Distributor Levels Field For Independent Lab Owners
by Mike Antoniak
In such an atmosphere, lab owners need all the help they can get, as every dollar saved, every new sales and service opportunity, and every market insight gained can help secure their future in the digital realm. International Supplies (www.internationalsupplies.com), a CA-based national distributor of photographic and digital equipment and supplies, aims to be their partner in reading and responding to the trends shaping the imaging marketplace.
Compete and Win
Since International Supplies serves a large customer base that gives it formidable buying power, the company is able to pass along savings on hardware and supplies that level the playing field between independents and their largest competitors. "Leverage your buying power with us," International Supplies invites lab and minilab owners. "Compete with the big guys and win."
"What we give to our customers is the benefit of taking advantage of huge buying power," says International Supplies spokesman and president of Imageologists Andrew Goggin. "Because of the volume we do, we have enough buying power to give them access to the same kind of pricing their biggest competitors get," he explains. "And with that, we can also offer them the convenience of one-stop shopping for all their photographic and digital needs."
Indeed, International Supplies handles a range of goods from some of the biggest name in the imaging industry, including: Kodak, Fuji, Polaroid, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Minolta, Olympus, Epson, Imacon, Contex Scanning Technology, Lexar, and Microtech, as well as supplies from Fuji, Fuji-Hunt, Polaroid and Oriental Papers. The products it handles include photographic film, paper, chemistry, batteries, digital equipment, accessories, and small- and large-format media.
Film Came First
International Supplies began in 1984 as a distributor of film and related products. Over the years, the company has evolved with the changing needs of its customers to become a much more diversified business, with a presence in both the photographic and digital markets.
Today it employs a staff of more than 60, as well as a network of independent regional sales reps. They service a diverse customer base made up of thousands of labs, photographers and studios throughout the U.S. Minimum order, is $100, with prepaid shipping on orders of $500 or more. Customers can combine products as needed to reach these amounts.
The contact with photographers and studios through Imageologists provides company officials with insight into the changing needs of clients as well as the market changes that can bring new service opportunities for lab owners.
"The popularity of digital cameras and the capabilities of digital printing are making life much easier today for some photographers," observes Goggin. "With a unit like Fuji's Pictography printer and Epson ProStylus 7600, they can pretty much function as their own lab," he notes.
This is not necessarily the threat it may first seem to the traditional lab business, he adds. Goggin notes these are not steps every photographer is taking or wants to take, even if the photographer is investing in a digital camera. "For the guy who is new to digital, or who doesn't want the responsibility of printing or using hardware and software, it can mean real opportunity for the lab. These customers can actually need the lab services more than any time in the past because there's much more you can do with a digital file once it's captured."
Be All You Can Be
His advice to lab owners is to embrace the technology and carry the message of all you can do with their digital files to all consumers and photographers. "The people who have gotten into digital, and who understand what can be done with a digital image once its captured, will respond when you let them know you are prepared to deliver the whole range of digital services," he says.
At the same time, the digital novice will gladly turn over their images for results they don't know how to achieve on their own. "Those who have little or no knowledge of computers can also be an ideal candidate for the smaller lab."
There are other opportunities in hardware and accessories which can be turned into new profit centers. Goggin cites the large-format scanning capabilities of the Contex Cougar, Chroma and Magnum scanners as an example.
"These give the labs faster scanners which can handle much larger originals, from 24- to 50- inches, than they may have been able to work with in the past," Goggin notes. He suggests lab owners who invest in the equipment can promote their capabilities as an easy and affordable solution for creating digital file versions of large-format print work.
The best advice, though, may be rooted in International Supplies' own winning strategy. "We try to do the things that build long-term relationships with our customers by consistently working to understand their needs in a changing market," Goggin concludes.