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12-29-2008, 10:31 AM   #1
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The Last Camera Store

Much has been said of the demise of camera stores in recent years. Most private stores are gone and now even the big chains are downsizing. The Ritz store in Saratoga Springs is closing up. While some have had issues with some Ritz stores, this was a good one with employees who are photographers and know their stuff. Now, anyone in the Glens Falls-Saratoga area will have to drive anywhere from 40 to 60 miles to get to a camera store or else buy from a dept. store or electronics store. They told the employees that the mall wanted them out because a clothing store needs their space but thats unlikely as several other stores in the mall are also closing. The inconvienence isn't just camera shopping. Try going to Walmart for a lost lens cap, or to get a filter or spare battery. The drugstore probably won't make you a 16x20 print while you wait. The kids taking photo classes in the 2 local colleges won't have a local outlet for photo paper and darkroom supplies. It just plain SUCKS!

12-29-2008, 10:42 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by reeftool Quote
Much has been said of the demise of camera stores in recent years. Most private stores are gone and now even the big chains are downsizing. The Ritz store in Saratoga Springs is closing up. While some have had issues with some Ritz stores, this was a good one with employees who are photographers and know their stuff. Now, anyone in the Glens Falls-Saratoga area will have to drive anywhere from 40 to 60 miles to get to a camera store or else buy from a dept. store or electronics store. They told the employees that the mall wanted them out because a clothing store needs their space but thats unlikely as several other stores in the mall are also closing. The inconvienence isn't just camera shopping. Try going to Walmart for a lost lens cap, or to get a filter or spare battery. The drugstore probably won't make you a 16x20 print while you wait. The kids taking photo classes in the 2 local colleges won't have a local outlet for photo paper and darkroom supplies. It just plain SUCKS!
The reality is that the internet itself is the primary cause that many 'Mom & Pop' camera stores are going out of business. They can't, or won't, compete with the pricing. Internet sales have also hurt companies such as Wolf/Ritz Camera. And that, coupled with the poor economy, is the issue.

While most retailers have reported poor sales for this Holiday season, Amazon.com says it has had its best year ever. That alone speaks volumes.
12-29-2008, 11:01 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ed in GA Quote
The reality is that the internet itself is the primary cause that many 'Mom & Pop' camera stores are going out of business. They can't, or won't, compete with the pricing. Internet sales have also hurt companies such as Wolf/Ritz Camera. And that, coupled with the poor economy, is the issue.

While most retailers have reported poor sales for this Holiday season, Amazon.com says it has had its best year ever. That alone speaks volumes.
I don't know Ed. Maybe net sellers have hurt them some, but the B & M stores were slipping before in some areas. Tallahassee has the same B & M that has been in business for 50 or 60 years, they just don't do pentax unless you want to order at msrp. They also don't sell in used gear.

Ritz/Wolf/CameraWorld also have web stores which price things the same as their walking locations. However, their mall stores often have basic stuff.
12-29-2008, 11:09 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ed in GA Quote
The reality is that the internet itself is the primary cause that many 'Mom & Pop' camera stores are going out of business. They can't, or won't, compete with the pricing. Internet sales have also hurt companies such as Wolf/Ritz Camera. And that, coupled with the poor economy, is the issue.

While most retailers have reported poor sales for this Holiday season, Amazon.com says it has had its best year ever. That alone speaks volumes.
I think that a lot of the smaller stores are unwilling to respond to changes like the arrival of the Internet. Case in point: my local pro store (which looks like it'll go out of business before long) has a terrible website that never gets updated. Their pricing is all list price which often is completely out of line. I understand that they can't be expected to have the razor thin margins of online-only stores, but I really cannot justify paying a 30% or more premium to support the locals. I've asked several times if they've considered having a more active Internet presence, pricing a little more aggressively, maybe try to organize some events that might bring in business etc... nope, not interested. They're doing business like they did 20 years ago and are dying because of it.

Also, I suspect that film sales (and to a lesser extent paper and darkroom supplies) probably made these stores decent money in the past. With digital you don't have the same recurring revenue -- once you sell somebody an 8 gig SDHC card you probably won't see them needing one again.

I don't doubt that even if they tried hard the Internet is hurting their business bigtime, but I think that stores like these can still exist if they try to retool their business a little.

