Brothers Stan and Jack Bedford opened their first retail store in 1974, thus beginning the Bedford’s legacy. Originally, processing turnaround was one week, and then it became overnight, and finally 29 minutes in the heyday of minilabs. Stan says, “Jack Bedford is the man who brought fast film processing to Northwest Arkansas. The growth during the prime of one hour film processing was one of the greatest events in the industry…with quick returns for the customers and quick returns on our investment.”
“Digital cameras have been a pleasant surprise,” says Stan. He feels the industry is resilient and profitable. What’s right for Bedford’s is value for the customer. “We make sure our people are educated in the accessories customers need to enjoy their photographic experiences, and then we price things accordingly. We are very successful with Promaster accessories and we put together packages that give the customer great value and build very lucrative margins for us. The salespeople also gain by selling packages that are more profitable. This is the Bedford approach, the win-win-win. Let’s face the facts, customers benefit from things like cases, extra batteries, extra memory cards, card readers, etc. So, we package things that make it easy for the salespeople to explain and easy for the customer to say yes.”
“Another thing we believe in is customer confidence. It’s why we sell our Five Year Camera Plus service policy. A customer has the option of not worrying about their investment for five full years. It’s all about thinking for your customers, understanding what they need and explaining the benefits in ways that they understand.” Over 90% of camera purchasers buy this service policy, which provides them with red carpet service.
There are presently six Bedford Camera & Video locations in Arkansas—Little Rock, North Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers. Eventually they would like to expand to nearby states. “We continue to see growth in the industry,” Stan explains. “We’re open to considering new markets as well as other products and services.”
The Bedford stores have also added new product categories, as they’ve diversified to bring in new customers. Recent additions include Sony HDTVs, surround-sound systems and home theater accessories. Each of the locations stock HDTVs, with as much available floor-space as physical layouts allow. For instance, the Little Rock location has created a separate display room, complete with televisions, surround-sound and comfortable leather chairs that would be ideal for any home theater. Bedford currently stocks Sony HDTVs in a range of price points—and is having great success with the line.
Other product lines they stock include Canon and Epson wide-format printers; an extensive array of papers and inks; albums, frames and more.
Another direction the business expanded into is the addition of custom matting, framing, and print shop services. Custom framer Carlos Nava has come on board within the last year. With over 15 years of experience, he works at “Custom Signs & Frames by Bedfords.” Manager Cliff Carson, is responsible for the wide-format printing, sign making, and vehicle wraps.
“Its diversification,” explains Stan. “Natural additions to a photo store.” “Everyone realizes the need for diversification,” adds Jeff. “We want to take it to the next level.” Jeff explains that eventually the goal is to open sign shops in multiple locations in Arkansas. Jeff feels he has a large built-in customer base for the print-shop work. There are currently about 1,100 commercial accounts using Bedford for their photographic services. It’s a natural progression to market Bedford’s printing services to all of those accounts. By leveraging the commercial and non-commercial customer base, they’ll be able to offer “one-stop shopping” to make it easier for folks to get all their photo and printing needs.
Doing It Right
Stan also sees a great deal of continued success in digital printing, “If it’s presented correctly at the point of sale,” he says. Customers need to be given the menu of options afforded to them when they purchase their digital cameras, including ordering prints, gifts and more online. The promise of digital is more options—customers want these but don’t know what they are yet. When they find them they become a repeat revenue stream for the store—and Bedford’s becomes a part of their joy of photography.
Each of the stores offers multiple Lucidiom kiosks with the Luci scrapbooking software, which are hooked to Fuji Frontier minilabs. The kiosks are also connected to wide-format Epson printers, so customers can even create scrapbook pages as posters. Customers can sit at the kiosks and order prints, create scrapbook pages, burn images to CD, and more.
Bedford’s also has in-house digital artists who do photo restoration work, as well as creative graphics.
This past summer, Bedford Camera & Video held its first Roadshow. John Rose, Manager of the Little Rock store, came up with the idea, did the research and put together the advertising and promotional materials. He and Austin Pittman brought a trailer full of product to Jonesboro, Arkansas—an area without any photo specialty stores. In addition to the new products for sale, they offered a free clean and check of cameras to all who attended; a portrait sitting; and a two-hour digital camera class. Despite bad weather, the event had a good turnout, great sales, and it’s something that will be done again in the future.
With multiple locations, Bedford has to differentiate its product mix for each store. The Little Rock store is the largest and sells more cameras and photography products than those located in Ft. Smith or Northwest Arkansas. The Ft. Smith area has more professional photographers, and so it stocks more lighting equipment and studio accessories. Rogers is home to a large number of retirees, as well as the corporate offices for Wal-Mart and its vendors, and tends to stock a different mix of products. When asked about growing up in Wal-Mart’s back yard, Stan says, “Never fear them…always respect them.”
Communication is important in any organization and Bedford’s doesn’t take it for granted. The regularly scheduled morning managers’ meetings are times for dealing with issues requiring wisdom and insights from the entire team. If the distant store managers can’t attend the meeting in person, they join in by teleconference. The company’s 20 managers represent the 106 employees by bringing their suggestions and ideas to the table. The store managers discuss which new products they feel should be stocked, share customer and associate feedback, and upcoming community events in these morning meetings.