At one time Harry owned three camera stores in the suburbs of Philadelphia but has since sold them to employees and devotes his full time to running T & C with his wife, Peggy, serving as secretary-treasurer.
Harry makes the deals for T & C and members buy directly from the vendors at the negotiated price. Harry claims he has arrangements with 60 vendors and that the group generates purchases in excess of $15 million. "Our role is to get a better deal for our members than they can get for themselves," he said.
How good are Harry's deals? It depends on the supplier. One member told me that with his first order for Agfa paper he more than paid for his entire year's group dues. Apparently Noteworthy Photo Envelope is another big supplier to T & C. Harry said that the firm designed an exclusive four-color graphic for members that allows for store imprint.
On the first Thursday in October, every year, T & C conducts a one-day trade show at which vendors pitch their wares and their deals. Harry refers to the shindig as a "big buying frenzy."
T & C is open for new membership and has a website (www.tcphotodn.com) that not only lists benefits of membership but includes a two-page application/survey form. There are no financial requirements for membership, according to Harry. Dues are shown to be $500 initiation and $400 annually. (The $400 pays for 10 dinner meetings the group holds at the Old Mill Inn, Hatboro, PA.) Anyone interested in learning more about the group can visit its PMA booth #2252 or call Harry at the show on his cell phone at 215-208-6280.Jim Haugen
Buck Rogers Group—
By Invitation Only
One of the more intriguing groups within the industry is Buck's NPG Group, informally known as the Buck Rogers Group.
This is a group of 35 (limited to that number by its bylaws) that one member, Michael St. Germain, Concord Camera, Concord, NH, describes as a think tank within the photographic industry. Originally, there were two separate groups, Buck's and NPG, made up primarily of photographic wholesalers, according to Michael, and as that segment of the industry gradually evaporated the organizations merged in 2000 to become one dominated by highly successful photo specialists.
While some groups or individuals within the industry fight to keep a high profile, this group operates somewhat below the radar. Within the industry, top executives generally refer to the Buck Rogers Group in whispers and refuse to discuss any of its relationships.
Nor is their membership list available, though many are often the leaders of various industry activities and whose quotes are frequently used in connection with industry matters. Those that we can name are its present chair, Jim Haugen, president of Crown Image, Everett, WA, and Kirk Sidley, Picture Perfect, Portland, OR, who is the current president of PMA.
Michael, a past Buck Rogers chair, said that the group meets twice a year, January and June, and that the focus of the meeting is a discussion of trends within the industry. "We try to get a better understanding of what is happening in the retail marketplace and try to predict what the future may bring."
He said the group operates on a basis of trust and that everyone at the meeting knows the details of everyone else's business. Is there a concern that one member might hold back for fear of revealing too much to a competitor? "Our biggest competition is not with other retailers, but where the consumer's disposable dollars are going." "We've got to think of ourselves not as photo dealers, but as retail merchants."
Top executives of manufacturers are sometimes invited to meetings to participate in discussions with the members. However, according to St. Germain, we are definitely not a buying group and no deals are made with vendors on behalf of the group.
So you wanna be a member? Fugetaboutit. No need to apply. Membership is by invitation only and comes from internal recommendations of existing members.