The biggest project for the next few months is the integration of IPInet, a free Web presence for all members. This no-cost member service will ensure that all members are completely online and available to provide their local, and other, customers with any Internet photo oriented service available to consumers and IPI members. I believe this will greatly enhance an IPI member's potential sales and operating profits for the next year and, therefore, feel the future is bright!
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As long as consumers want and need visual images for memories of
family, sharing friendships and amplifying effective communication
in business, success for the imaging industry is assured. What may
change is the list of companies who are profitable and viable in
this imaging industry.
When digital imaging and photography merged, some industry experts predicted that film would die a very slow death. What we have witnessed however is that digital photography innovations have progressed so rapidly that the demand for traditional film products is plummeting.
In our technologically driven society, there are many innovations yet to come. If experience teaches us anything, it is that products that are not even a glimmer in an engineer's eye can be blockbusters in a very short time. Will cellphone cameras offer real consumer benefits or are they destined to become the next consumer fad? The key for retailers is to watch consumer trends and experiment with reinventing ourselves because current and future success belongs to the adaptable.
Innovative photo specialty retailers will be the ones to prosper. In a world of confusing technologies, the public seeks out experts for advice. That was true 45 years ago when PRO began and it remains true today. But now consumers wants to know the answers to new questions so the specialty retail staff must be able to provide digital-world answers on software, complex digital accessories and inkjet printing issues.
Now more than ever, retailers need resources beyond their own four walls. The leading dealer groups provide networking and systems opportunities to keep their members competitive and profitable. This is why more retailers are joining buying groups like PRO and IPI. Innovative specialty stores are making technology investments in digital labs to print pictures from the new digital cameras. They are establishing Internet links to provide photofinishing services and products wherever and whenever their customers want them.
Even in a somewhat sluggish economy, the outlook is bright. Digital cameras and accessories are selling rapidly. With the arrival of new digital SLR models from Olympus, Pentax and Canon, even more sales and profit opportunities are available for retailers. 2003 retailing should end with a bang. Early 2004 should continue the momentum as Americans spend to expand their digital SLR system capability.
Only time will tell when the transition to digital will complete itself. But regardless of the technology, the only thing driving our industry in the long run are the pictures the public is counting on for business and memory making.
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Photo Industry At a Crossroads
by Mark Roth, President, Argraph Corporation
The photo industry is at a crossroads. There is no question that digital has surpassed traditional photography. Digital cameras are driving sales in both photo and consumer electronics. Sure, the economy is shaky, film, darkroom and traditional processing are down, but there are huge opportunities that photo specialty dealers are uniquely positioned to exploit.
The buzz surrounding digital cameras is turning people who would have been happy with their 5+ year-old film cameras into rabid consumers craving the latest digital cameras. Even those "early-adopters" who bought a digicam a few years ago, now "need" the higher resolution and better features that only the latest cameras can provide.
The demand is there. Your job is to get them to buy their new digital cameras from your store. Happily, in this market, with strong demand, and often tight supply, even the big-box stores are selling at MAP, giving you the opportunity to match their prices, add the valuable extras that you can offer and they can't, and still make a good profit.
The strategy is the same as in the halcyon days of the SLR boom-accessorize and bring the customer back for processing.