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Imaging Distributor Update 2005: Adjusting to a Rapidly Changing Industry
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DBL also helps photo retailers to sell audio/video and home theater products, providing a retailer with more sales options. "With a one-stop-shop philosophy, DBL can offer customers interested in new business the opportunities from cameras to batteries to high-end home theater systems, plasma TV/monitors, DLP, LCD TVs and projectors," said Kuperman. "Again, the key is to sell accessories. Our customers will make more margin selling accessories, help their customer and have a rewarding customer experience."

Kuperman sees a convergence of technologies taking place in the future. "We'll continue to offer the end-of-life products that our customers depend upon, while incorporating new technologies," he said. "BlueTooth and Blu-ray are examples of integration of technology and consumer awareness."

Education at the Forefront
At The MAC Group, complex products create the need for more technical support. "We've increased our sales and marketing support efforts at all levels including educating the dealer on new technologies," said Lorenzo Gasperini, The MAC Group marketing manager. "We've also implemented extensive dealer and end-user educational programs to increase awareness of emerging technologies."

Gasperini added that digital technology has changed purchasing and stocking behavior for retailers, which furthers the need for support for distributors. "The type of support ranges from price protection, stock balancing, dealer inventory product upgrades, and similar product protection measures," he said. "These types of support measures have significant impact for the bottom line of many distributors and sales/marketing organizations."

When asked if the volatile nature of digital has slowed, sped up, or stayed the same in recent years, Gasperini responded that, "Consumer level digital cameras continue to move quickly in and out of the latest technologies. However, high-end professional DSLRs seem to have slowed down, as technical improvements seem less significant today as they were a year ago. I feel that digital products are making a steady development toward better quality, improved user interface, and improved user positive experience."

Down the road, "The MAC Group will continue to offer those tools that professional photographers need to produce professional quality images. As emerging technology continues to change the way we capture, send, show, and store images, we will continue to offer the products, education, and services necessary to meet the future challenges."

Accessories are the Key
Over at OmegaSatter, the company has changed dramatically in recent years from being primarily an enlarger manufacturer to a manufacturer/marketing company. "Because of the steady decline in darkroom business and the switch to digital, it was necessary to keep up with the times," said Michael Hullett, executive vice president for the Hampstead, Maryland company. "Also, because there are now fewer ‘camera stores' these days, the need for several distributors selling the same thing has diminished."

In fact, Hullet said OmegaSatter sees itself as different from a distributor. "Distributors act as a vehicle for dealers to get a variety of products from the same place. Marketing companies like OmegaSatter specialize in fewer, but more exclusive products and invest time and money in training, publicity, and advertising. Reps are vital in keeping dealers informed about what's new and important."

Considering digital has had a huge affect on photo retailers, Hullet said selling profitable accessories is a must. "The same was true before," he said, "film cameras also had low margins, but the dealers had a profit center of photofinishing they could rely upon. Until a clear habit is developed for consumers to print digital photos at a photo store, dealers will need to sell more accessories when selling digital cameras to make money."

Hullet thinks retailers offering audio/video and home theater products can buoy the bottom line. However, he commented that few retailers are "into these categories." "But I believe it is a natural path for dealers to explore. High-end AVH has a niche in specialty stores and because of their digital nature, have synergy with digital imaging."

Doing its Homework
Pete Richichi, executive VP at East Syracuse, New York-based WYNIT, also believes in the importance of accessories. A key role of the distributor is to help dealers understand how they can grow their businesses in a changing climate. For example, the consumer is turning to home printing," he said. "But that can be good news for dealers that sell those products, plus they can capitalize on the accessory market and inks and paper."

Although change is occurring at NASCAR-like speeds, "That's good news for dealers as long as they stay on top of the trends," he said. "A good distributor does a lot of that homework for them and serves as a sales consultant for them."

"In addition, our ability to provide the dealers with services that don't require them to maintain large inventories is a major benefit," he added. "Dealers can make good use of same-day shipping from us. That saves valuable space in their facilities, allowing them to carry a broader breadth of product. We also provide drop-ship capabilities."

Richichi is a big fan of retailers expanding their product offerings. "Our customers have heard us say for a number of years that they need to offer what customers want and are demanding. Here's a good example. Music stores learned to sell videos at the same time that video rental stores were learning to sell music (or at least music entertainment devices such as MP3 players)."


   







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