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Diversification and Adaptation to Market Demands Gives Second-Generation Retailer Edge Over His Competition


Todd Fitzgerald
Todd Fitzgerald in the new design center in Kingston.
flagship location
The exterior of the flagship location in Kingston, NY. This store is located in a strip mall in the local business district.
main camera counter
The main camera counter at the Kingston location. Note the signage above the counter, touting Artcraft as “Your digital camera expert.”
Assistant lab manager Marci Hogan
Assistant lab manager Marci Hogan (seated at front) and Charles Ralff, imaging specialist working in the Kingston location’s lab.
Frameshop manager Blake Dews
Frameshop manager Blake Dews works with a print. Just added this year, the custom matting and framing business has been a revenue generator.
kiosks
The kiosks are under a canopy, cutting down on ambient light. Note the photo mugs on the counters, camera bag in the netting, and kids’ table with toys.
Large signage
Large signage directs customers to the display racks with the accessories they are looking for.

"We see a very big opportunity here in Kingston with the document portion of the business," he adds. The other competitors for this type of work are located six miles away—and he notes that that's six miles of heavily congested traffic.

The Xerox DocuColor 240 functionality allows it to output business cards, greeting cards, trifolds, brochures, signs, magnets, printed envelopes, and more. That's in addition to the photobooks and other photo-related output that has been touted by the manufacturers of these printers. "We see a very big increase in the business, to B2B, in what we're doing now," he says.

Willingness to Learn

Todd looks to what others in the industry are doing for ideas in building his business, and he's not shy about saying so. He realizes what a valuable resource other retailers can be for one another. "There's a lot of support out there—we're able to stay ahead by using PMA, IPI, and other dealers and picking up a phone," he says. "I'm not the smartest guy in the photo business, but I can find them and learn all I can."

When he was debating whether or not to add the custom framing, he says a trip to Florida to visit with L.B. Ainsworth was a necessity. The idea to change from white walls to a more inviting color came from Gaby Mullinax, whose own store, Fullerton Photographic, was designed to appeal more to women. When he wanted to spruce up the kiosk area, Todd—who had previously been to Allentown, PA, to visit Dan's Camera City—decided that Artcraft's kiosk area, unlike the Dan's Digiprint Lounge (which is off the main floor), should be visible and accessible from anywhere on the sales floor. But he still wanted to do something special. So, with a little ingenuity and a $400 canopy from Target, he brought attention to the kiosks (while giving customers the feeling that the area is more private), decreased the amount of glare hitting the screens (the kiosks are located near the front windows), and increased sales (average sales immediately increased from $7 per order to $23). Why? Because the canopy made Todd's customers feel more comfortable in the space, so they spent more time there. The half day spent setting up the canopy, netting, and white lights was well worth the increase in revenue he's seeing as a result.

Todd also utilizes the available space on the counters the kiosk terminals sit on—as well as in the netting that sweeps around the canopy's supports—to display product, from camera bags to photo gifts. A coat rack and small kid's area complete the section.

Artcraft is always looking for feedback from its customers as well. Todd says customer feedback is the best way to learn about your business. "Don't be afraid to come up to your front counter or walk outside and ask customers if they've had a good experience," he says. Even if the experience was bad, they appreciate that he cared enough to ask.

One-Stop-Shop

Artcraft is a full-service photo retail store and lab. They run Noritsu machines in the lab, including E-6, C-41, and B&W processors and Noritsu minilab units. They've been offering wide-format printing for about 15 years. Currently they output the wide-format prints on an Epson 10000 Pro and 9800 wide-format printers. Todd says the printers work very well with virtually any media. He says about 60% of the wide-format output is B2B, with 40% retail. The majority of the B2B work is signage and banners. He doesn't consider Artcraft a sign shop since they limit the media range to paper and fine-art media—no vinyl. About 70% of the mounting business is B2B, and Todd notes that the addition of the custom framing increased the mounting work to the point that it has brought a "tremendous return."

Todd explains that Artcraft is "doing rather well" with shoebox scanning. He says, "It's kind of surprising—I didn't realize how many shoeboxes [of prints] are out there." He says the service has had a great return on their investment in the Kodak document scanner they use for the scanning (one of the smaller models that Kodak makes, under $1,000). It only took them a handful of orders to pay for the scanner, and the unit saves a lot of time.

Todd also says the shoebox scanning service "has a true value." The ability to digitize the millions of photographic prints that are sitting in consumers' homes is not only helpful to them for archival purposes, sharing, or creating photo gifts—it's also an easy way to increase revenue. He also feels that consumers are choosing shoebox scans as their method for printing. Artcraft has many customers who print each and every scanned image.

He doesn't think it's too late for others to get into the game. Todd figures that in five years, there will be a new generation of consumers with a shoebox filled with prints that they want scanned, whether it's people who have prints and their files were not archived well or were lost or damaged, or they received prints from friends and family and want to have a digital file of the image, too.

Web Presence

One of the biggest projects that Artcraft has yet to do is revamp their website. "As we're rebuilding our image of the store, we'll be doing so on the web," he says, "It's not about how many pages are on your site, but how fast your customers can print via the site." Consumers want to be able to print within one or two pages after landing on a website.

"If you aren't in the web-based photographic printing [arena], you'll be out of business," he explains. Cameras bring in the customers, but it's accessory sales and photofinishing that are profitable.

He's hoping that with a site redesign, overnight orders will increase. And, as someone who does much of his purchasing and research online at night, he knows there are plenty of consumers who do the same. "I'd have a tough time if I couldn't use the internet for purchasing," he says. PTN

Around the time this article hits your countertop, the folks at Artcraft will be holding their grand reopening, celebrating not just the new additions to the business, but the continued excellence in customer service and support.


   







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