12-29-2008, 11:15 AM   #5
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Positive news

My local camera store is reporting a marked increase in sales during the holiday season. I was frankly shocked at the sales volume (I cannot divulge numbers). Let's just say they expanded into more floor area last year, and they could use a couple extra staff!! Their portrait and printing lab business is very, very brisk. They are close in terms of pricing to big chain electronic stores, but bring the valuable intangible: lots of experience to the counter for customers. Coupled with a generous return policy (30 days, IIRC), they are hard to beat.

It's nice to see this smaller chain bucking the trend by a lot...

Regards,
Marc

Last edited by Marc Langille; 12-29-2008 at 12:15 PM. Reason: typo, clarification
12-29-2008, 11:57 AM   #6
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When I worked in retail camera stores, it was photofinishing that kept the doors open. At some point, we had to install expensive photofinishing equipment to keep the print volume coming in, and so we adjusted our business method to one hour photofinishing, and we kept the doors open.
At some point, mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart, Costco and various grocery stores decided to move into the photofinishing business.
Since they were treating the picture business as a loss leader designed soley to bring people in the door, their prices were somewhat lower than what we were able to offer and stay profitable. The first mass market lab in my area was a Superstore grocery store, priced at about 50% of what we were selling printing for.

That put a lot of us out of business, especially the full service camera stores that had expensive slower moving stock. It didn't help us that the grocery store was also selling cameras at below our cost as well.

Anyway, the customers of the day decided that they didn't want camera stores, and they voted with their wallets, taking their business to the cheapest place in town.
And so we closed shop.
As did three other camera stores in my city.

At some point, along came the internet, and online shopping. That kicked the crap out of the few stores that were left, as people decided that they would rather shop online from B&H, save a few dollars, and let the few remaining camera stores go out of business.

Digital is merely one of the last nails in a coffin which started being constructed some 20 years ago.

And now, people crab that they don't have access to real camera stores any longer.
You have access to exactly what you told the business world you wanted access to.
You wanted quick, cheap and dirty film processing done by store clerks rather than professional lab technicians.
And that is what you got.
You wanted the convenience of online ordering so that you wouldn't have to drag your sorry fat asses out of your chairs and talk to knowledgeable sales people.
And that is what you got.

You told us you didn't need us any longer, and now that we are mostly gone, you have the temerity to whinge about "inconvenience"?

Maybe you should have thought about that two decades ago when you hung us on the line to dry.

Last edited by Wheatfield; 12-29-2008 at 12:32 PM. Reason: bad wording
12-29-2008, 12:36 PM   #7
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I recently learned that the only "real" photography store in Knoxville, TN is in danger of closing down after 106 years of operation. I worked there a couple of summers during the early 80s while I was in college and the people were great. Unfortunately when your market is limited and the competition is worldwide it has to be hard to survive.

Thompson Photo fighting for survival

Knoxville is a long time behind me but I will still mourn the loss if Thompson's closes.

I buy local whenever possible, adding S&H costs and delivery delays to the comparison with the normally higher local cost. Local usually wins out for me IF what i want is available. Therin lies the rub though. Even pro camera stores cannot carry "everything" so I grudgingly run off to B&H. Hope my local brick-n-mortar (Ace Photo) weathers the storm.

Last edited by MRRiley; 12-29-2008 at 12:43 PM.
12-29-2008, 01:01 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
My local camera store is reporting a marked increase in sales during the holiday season. I was frankly shocked at the sales volume (I cannot divulge numbers). Let's just say they expanded into more floor area last year, and they could use a couple extra staff!! Their portrait and printing lab business is very, very brisk. They are close in terms of pricing to big chain electronic stores, but bring the valuable intangible: lots of experience to the counter for customers. Coupled with a generous return policy (30 days, IIRC), they are hard to beat.

It's nice to see this smaller chain bucking the trend by a lot...

Regards,
Marc
Does Collier's in Fayetteville still sell used gear?

12-29-2008, 01:04 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
. . .
And now, people crab that they don't have access to real camera stores any longer.
You have access to exactly what you told the business world you wanted access to.
You wanted quick, cheap and dirty film processing done by store clerks rather than professional lab technicians.
And that is what you got.
You wanted the convenience of online ordering so that you wouldn't have to drag your sorry fat asses out of your chairs and talk to knowledgeable sales people.
And that is what you got.

You told us you didn't need us any longer, and now that we are mostly gone, you have the temerity to whinge about "inconvenience"?

