"Gateway" Imaging Products Deserve More Respect
by Gary Carleton, president and CEO, Vivitar Corporation
Photo specialty retailers who overlook affordable "gateway" imaging products are overlooking a great opportunity to develop valuable long-term customers. It is well known that the future of our industry is dependent upon the development of new imagers (formerly known as photographers), especially the younger generation. The new imager usually starts with a gateway product, quite often as a gift. Many of these novices then fall in love with picture taking and become motivated to upgrade their cameras for more advanced models with more features.
For a case in point, just look at how well we have done with gateway imaging products. Since 1980, we've sold nearly 100,000,000 35mm cameras in the United States, all of them reloadable with 35mm film. Not to toot our own horn—because there are other companies out there in the same category—but our products have provided the opportunity for millions of consumers to capture and preserve their special moments. And once they've been introduced to the power and fun of imaging, these customers will come back to your store for more.
The price range of gateway products is also, of course, a strong selling point. In our case, we sell at all levels of affordability, rendering appreciative results even for consumers who may not have the income to afford more expensive advanced equipment. Consequently, our products and the customers who use them have contributed significantly to the rolls of film sold and the number of prints made in photo specialty shops over the past 22 years.
But that's not the whole story. When we launched the first Series I 70-210 zoom lens, we believe it inspired millions of consumers to purchase and use single lens reflex cameras during their heyday. We launched the 283 and 285 electronic flash units for 35mm SLR cameras more than 30 years ago and we are proud to boast that we continue to make and sell these tier 1 popular models. Add the millions of binoculars, tripods and other accessories we offer to the list and we believe that it's difficult to find a household that has not purchased and enjoyed a Vivitar product. All that translates into selling power in photo specialty.
Furthermore, companies like ours have kept up with the times and with consumer tastes. Today we are deeply involved in the digital imaging world with a strong range of cameras. We will add many accessories such as flash units and battery packs to our line in the coming months. All will provide the same ease of use and value prices to the end users as our 35mm cameras and accessories. Because our digital camera range is extensive—with a variety of styles, features and price points—our appeal is broad based.
Vivitar is a company that has always believed we must develop and produce imaging products that are affordable, stylish and easy to use. The photo specialty retailer would be wise to take full advantage of our dealer program that will give his customer great value and choice. While our major thrust is expanding our selection of digital imaging products, we will continue to produce affordable 35mm manual focus single lens cameras and high quality, low cost 35mm slide projectors for years to come.
Photo specialty retailers have often criticized Vivitar for being discount or department store driven. That's unfair and short-sighted because Vivitar has proven successful in developing and sourcing state of the art products at good value prices that provide the retailer with a favorable return. Why shouldn't the photo specialty retailer enjoy the same benefits? It is my desire to gain a bigger portfolio in the photo specialist's store because I know that our quality and performance rivals the best and is a considerably better value to the consumer.
What sets our company apart from the rest of the pack is that the American consumer is very much aware of the Vivitar brand, which we feel stands out among other gateway products. I firmly believe that one of the things that draws consumers to Vivitar is that they trust us and are comfortable with the products. Finally, ease of use has always been a strong criterion of product development at our company. Most importantly for the retailer, it is ease of use that gets the end user interested and keeps him involved. It also keeps him buying.
We believe we have the right formula for promoting the imaging hobby. We want to encourage the photo specialty retailer to recognize and appreciate all the benefits they can derive from our experience.The millions of satisfied Vivitar customers overwhelmingly confirm my belief. Why don't you? Together we can grow the number of active photo imagers who in turn will keep our industry growing well into the future. As the saying goes: don't knock it until you've tried it. With our gateway imaging products, we believe that once they've tried it, they'll keep coming back for more.
Richard Lewin is a digital photographer and consultant in the digital imaging industry. For 32 years Lewin was the former operator of New York City's Jay Dee Camera. He can be reached by email at Soniboy@aol.com