opportunities to connect with potential customers looking for help. thephotomanagers.com

Marta Martinez, Chief Marketing Officer, Polaroid

Community Is Our Biggest Asset

2020 State of the Industry Marta-Martinez-Polaroid-
Marta Martinez

Looking back over this year, it’s incredible to believe we have less than 12 weeks remaining in 2020. Starting the new decade in the most unprecedented conditions possible magnified the industry’s feelings we’ve all faced at a human level. It’s been a year of uncomfortable change, uncertainty for the future and feeling overwhelmed with our global climate.

Reflecting on that reality meant rethinking our “how” for the “why.” How do we express ourselves through meaningful human connections when social distancing is the new standard?

More than ever, people are looking for ways to celebrate the small moments of life that are increasingly virtual and separated. At Polaroid, we are inspired by the way people have turned to instant photography to express themselves, connect with others as well as document this shared moment of history.

As Covid-19 reached critical levels this spring, we worked with hospitals across the world on our Faces behind the Mask initiative; the goal was to show the faces of healthcare providers to their patients by wearing a physical Polaroid photo of themselves on their PPEs.

We are grateful to see a strong demand for Polaroid in 2020. Moreover, we successfully launched three products: the Polaroid Now instant analog camera; the Polaroid Hi-Print pocket printer; and the Mandalorian Polaroid Now camera, in collaboration with Lucasfilm.

Prioritizing creative outlets is something we anticipate consumers will continue to focus on in 2020 and into 2021 as screen-time fatigue grows.

For 2020, listening to the concerns of consumers and our employees has allowed us to focus on a strategic future and avoid layoffs. Our Polaroid community continues to be our biggest asset for success in 2021. polaroid.com

Kaz Eguchi, President, Ricoh Imaging Americas

Seizing Opportunities in Challenging Times

Kaz-Eguchi 2020 State of the Industry
Kaz Eguchi

The coronavirus has changed the way we live and work, impacting people, products, organizations and processes. While the effects of the pandemic have been detrimental to many, there have been some positive opportunities during this time.

Remote or virtual participation is now a norm, and products and processes that support this new norm have seen successes. At Ricoh, we have seen massive interest and demand for our Theta 360 cameras from various customers. People are using Theta to capture and create images for virtual tours used in many business environments, such as real estate, automotive, construction and education.

Retail success during this period is directly related to a retailer’s ability to deliver the products and services that customers are seeking. In addition to Theta, we’ve seen growth in other categories, including sports optics and products that enable customers to explore photography, like our rugged Pentax SLRs and GR III compact cameras. Many individuals have had more time on their hands to explore new hobbies or reacquaint themselves with old ones.

In spite of unprecedented business challenges, Ricoh Imaging’s business grew in 2020. As we move into 2021, I expect our industry to look for and seize opportunities for success. These sometimes come when and where we least expect them to. ricohimaging.com

Ed Lee, Director and Founder, Rise Above Research

Lessons from a Pandemic

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Ed Lee

It’s no understatement that the Covid-19 pandemic forever changed our world. Despite being unable to get together with friends and family, Rise Above Research has observed people are still snap-happy. However, their photos and videos are now more personal in nature, rather than of large family events and celebrations as in the past. Sharing life’s daily moments can help strengthen connections, mitigating the sometimes disheartening challenges of social isolation.

These trying times have also caused many to realize that good times from the past are special memories and should be preserved for the future.

Stay-at-home orders gave them something they’ve always craved more of: time. Some have used this time to do things they were putting off. This includes organizing their photos and videos or starting or finishing projects like creating a photo book or ordering a canvas print. We encourage people to continue to celebrate and preserve their memories in these ways.

Covid-19 also accelerated some buying habits that were already changing. People are looking for more value. They are doing more online shopping and are more willing to try new brands. Suddenly, we live in a world where consumers have easier access to custom photo products and gifts than toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Vendors should capitalize on that opportunity!

For the holiday buying season and throughout 2021, photo equipment vendors and print providers need to respond to these changing habits with promotions, a wide selection of value products, and widespread availability online.