Maybe you should have thought about that two decades ago when you hung us on the line to dry.
Loyalty is a 2 way street. I don't pay MSRP for anything.
12-29-2008, 01:13 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
Does Collier's in Fayetteville still sell used gear?
AFAIK, yes they do. I suspect they wish to focus on print lab work only.
12-29-2008, 01:18 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
AFAIK, yes they do. I suspect they wish to focus on print lab work only.
I used to do a lot of business with them for slide development and custom prints back in the 90s. I also bought some used gear from them. I got one of my Pentax bellows and some taks from them.

Anyway, I wondered how they had faired.
12-29-2008, 01:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MRRiley Quote
I recently learned that the only "real" photography store in Knoxville, TN is in danger of closing down after 106 years of operation. I worked there a couple of summers during the early 80s while I was in college and the people were great. Unfortunately when your market is limited and the competition is worldwide it has to be hard to survive.

Thompson Photo fighting for survival

Knoxville is a long time behind me but I will still mourn the loss if Thompson's closes.

I buy local whenever possible, adding S&H costs and delivery delays to the comparison with the normally higher local cost. Local usually wins out for me IF what i want is available. Therin lies the rub though. Even pro camera stores cannot carry "everything" so I grudgingly run off to B&H. Hope my local brick-n-mortar (Ace Photo) weathers the storm.
I used to do a lot of business with Thomson's when I was in Knoxville. They are Collier's in Fayetteville, Ar counterpart.

At least with BH and Adorama, they are a B&M for some people.
12-29-2008, 01:25 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
At some point, mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart, Costco and various grocery stores decided to move into the photofinishing business.
Since they were treating the picture business as a loss leader designed soley to bring people in the door, their prices were somewhat lower than what we were able to offer and stay profitable. The first mass market lab in my area was a Superstore grocery store, priced at about 50% of what we were selling printing for.

That put a lot of us out of business, especially the full service camera stores that had expensive slower moving stock. It didn't help us that the grocery store was also selling cameras at below our cost as well.
Which is one of the main reasons why I don't shop at Wal-Mart. That and the fact there have been over 700 suits filed against them for shorting their employees pay.
12-29-2008, 01:31 PM   #14
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Technology has evolved a lot in the past 15 years. For example part of the problem is that the technology has also evolved to the point that slides are obsolete. 10 years ago, every presentation I made required 15 to 20 slides. Now, I do it all with PowerPoint and related software and lcd projector or a HUGE LCD monitor!!! That cut into stores like Collier's and Thompson's in Fayetteville and Knoxville in a major way. I certainly don't particularly want to go back to 2x2s.


Edit: Marc is up in the Ozarks and can walk in off the street in 4 or 5 locations and buy a K200D kit or K20d body for a competitive price. I can't do that in the State Capital of Florida because the local business either won't adapt or can't.
12-29-2008, 03:23 PM   #15
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Decent Camera Stores

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
My local camera store is reporting a marked increase in sales during the holiday season. I was frankly shocked at the sales volume (I cannot divulge numbers). Let's just say they expanded into more floor area last year, and they could use a couple extra staff!! Their portrait and printing lab business is very, very brisk. They are close in terms of pricing to big chain electronic stores, but bring the valuable intangible: lots of experience to the counter for customers. Coupled with a generous return policy (30 days, IIRC), they are hard to beat.

It's nice to see this smaller chain bucking the trend by a lot...

Regards,
Marc
My local chain of 9 stores advertises on radio and tv, targeted to male enthusiasts as well as soccer moms, stocks Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Samsung, Sony, Lowe Pro, Tamrac, Fuji, Promaster and Sigma and has a great used department - had a great selling season and is thriving. K2000's are flying out of the place.

@@Wheatfield, I understand and agree, but - here is part of the problem - my PC doesn't try to sell me something I don't want.

The salespeople at (redacted) make two passes at moving me to Canon every time I go in (which is fairly annoying). The third time I say Pentax I get what I want because I openly tell them I'll just order it online if they won't sell it to me.

Sometimes I just think the hell with it and sit on my (skinny) backside and order from B&H - BY TELEPHONE TO A PARTICULAR SALESMAN (I don't get that from Adorama) - just to avoid a drive to be told what I want and don't want.

Sometimes I don't want to wait for a (local) Special Order item B&H has in stock at a significantly lower price.

That being said, getting big enough to compete, but staying small enough to be personal seems to be an answer.
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