Retail Camera Stores, Why They Are In Trouble

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by SMS, Jun 2, 2006.

  1. SMS

    SMS Guest

    Today I went to Keeble & Shuchat, a large camera store in Palo Alto, CA,
    which is having their annual sale. I wanted to buy a Canon 70-300 IS
    lens. It would still be a little more expensive than B&H, but I could
    get it right away, and help out a local retailer.

    So I go up to the Canon counter. There are four people behind the
    counter, and I'm the only customer. I can't get their attention, as they
    are far too busy in a gab-fest. I go over to the ad posted in the
    window, find the phone number, and call the store from inside the store,
    asking if this lens is available. I can hear the phone ring from where
    I'm standing. They tell me to hold, and they make an announcement over
    the PA for the Canon department to pick up. The four people behind the
    counter, still gabbing away, ignore the announcement (I waited about
    three minutes for someone to pick up). I call back, and this time I
    think the owner picks up, and he walks over to the Canon counter and
    comes back to inform me that they don't have that lens in stock.

    A nice waste of about an hour, and about $3 worth of gasoline.
    SMS, Jun 2, 2006
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  2. SMS

    Dave Guest

    I would call the store and ask to speak to the manager (or owner). Tell them
    what you said here. Years ago, I went into that same store to "look around".
    Not one sales person asked me if I needed any help. I didn't care at the
    time because I didn't need any help. But, if I was there to make a purchase
    I would not have gone un-noticed.

    The business world is very competitive and I am surprised at the way some
    stores allow less than helpful sales people work at their stores. You go to
    a car dealership and they sales people chase you all over the lot. You go to
    a McDonald's drive-through and you don't even get a "Thank you come again".
    Dave, Jun 2, 2006
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  3. SMS

    Bob Salomon Guest

    Did you try around the corner at Bear Images?
    Bob Salomon, Jun 2, 2006
  4. SMS

    JohnR66 Guest

    I gave up on local camera stores for a few reasons.

    Prices for lenses are way out of line. They sell what I call third party
    lenses for more than what the camera brand costs at places such as B&H. One
    wide angle Tamron lens I was looking at cost $250 more than at B&H. I can
    undertand $50 more for a $600 lens, but $250?

    Selection is poor. Obviously smaller shops can't carry a complete array of
    lenses. Many have only 4 or so lenses that fit a particular SLR lensmount.
    They said they could order a lens, but $1,600 for the Canon 300mm F4 IS L? I
    bought it brand new from KEH, shipped for under $1,200 last year. No taxes
    on these larger orders is a big plus as well.

    Many local chains banter how well their quality is with prints, but I often
    get prints back that are slightly blurry. I got better quality from a large
    discount store at nearly half the price. An 8x10 was less than half the

    I was sad to see a single owned store front close earlier this year. They
    had a far better selection of goods. The owner said, "Digital has not been
    kind to us. It is hard to compete when every discount chain carries digital
    cameras and SLRs." They hung on for three years before folding. They had
    been in business for nearly a century.

    JohnR66, Jun 2, 2006
  5. SMS

    Mark² Guest

    This last bit is a very good point, and one I think many of us forget (me
    In the days of film dominance, it was NOT the norm to see a huge selection
    of film cameras at diescount and electronics stores like Fry's, Circuit
    City, CompUSA, and office stores. Now, you see digital cameras literally
    EVERYWHERE, and this means camera stores not only have huge internet
    competition, but also big competition all over the city. The local stores
    that are still fairly strong around here clearly market to the upper
    end/professional customers, although they do stock the lesser models too.

    I just stopped by a local store to buy some items for my trip to Ukraine,
    and the guy noticed my new 5D. Somehow B&H came up in the conversation, and
    he said that B&H sells many items for less than his store can get it
    wholesale...saying that B&H gets special deals unavailable to most store due
    to their HUGE volume. I have no doubt that this is true. Its tough to
    compete with. I ended up spending about $500 there...well over what B&H
    would have charged me, but somehow it didn't bother me so much. :)

    I'm a big B&H fan and buy 95% of my stuff from them, but I am also happy to
    support the local guys--especially those (like this one) who still provide
    excellent service and a quality in-store experience.

