Magazine Article


It's More Than Just the Picture

It's More Than Just the Picture

If You Want to Work Together as a Team, Then Try Not to Blame Your Teammates

by Joel Paymer

PTN recently published a Sound Off column (October 2002) that claimed "the center of everything is the picture." In the piece, the author seemed to place the blame on manufacturers for the industry's ills, taking them to task for supposedly forgetting about the photo specialty dealer. In response to that column, I think the author is representative of too many dealers who feel they can blame the manufacturer for all the retailer's problems. At many conventions I attend you hear too many dealers refer to manufacturers as "the enemy." Grow up people and stop griping about it! The first thing I was taught 20 years ago when I entered this great industry was to treat the reps and the manufacturers as your partners.

The Olympus camera that the Sound Off author made a disparaging reference tothe C211was a great idea. Sure it wasn't small, but the concept was terrific. We sold them and a lot of film along with them. (I don't think golf had anything to do with the design of the camera, as was suggested in the column.) If manufacturers want to release a new product, let them. It causes excitement. When Minolta replaced the Dimage 7 with the 7i, people traded in their old ones for new ones. People flipped over the Dimage X. I took one to a party and everyone wanted to know what it was. We need new products, constantly!

Yes, we needed to have the Canon Powershot 200 replace the 110. If it's newer, it's better in the consumers' eyes. Thank you Nikon for releasing the 5700 after the 5000 was out for 4 months. People traded up. Did the world need a Coolpix 3500, 4300 and 4500? You bet! It rings the register. It creates excitement.

The author was right about the fact that it's all about pictures. He seems to have forgotten, however, that the average American gets bored easily and needs to be stimulated with hot new cameras and products. People like to show off their new "toys" almost as much as they like to show off their pictures.

Along with new products, the key is to get your customers to print out their images. Put a hot new kiosk in your store. Have your employees talk it up. Our ASF Digital PIC kiosk has a line from 7:30 in the morning to closing every day. People actually call to make appointments to come over to use it. We talk up the prints from digital files from the minute we start selling the camera.

Pentaxgive us a new camera that people will ask for so we can talk about the prints as we sell your camera. Fujicome out with that new film so everyone rushes in to try it. Kodakcome up with a new feature on the Picture Maker to draw people in. Yashicayou guys were great in naming the new zoom the T4 zoom. People are buying them like hotcakes. I thank you.

I'm greedyI want it all. More products...more manufacturer support...more of a team effort. Besides our landlord, the manufacturers are Camera Land's partners. We work together to grow our business. And you know what, it's even nicer to talk strategy looking at a birdie putt on a 500-yard par 5, than in an office.

Do the manufacturers need the big box stores? Sure they do, so don't gripe about it. This is reality. But they need photo specialty as well. This is proven every time they come out with a new high-end lens, 3-megapixel or higher camera, new flashes or any other accessory you can add on to a sale. If the manufacturers did not care about the photo specialty channel then the PRO (Photographic Research Organization) group would not be growing every year.

I know some people don't want to hear this, but many dealers are in business despite themselves. When was the last time anyone reading this attended a PMA division meeting? There are 84,314 total retail operations in the United States that offer some type of photo service, yet the average attendance at a divisional meeting is about 50 people. In our division we get about 75, with more than half suppliers. The same retailers always attend. I guess the others either "know it all" already or can't get away from their going-out-of-business sales. There has not been a meeting I have gone to yet where I did not take something back. Perhaps the best recent meeting featured Bill McCurry, who discussed "what's in it for me?" Think about that when you are trying to close a sale and put yourself in the customer's shoes.

Teamwork, partnerships, one hand washing the other and both washing the face. That is what retailing is all about. We have to work together with the manufacturers to promote our industry. Stop complaining about small allocations from one manufacturer when in the previous breath you tell your sales help to push their competitor's products. So you can't get the advanced system product now? Then try again later. There is no blackball list in the photo industry. For the record, I respect the 35 years the Sound Off author has spent in the photo industry and the efforts he has made to get the dealers involved. But let's work as a team and not blame our teammates. ptn

Joel Paymer has been in the photo industry since 1982 and is a partner at Camera Land in Manhattan. He is a trustee of PMAI and is the past president and territorial vice-president of the NY/NJ PMA Division. He is the past president of Photo Guild of NY, past board member of the PRO Buying Group and a current foundation board member of United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County and co-chair of UCP Nassau and Juvenile Diabetes Golf Outings.

Do you have an industry issue you would like to "Sound Off" about? Then contact PTN Editor Dan Havlik at 631-845-2700, ext. 360, or via email at, and submit your idea today. Remember what they say about opinions? Everybody's got one. . .