Category Continues to Expand
By Diane Berkenfeld
In these dizzying times we wake to today, it's easy to forget the old expression, "Slow and steady wins the race." Well, if you've been in the SLR biz for any length of time you know that that expression perfectly captures that category's continued growth in the face of all that is digital.
The SLR category has shown a surprising strength in the past few years in particular, even as digital takes a secure hold of market share. In the last 12 months alone, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Contax and Pentax have introduced new SLR systems. The cameras from those five companies join those already available by Leica, Olympus, Yashica, Phoenix, Vivitar and Sigma. This month, Minolta introduced the newest addition to its successful Maxxum line.
HOW TO ACCESSORIZE
We poked around photo retail a bit lately and chatted with photo folks about the art of selling SLR accessories. Certainly, it's no news flash to our readership that the sale of an SLR camera opens up several doors for additional accessory sales. What follows is a compilation of their thoughts.
The well prepared photographer's gear bag is busting at the seams - full of cameras and accessories, film and batteries. Many of your customers are advanced hobbyists or pros who know just what they want to buy upon entering your store. Others have little or no knowledge of the different components that make up an SLR system, from the variety of accessories available for specific types of photography to the basic lens and/or flash to accompany their first SLR body. As a retailer, you must educate these people as to what is available and what is possible so they know where to come when they are ready to upgrade their camera systems.
When a customer purchases a new camera, they will need batteries and film. These are two items that should be offered for sale. Perhaps you can provide the first roll free with the camera's purchase. This inexpensive offering can go a long way in making a customer feel more important than just another sale.
When a customer purchases a new lens, NEVER let them walk out the door without a UV or Skylight filter to protect the front element of the lens. This should be an easy sale, and at the same time inform your customer about the variety of artistic and corrective filters that you carry.
When you sell a high drain item such as an electronic flash, make sure to offer extra batteries. Suggest rechargeables or even battery packs.
For your customers who walk in with their cameras dangling from a neck strap, suggest a bag to protect their expensive investment.
Talk to your customers about their photography. Could they benefit from a tripod? How about a book - from basic photography to specific topics, a myriad of instructional guides are in print.
These add-on sales do add up. You don't need pressure tactics, just remember your customers look to you for your experience and knowledge.
According to Richard LoPinto, VP, SLR Camera Systems, 35mm, APS and Pro Digital, Nikon, Inc., "Nikon is very excited about the resurgence of the SLR category." Echoing that positive energy, retailer Joel Paymer, of CameraLand in Manhattan, NY points out that SLR sales are substantially ahead of where they were last year. For the year 2000, 1.4 million SLRs were sold in the United States.
Many in the industry are of the opinion that the film based photographer and digital based photographer are two distinct consumer groups, which sometimes merge but won't be pushing the other off the map anytime soon. According to Nikon's LoPinto, "Customers typically consider the merits of choosing either a 35mm or digital model, and more often they decide to use both. Jon Sienkiewicz, Vice President of Digital Imaging for Minolta's Consumer Products Group concurs. Digital camera users buy a camera for its benefits whereas film users have different purposes. Digital SLRs are a viable category itself, but most are still out of the average consumer's price range. The occasional photographer, even advanced amateur or pro can buy a film SLR at a more reasonable price than a digital SLR. Film based SLRs offer consumers a wide variety of product at different price points. One of the biggest selling points to an SLR camera is the flexibility afforded the user. Upgrading can be accomplished at the user's pace, for complete customization. Adding lenses, flashes, and other interchangeable accessories can prove to be a lifetime's worth of sales to your SLR customer. According to Paymer, "Customers come to a photo specialty store because the salespeople are knowledgeable and can help them through the life of the purchase." By selling your customer what he needs, not overselling or underselling, you build a relationship. When a customer comes in to purchase a body and lens, don't push an entire system on them. "If the relationship is there," Paymer says, "the customers will keep coming back to you."
A number of exciting new features have popped up in recent SLR debuts including the built-in, pop-up flash. This feature, normally found on point-and-shoots, has found its way into the majority of manufacturer's SLR lines.
The LCD display on the rear of the Maxxum 7 body incorporates technology from digital as does the tethered LCD display for the Contax N1.