    Mark², Jun 2, 2006
  6. SMS

    editor Guest

    Retail camera stores are in trouble because they no longer can count
    on years of following film and processing sales from every sale of a
    camera. They also can't outbid eBay - and Web retailers - for prices
    on cameras, lenses, and accessories, either.

    No $4 to park! No $6 admission!
    editor, Jun 2, 2006
  7. I suspect that it's been a common thing to see in that store for quite
    some time, it's not limited to that type of business either. My
    "local" store of choice is Cameta Camera and they're certainly not
    headed in that direction. Service and price are excellent and they've
    adapted to the changes in tha nature of their business by building a
    huge ebay business. They have the best of both worlds. They're also
    within walking distance of another local shop, Berger Brothers, which
    is still doing well.
    Peter A. Stavrakoglou, Jun 2, 2006
  8. SMS

    tomm42 Guest

    We had a great local store here, was competitive on pricing, but not
    the cheapest, stiil competitive. They had full service b&W processing
    etc. He was first in White River Junction VT, but most high ticket
    stores in the area were in New Hampshire, Vermont sales tax = 7%, New
    Hampshire sales tax = 0%. For years this store operated, could always
    get the cameras the photographers in the area needed, carried the right
    film etc. Walmart and Best Buy show up he finally moves to a nicer
    place in New Hampshire and thinks he can compete, but film and
    processing business has all but dried up, and he finds he can't compete
    on camera sales alone, diversity helps. Especially when on when a sales
    flyer comes out, people go to his store to handle the camera without
    some theft proof device attached, then buy the camera at Best Buy cause
    it is $10 cheaper. Now I have no place to develop B&W to specs, have to
    buy film, cameras etc from B&H.
    Now I have noticed the E6 processor in the area has layed off most of
    his staff, I'm no help cause I shoot 9/10 digital, but I do need him
    for occasional slide roll I do.

    tomm42, Jun 2, 2006
  9. SMS

    Isaiah Beard Guest

    There's one important difference in your comparison: commission. The
    sales person at the car lot will get a paycheck that's directly
    proportionate to how many cars he sells, so he is VERY motivated to sell
    you a car. The McDonald's employee is paid the same miniscule amount,
    regardless of whether he or she sells a zillion hamburgers, or hardly
    rings up a sale.

    The camera shop may very well pay their employees a commission or bonus
    based on sales performance, hence there's little incentive to help.

    Working on commission has its own drawbacks, however. Going back to the
    car dealership scenario: you might just want a simple but reliable
    car. But the sales rep knows that that basic no-nonsense car has a low
    profit margin and he won't get paid as much for selling it. He DOES
    know that he'll get a big fat paycheck if he can convince you by any
    means possible, to buy the gas guzzling, grotesquely-sized, feature
    loaded SUV that's selling at an extremely high profit margin. He
    doesn't care if you can't really need or even afford it; if he can
    convince you that you WANT it, and can get you to sign on the dotted
    line and drive it off the lot, then whether you really need it is your
    problem, and whether you can really pay for it or not is now a problem
    between you and the bank.

    Additionally, he knows he'll get MAJOR bonuses for selling you things
    like extended warranties, window etching, pin striping, and "paint
    sealant" - all things that are of dubious value, may already come with
    the car whether you pay extra for it or not, and are probably not worth
    the purchase price. If he can coax you to spend more, he gets paid more.

    At camera shops, I've seen both extremes: customer reps who won't help
    you because there's nothing in for them, and customer reps who are stuck
    to you like glue even when you haven't made up your mind, won't stop
    hounding you to buy the more expensive camera or to get these
    accessories RIGHT NOW, and then feed you doom & gloom about how your
    cameras will break if you don't buy the service contract that has so
    many legal loopholes in it it may be of no real value. I once had to
    decline an extended warranty five times repeatedly, and then threatened
    to walk out without buying anything at all if the sales rep didn't drop
    the matter. Incidentally, that camera has outlived what the life of the
    extended warranty would have been.

    Personally, if I'm met with either extreme, then I have no sympathy for
    the shop in question if it goes under. I'm more than happy to give
    local businesses a chance, but if they make the experience more of a
    hassle than it needs to be, I'll just buy it online for cheaper.
    Isaiah Beard, Jun 2, 2006
  10. SMS

    Bob Salomon Guest

    There is one point that is being overlooked.