Rise Above Research is a new market research and industry analyst firm. Our mission is to support digital photography and imaging industry vendors, service providers as well as retailers with actionable intelligence to assist them in making effective decisions—during these turbulent times and beyond. riseaboveresearch.com

Burke Seim, Owner, Service Photo Supply

Doing Whatever It Takes

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Burke Seim

No one ever could have expected the sudden and extreme loss of business due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but there it was. Small business owners felt helpless, and the future was unknown. In a situation like this, the plan is simple: do whatever it takes to keep your business viable.

As business owners look back on the seven-day workweeks and 15+ hour workdays they’ve put in since March, hopefully they can feel confident it has helped put them into a position for success moving forward. However, the long hours and “whatever it takes” attitude cannot stop here.

Now is the time to work harder than ever! As photo specialty dealers, we must connect with our customers; keep their business local; and also make our businesses more valuable than ever to all of our vendors.   

Looking back, 2019 was a pretty good year. Moving forward, I plan to compare 2021 to our 2019 business; I will forget about business in 2020 completely. However, I won’t forget the character, flexibility and understanding that I saw in 2020 from our staff, vendors and customers. It all reminded me that hard work is 100% worthwhile.   

Conservative hands-on business and financial management can prepare every small business for the unknown. And in 2020, the unknown arrived. The time is now to take stock of every aspect of your business and do whatever it takes to make your business more successful than ever—now and for the long haul. Anything less might not work. servicephoto.com

Richard Booth, Director of Marketing, Sigma Corporation of America

Positive Moves in Challenging Times

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Richard Booth

The Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted virtually every aspect of American life, our photo industry and photographers from amateurs to professionals alike. Sigma’s response to these unprecedented challenges is targeted and effective. We put our resources to work to support and inspire dealers, photographers and entire communities across a broad spectrum.

To inspire and reward countless photographers sheltering in place, Sigma announced the #SigmaShotAtHome photography and short film competition. It spanned 12 weeks, ending in late June. We received more than 1,300 unique submissions. The result: more than 180 honorable mentions and 24 winning entries, with prizes ranging in value from $500 to $2,100—a grand total of nearly $23,000 in prize money and Sigma products. It was an amazing experience for all.

Sigma also teamed up with 18 Sigma dealers to donate more than $93,000 to 20 community-based charities. It was the result of all partnering in the Focused on the Fight community giveback campaign. The partners donated 5% of all sales of cameras, lenses and photo accessories purchased between April 1 to June 30, 2020. Those efforts enabled one Michigan charity to serve 341,000+ meals to kids and families whose schools were shut in mid-March.

Finally, as Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma America, noted: “Camera retailers and imaging enthusiasts are what ground Sigma in the photographic world. We have a connection that forms an ecosystem; with common interests of serving community needs through the photography experience—be it in the love of the equipment itself or the end-result photo that visually expresses a moment, an emotion or a memory.”

We who develop and market remarkable new cameras, lenses and imaging equipment are taking it all to the next level. That’s why our industry is poised to advance and prosper going forward. sigmaphoto.com

Neal Manowitz, Deputy President, Imaging Products and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics

Relentless Dedication to Innovation

Neal-Manowitz-2017 2020 State of the Industry
Neal Manowitz

Wow, what an interesting year 2020 has been, on so many levels. I am proud of the resilience our industry has shown. We must continue to evolve, adapt and innovate to remain top of mind for our customers in the “new normal.”

Sony remains steadfast in our deep focus on innovation. In only the past six months, Sony has continued to push the envelope, releasing a variety of new products that allow today’s customers to create in ways they were never able to before.

With the new ZV-1 compact camera, we are offering vloggers and video creators a solution that is built from the ground up to meet their needs. In addition, the long-awaited Alpha 7S III opens a new world of possibilities for modern video professionals. It gives them the ability to produce beautiful 4K 120p video with incredible dynamic range in any type of lighting condition, including pure darkness. Moreover, the new Alpha 7C brings a full-frame interchangeable-lens camera shooting experience to the palm of your hand; it is perfect for those customers looking to step up to full-frame for the first time. Our new Imaging Edge Webcam desktop application also extends the use of our cameras into the world of livestreaming and videoconferencing.

