I live in small town America and I am opening up a store which will sell a limted amount of camera gear. Is it possible to compete with the internet these days? Does anyone have any wholesaler recommendations? Any help would be appreciated.
I am not a business owner, but as a consumer, living in a small town (<10000 people), I can tell you that I have seen many small businesses fail due to the inability to keep prices reasonable enough to convince locals to shop, well, 'locally'.
I prefer to give our local businesses the sale, but often times the pricing is so much higher, that it is usually cheaper for me to drive the extra distance to a nearby city and buy what I need there -or- use the Internet.
I also live in a small town. The small camera shop we have barely survives. Stores like Walmart have just about shut down most of the small places. They cannot compete with Walmart prices. If only it was about the quality of service then you would stand a chance, but it is not. Not to mention the large camera stores on the internet. Most of the comsumers in our area would not care about the quality of a camera they just want what is easy to get and cheap. Sad, but true. Good Luck. Monte Johnson
Well, the news doesn't seem good. Luckily I love a good challenge. I've been listening to the photography enthusiasts in my town (Grand Junction, CO) and I think providing solid customer service and knowledge for a reasonable price may work. We plan on offering a blend of services which will make us slightly different than a traditional camera store. We plan on offering the best rated cameras and equipment in each class (economy - luxury), and accessories that are often needed while on location (filters, cleaning supplies). This will be coupled with photo classes, excursions, a lending library, and fine art prints by local artists.
What services or products do you wish were immediately available in your town?
Thx for replying!
Fine art prints for sale probably won't do well in a camera store. But displaying prints (like a gallery show) of local customer photographers may increase the amount of business you get from the locals.
I live in a small town, also, with photo supplies and processing service limited to a couple of GenericMarts. So, what I would beg for here would be a full service processing operation: C41, E6, 35mm, medium and large formats; and a complete selection of all the equipment I need in stock, all the time.
OK, back to reality. Even if you could provide that kind of service for the locals, that's probably not what will keep you alive. I have a good friend who ran a similar shop in my last small town (Williams, AZ), and his bread and butter was doing one-hour processing for the tourists. It was seasonal, of course, as your business will be, but he did well enough to pretty much close down in the off seasons and even (hallelujah!) go out and do some photography of his own. There's another shop in Sedona that operates pretty much the same way, but they also carry a lot of things that tourists, and even some pros, either forget to bring or that get damaged: Lenses, filters, camera bags, tripods, etc.
These are options you may want to consider. Now, is there any possibility I can convince you to move to Crossville, TN, and save me a 150-mile round trip to Knoxville or Chattanooga for film and gear?
Hi 13 Photo,
Have you been in touch with any of the camera companies yet to ask them these same questions? You may find that they have minimum sales requirements and their pricing to you may be the same or nearly the same as what your customers can purchase cameras from New York, as an example.
One thing you might consider if this is not an option is to set up to scan and print 35mm prints for people. Other services such as scanned images to a disk. Printing digital images for people. Now there are places that do this, but if attention is paid to detail many people want quality for certain prints. Many services get from 30 to 40 cents a scan from negatives and slides. Also gives you a chance to display some of your own work. Small towns lack some of these services. Monte Johnson.
One basic concept is that you must offer something that mass sellers like B&H cannot. If you simply go head to head with them, thinking that your magnetic personality
and personalized service will motivate people to pay your inevitably higher prices, you will fail quickly. One business near me is Action Camera in Citrus Hts, CA (near Sacramento). The owner there hires young people of high quality and trains them to be extremely helpful. He can't retain them for more than a couple of years each but that is his cross to bear. He is also an expert repairman and will work on just about anything. His prices are fair and he guarantees his work. He is a Nikon specialist and seems to be able to buy from Nikon USA at low enough costs to be competitive with some internet outfits. He also runs a parking lot sale in his strip mall on a Sunday every April and October, no charge for space, first come, first serve.
Don't know if he makes a good living or not but he has survived for many years and his small store (less than 1000 square feet) is always busy. If business slows down he can always liquidate some of his collectible cameras. He has hundreds and many are outstanding examples and quite valuable. He draws his clientele from a metro area of nearly 2 million people and there is only one other real high quality camera store in town which is a much larger business than Action. My gut feeling is that you will have a very difficult time making it in a relatively small market
selling only photo gear and supplies. You must analyze gross profit dollars needed to at least break even and then figure out sales volume needed to produce that GP $ volume.
You'll probably come up with a GP number of around $100K to ssurvive the first year without any significant salary bucks going to anyone outside your immediate family and you'll need about $500,000 in sales to make the rent, pay utilities and insurance and to be able to take enough out to live. That's about $1700 a day. And that's a lot of rolls of 35mm film, or rolls processed, or digital point and shoots/accessories.
When I lived in the Albany, NY area, my favorite camera store was BERNS. They had stores in Albany, Schenectady and Troy. They offered complete services and lines of equipment and had really knowledgable people working there. When you bought a camera,the third generation Mr. Berns himself would conduct monthly classes or everyone who bought a camera from them.I heard that they were bought out by RITZ, 10+ yrs. ago.
Doesn't sound like there is a lot of encouragement out there. My Wife and I just sold our business in Overland Park, KS. and are moving to the four corners area of Colorado to open up another small business. Just remember that Grand Junction is a regional area service city. People travel for over a hundred miles to use the city services such as the hospital, airport, and shoping facilities. Remember to leave enough money for advertising in your budget. Network with the hotels, motels, and tourist areas. Just print flyers to leave with them giving a list of services. Remember I can't will never get you anywhere.
...I've been listening to the photography enthusiasts in my town (Grand Junction, CO) and I think providing solid customer service and knowledge for a reasonable price may work. We plan on offering a blend of services which will make us slightly different than a traditional camera store. We plan on offering the best rated cameras and equipment in each class (economy - luxury), and accessories that are often needed while on location (filters, cleaning supplies). This will be coupled with photo classes, excursions, a lending library, and fine art prints by local artists...
I wonder if you should change your focus -- from selling "camera stuff" and providing some extra services to "providing photo classes and excursions" and selling camera stuff on the side. It seems to me that the classes and excursions (esp. if you combined the 2 into photo workshops) would be perceived as having higher value than simply purchasing gear. The sales (of both film/digital media, processing, and accessories) could then complement the workshops/excursions.
A good knowlegable "photo guide" combined with some breathtaking scenics (which should exist in CO) would make for an awesome opportunity.