If retail is a strategy game, profit is often the result of a thousand small moves. Michael St. Germain, a photo specialty retailer who’s owned Concord Camera Store in Concord, NH, since 1980, has a reputation for coming up with small tweaks in marketing or merchandising that keep business in the black.
Take frames, for instance. Camera retailers often try to add on higher-margin picture frames to print sales, but St. Germain came up with the idea to create customer demand for more personalized frames. “Ready-made frames don’t come with non-glare glass, so we put little post-it notes on all our frames that say, ‘Ask us about our non-glare glass upgrade.’ Now, 20% of our frames are being sold with the more expensive glass.” St. Germain came up with a “matts on demand” concept too, offering customers the chance to have custom matts for their photographs cut while they wait. “We’ll do ovals, multi-matts, one vertical and two horizontal, whatever. They don’t make matts like that. Today we had a customer leave with a $20 frame and a $20 matt and he didn’t have to wait for it. That’s an add-on.”
St. Germain says the key to ensuring strong margins today is to provide customized services, fast. “The specialty dealer has to find their own niche today,” he says. “It’s totally about the services nobody else is offering. I ask myself, ‘Who’s our market? What’s important to them? And I try to deliver exactly what they are looking for in a timely fashion. Everyday is a challenge, but my feeling has always been, ‘Bring it on.’”