Bergen County Camera
Delivers Maximum Value for Soccer Moms, Executives & Pros
by Alice B. Miller
When BCC president and owner Tom Gramegna, a businessman with rock-n-roll in his soul, managed a photo store in the late '70s, he gleaned some valuable lessons. "I got the idea it would be really cool to form a camera store that's really good to its customers, has them as its first priority, and is also able to turn a profit." And succeed it has.
Doing It Right
Keeping the sales staff up-to-date from an equipment perspective-a must these days-is a snap, since most of them are photography buffs with a personal interest in staying on top of the newest products and technological advances. And from time to time, manufacturers' reps, including those from Nikon, Minolta, and Leica, provide training at BCC.
High on many customers' satisfaction lists are the way the sales staff tries to make some sense out of all the equipment that's available, by cutting it down to a "good, better, best" scenario. "Say you have three cameras that do similar things," explains Gramegna. "We'll show you something that's good at a particular price point, something a few steps up, and the best of the field."
BCC customers also give the store high marks for its product mix. Generally speaking, BCC tends to go with, as Gramegna describes it, "the cool, weird, and unusual-at the top end of things."
In addition to cameras by Leica, Contax, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Pentax, used equipment and binoculars are important at BCC, as are telescopes. Scanners by Minolta and Nikon and printers by Epson, Olympus, HP, and Canon also move quickly off the shelves.
Although they're not selling computers per se, they stock a lot of peripherals that go with any digital photography investment and have people on staff capable of advising customers as to their computer needs.
Delivering Maximum Value
Another part of the value equation is offering customers output options for their digital images. A Sony Picture Station, which local Sony execs arranged to have in the store, makes 4x6 prints, and draws steady customers.
Traffic at the store's Phogenix station, the dry inkjet minilab kiosk venture from Kodak and HP, had been terrific until the joint venture folded in mid-May. "These photographs, up to 12x18, were impressive," says Gramegna. "We had already decided to buy the machine whenever it became available. Our Kodak reps were fantastic, the best people I've ever worked with. They were as disappointed as we were when the plug was pulled. It's a shame this isn't going to come to market because it's a perfect output solution for us."
An interesting development that Gramegna sees is a new crop of customers who have no desire to play with pictures on the computer. They're interested in digital capture and that's it.
"Our new digital customers may not have the same level of technical involvement as the early adopters did," says Gramegna. "I think that's a good sign for our industry. More people are thinking of digital media like rolls of film. My traditional customers all ask about digital and I tell them the pros and cons. It's like taking George Eastman's words-'You push the button, we'll do the rest'-and bringing them into the 21st century."
The Fine Art of Marketing
"We have gallery openings after hours where customers can come and enjoy and purchase prints of lasting value." Recaps of previous shows and details on the high-end books they sell are posted on the company's website, www.bergencountycamera.com.
Even if you're not about to make a fine art purchase, take a few minutes to visit the BCC website. This "bulletin board" is chock full of equipment, training, and community offerings. Says Gramegna, "We want to expand the site so people can, at their leisure, pick through the products and services available to them. Right now there hasn't been a way for us to really do the 'value added' stuff on the Internet experience, so we've not gone live with e-commerce at this point."
The store's mail-order service fully captures the Bergen County Camera experience for its mail orders across the U.S. and abroad. "We have figured out a way to give people a kind of 'haircut and a shave' over the phone," says Gramegna. "It's like an interactive phone book ad, communicating our personality much better than any other advertising can."
BCC became a sponsor of WFUV-FM public radio three years ago because of Gramegna's personal support of the station. "It's interesting what happens in that environment. When an announcer's voice comes on and says, 'Bergen County Camera joins you in supporting WFUV,' it really stands out in the listener's mind because there obviously aren't any commercial announcements on the station. While the listener response has not been overwhelming, it consistently delivers the kind of people we like to have as customers. It's really the right demographic for us."