Magazine Article


Retailer Spotlight: Camera Land, NY, NY
Small-Town Camera Store in the Heart of the Big City

Joel Paymer, Arnold Rothstein, Ed Paymer, Doug Paymer
(l. to r.) Joel Paymer, Arnold Rothstein, Ed Paymer, Doug Paymer
Comfortable Workstations
Comfortable workstations and a knowledgeable staff are all integral to Camera Land’s philosophy of always putting the customer first.
Knowlegeable Staff
Camera Land Products
Because of Manhattan’s high rent, Camera Land has to be selective about its product and service offerings, to maximize every square inch of space.
Camera Land Products

It’s All About Photo, and Only Photo

The store offers a full range of photo-related products and services, as well as sports optics. Because they carry photo and sports optics only (no consumer electronics), it legitimizes Camera Land and sets it apart from all the tourist traps that dot the urban landscape of New York City. (Although, in the past Camera Land has stocked such consumer electronics products as camcorders, TVs, radios, and phones.) Another reason they don’t carry some of these products is that there’s a Staples nearby, and according to Joel, the prices at Staples are lower than the cost Camera Land would pay wholesale—making it impossible to compete. Rethinking the selection of product that’s stocked and sold is an ongoing task—you have to note trends and stay abreast of changes in the marketplace. “You just have to change with the times,” Joel says, explaining that if you oppose change, “you’re done.”

According to Joel, digital keeps taking over the store. He admits the margins on some of the products are good, but the amount of product (cameras and accessories) does take up space. Inkjet printers, for example, don’t move quickly, and the boxes are often bulky, and the margins are non-existant, but the store does well with paper and ink sales—the store recently added a floor-display unit for paper, inks, and printers.

In the short amount of time that Doug Paymer has been responsible for sports optics and internet sales, he’s grown both areas substantially. Camera Land’s successful sports optics sales is a great example of customer service going a long way to growing a loyal customer base. Doug immersed himself in online chat rooms and hunting groups and has become a resource for them in regards to product knowledge and troubleshooting, and they’re becoming loyal customers as well.

Camera Land used to have a used camera section, but with eBay, there’s no need for it anymore. By placing all the old, discontinued, dead merchandise that had previously just been taking up drawer or shelf space on eBay, Doug has cleaned out areas of the store, sold merchandise that wasn’t moving, and brought in additional revenue.

The Right Mix

Being a retailer in Manhattan brings with it the downside of high rent (though many areas around the country experience high rent costs). For Camera Land, it means that they have to be selective in their product/service mix. “With a limited amount of space, you have to pick and choose what you carry. You have to manage every square inch,” Joel explains. As much as they would like to take over the retail space next door, they make do with what they have.

The store has a website and there is some product offered online, with more to be added in the future, but Joel feels he doesn’t need to sell to the entire country. He’s happy with the business he does catering to the customers who walk into his store.

Camera Land has installed six kiosks, all Whitech Photo.Tellers—and they’re busy all day. “They keep offering new services, which helps our digital business grow,” says Joel. One is set up at the front counter, visible to customers as soon as they walk in the door, and the others are arranged as workstations in the rear of the store, with comfortable seating. Surrounding the kiosk workstations are the custom framing displays, as well as mats and smaller frames—reminders of what the store can offer its customers to display their newly printed images. As with everything else at Camera Land, the staff is willing and able to help customers with their print orders if necessary.

Those who know Joel Paymer, know that a digital minilab is relatively new to Camera Land. Before digital, Camera Land outsourced D&P to Qualex and was fortunate to be able to offer same-day developing. There was no need for the store to install a minilab, with the Qualex set-up working so well. According to Joel, if Camera Land had installed a minilab unit to offer in-house D&P, he’d also have had to hire a few poeple to run the lab. It didn’t make business sense—that is, until digital arrived.

Camera Land was the site of numerous beta tests, first for the dry developing D&P unit from Applied Science Fiction (ASF); then for Phogenix, till the Kodak/HP joint venture pulled the plug on their inkjet system; and also for an Olympus True Print kiosk. They finally settled on a Digital Portal minilab. And the installation of their own digital minilab came just in time, as Kodak was discontinuing same-day D&P service. After all of the beta-testing, is Joel happy with his choice? Yes. “Digital Portal wrote the book on customer service,” he adds. And Camera Land can output prints from wallets up to 40-inches wide with an Epson wide-format inkjet printer.

“Any retailer without a lab today just can’t compete with the instant gratification of digital,” Joel says. Consumers have the Polaroid mentality with digital, of wanting prints now! And if there’s anything that Joel Paymer knows for certain, it’s what his customers want.