    As the OP stated this was a dealer show. The dealer invites various
    suppliers to participate in the show and help man the counters in the
    store. It is very possible that not one of the 4 people behind the
    counter at that time when the OP was there was a K&S employee. More
    likely they were company reps or tech reps or independent reps just
    supplying manpower.
    Bob Salomon, Jun 2, 2006
  11. SMS

    Guest Guest

    Been a *problem* for years....

    "Terry Shuchat , December 20, 1999; 01:21 P.M.
    I am the owner of Keeble and Shuchat. I appreciate the positive
    comments. As to negative comments please give me a call at 650-327-8996
    and give me an opportunity to correct our problems. I am here most of
    the time and would like the opportunity to undo problems here. Thanks
    to everyone who shops here. We try to have a very complete inventory
    and comeptitive prices as well as a knowledgeable sales staff. I
    realize that we can not alway keep everyone happy but would like the
    opportunity to do so. Thanks--Terry Shuchat "
    Guest, Jun 2, 2006
  12. SMS

    J. Clarke Guest

    Where did he say "dealer show"? He said it was their "annual sale".
    Which then reflects badly on whoever they work for.
    J. Clarke, Jun 3, 2006
  13. SMS

    editor Guest

    The number of bricks-and-mortar retailers that will be able to
    SURVIVE as Internet retailers is quite small. Previously, they had
    survived because they really were only competing with the other
    bricks-and-mortar stores in their own locality. How many will be able
    to survive when they are competing with every other no-service Internet
    retailer from Boston to Boise? (And how many in high-cost locations
    like Boston can outcompete Internet retailers based in nil-cost places
    like Boise?)

    No $6 admission!
    editor, Jun 3, 2006
  14. SMS

    Bob Salomon Guest

    He said who the dealer was. It was their annual show.
    Bob Salomon, Jun 3, 2006
  15. SMS

    EF in FLA Guest

    So I go up to the Canon counter. There are four people behind the counter,
    Hmmm, your story is suspect. A nice loud HELLO! wouldn't have done the

    EF in FLA, Jun 3, 2006
  16. SMS

    J. Clarke Guest

    The words he used were "annual sale". He didn't say anything about a
    J. Clarke, Jun 3, 2006
  17. SMS

    J. Clarke Guest

    I can give you two examples of brick and mortar retailers that have
    transitioned nicely to the Internet--B&H Photo and Coastal Tool. Both
    manage to combine very competitive prices with excellent service. And it's
    interesting that both are in what could be considered to be "high cost

    On the other hand, I wanted to compare a couple of tripods the other day and
    by the time I'd found stores that had examples of each in stock and found
    both and paid for downtown parking and whatnot I'd have been both time and
    money ahead to take the train to NYC.
    J. Clarke, Jun 3, 2006
  18. SMS

    J. Clarke Guest

    Being a long haired freaky type, I usually have a few rubber bands in my
    pocket for hair-restraining purposes. They are also sometimes efficacious
    in obtaining the attention of unobservant staff.

    A Steve Martinesque "EXCUUUUUSE *ME*" however is usually sufficient.

    Standing on the counter and unzipping one's fly is generally to be reserved
    for the most recalcitrant of clerks.
    J. Clarke, Jun 3, 2006
  19. SMS

    SMS Guest

    At all the dealers I've ever bought cars at, the worthless-add-ons are
    sold in the finance department, whether or not you're financing; the
    salesperson has nothing to do with them. OEM accessories are often sold
    by the salesperson.
    That's how I feel. I'm less willing to even bother with a local store
    these days, as the chance that they even have what I want in stock is
    small, and with gas at $3.18 a gallon, I'm not driving around town,
    though I could always call them first.
    SMS, Jun 3, 2006
  20. SMS

    SMS Guest

    At least two of the people were store employees, and at least one was
    Canon representative. Not sure about the fourth. The store was full of
    reps that day, including one from Sigma, some from Nikon, some from
    Canon, and some from Olympus. The E330 is pretty cool for someone that
    insists on live preview.
    SMS, Jun 3, 2006
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