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The Big Get Bigger, or Do They? The Changing Face of the Photo Specialty Channel

September 11, 2012 By Gary Pageau
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And, the recent announcement that Kodak is now searching for a buyer for its Personalized Imaging division, which includes film, paper and kiosks, only adds uncertainty to the mix.

The point of this article is not to paint a doom-and-gloom picture but to point out how things have changed in a short time. In fact, many specialty storeowners are confiding they are having good, if not great, results this year. Photography has never been more popular with more people, thanks to photo apps on smartphones and to great new hardware like mirrorless compact system cameras.

Smart retailers adapt to conditions; this has always been true. The successful photo specialty stores have effectively emphasized what makes them unlike the chain stores—personal service, hands-on classes and events, and local community involvement—while de-emphasizing similarities to their big-box and online competitors.

The key for successful photo stores to thrive will be to wean themselves off of the brand names in favor of their own. Back in the days of free-flowing co-op, it was beneficial for retailers to use the manufacturers’ marketing dollars for TV, newspaper and Yellow Pages ads. Now, in the age of websites, social media and YouTube, it’s to the benefit of retailers to promote their own local brands, with manufacturers’ brands being more of an ingredient. With most camera makers now selling direct and/or allotting hot-selling products first to online and chain retailers, this makes sense.

Over the long term, this will improve the situation for manufacturers and distributors, as well. A vibrant independent photo specialty channel can complement a brand’s marketing efforts, as well as provide more opportunities for consumers across all levels of the value chain.

Gary Pageau is the former publisher of PMA magazine at PMA International. He is currently with InfoCircle Content Marketing Services.



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