Innovation Continues

Our innovation doesn’t stop with our products. On the marketing side, we have quickly shifted to a “digital world”; we have challenged ourselves to support and connect with our community no matter the circumstances. With events like Kando Everywhere and the continuation of core programs like Alpha Female, we remain true to these values.

This relentless dedication to innovation has led to Sony’s global imaging partnership with the Associated Press, a world leader in visual news. I am so proud for Sony to serve as the exclusive photography and video partner of the AP. Their role in society has never been more important than it is today.

Despite the volatility of our industry in 2020, there never was a greater demand for visual content. People are posting more photos and videos online than ever before.  Industry-wide, as we focus on driving innovation and adapting to our evolving customers’ needs, we see even greater opportunity toward the holiday season and well into 2021. sony.com

Gregg Maniaci, President and CEO, Tamron USA

A Renaissance for Retailers

2020 State of the IndustryT Gregg-Maniaci-SoI-2019
Gregg Maniaci

Many are wondering what the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will be. On the surface, many would expect a lot of “doom and gloom”; after all, these are unprecedented times.

From Tamron’s perspective, we see positive signs as the country ever so slowly crawls to a new standard of normalcy. Many consumers were forced to resort to online purchasing during the pandemic. Some thought that was the proverbial “nail in the coffin” for traditional retail. However, many retailers saw an opportunity to reinvent themselves, take a deeper look at their businesses and see how they could adapt. The result is somewhat of a renaissance for retailers, as many transformed into “hybrid” businesses.

We are also seeing the effect of what makes our industry so special. Imaging consumers, more than in other industries, like to “touch and feel” products. Cameras are very unique in that, while nearly every camera on the market will offer amazing results, they remain very personal. More than just features, it’s about the way it feels in one’s hand; the placement of the controls; the varying ratio of digital menus versus physical knobs. The same can be said for lenses. Each has a distinct feel, both in the physical sense and in the results they yield.

Many retailers are seeing consumers come back now that the coast seems a little clearer, so they can hold the products in their hands. Even though some retailers are doing more online business now, they are noticing many consumers see a value in dealing with a specialty store—whether it is in-store, curbside or online.

Full-Frame Mirrorless Rises

It’s an exciting time for photography, as full-frame mirrorless cameras are flipping the market on traditional DSLRs. Yet, DSLRs seem to have more life than predicted. Tamron has embraced both trends. Having brought to market very exciting DSLR lenses over the last few years, we are now filling our line with FF mirrorless lenses that play into the appeal of FF ML products—smaller, lighter, with no sacrifice in image quality.

We also introduced the world’s first all-in-one zoom to start at F2.8 geared to the serious FF ML shooter. It is among  the most requested lenses we’ve been asked to produce since pioneering the compact all-in-one category in 1992.

While I’m not minimizing the devastation this unprecedented time has brought upon us, I see the reemergence of an industry that has enough passion to survive. Perhaps, 2021 will surprise many as new, exciting products continue to appear and the public realizes those “shot on a smartphone” campaigns failed to mention the thousands of dollars of additional equipment strapped to the smartphone to get that shot.

We’ve all heard the saying, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Now many are simply trying to have with them better cameras and lenses.tamron-usa.com

Rick Voight, CEO, Vivid-Pix

Do Well Doing Good

rick-voight
Rick Voight

The world sure has changed. Things we took for granted have become precious; whether that be a hug, a handshake or a photograph. Fires and natural disasters remind us of what people grab when evacuating—photos.

Moreover, as we’ve been isolating and sheltering in place, the importance of photo memories and organizing those boxes of photos and mementos has increased dramatically.

Vivid-Pix seized this opportunity to help others and to grow our business. We created free online classes to help individuals with organizing, scanning, improving and storing images. We also curated genealogy classes at vivid-pix.com/education

In addition, we created free professional education for librarians and libraries. These classes are conducted by regional, national and international experts.

A friend of mine uses the phrase “do well doing good.” We’re happy to help our counterparts in the imaging industry by sharing our knowledge of the family history and genealogy industries (the second most popular hobby in America—and much of the world). vivid-pix.com

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