"Over the years, I learned different facets of the business. I learned the marketing and advertising, product purchasing, marketing of lab capabilities and services and ways to expand our photo processing offerings," Rob says. "When I first came into the business, we were much more hardware-oriented and I saw the growth of the business would be in the processing. I also saw we needed to appeal more to the amateurs and soccer moms with a softer look and more albums and frames."
While he could sense it was the way the business was going, Rob also had the good sense to hire an expert to help Click with its new direction. When deciding who to hire, Rob wanted someone outside the photo retail market who might be able to generate new ideas on what a photo specialty store in the 21st century should be offering its customers. The person he picked, Cathie Zucco, had been a merchandiser for a department store prior to joining Click and was in tune with Rob's idea to try and draw in the soccer mom.
"She started bringing in items that catered much more to women, items that you might not find in a camera store," Rob says. Some of those items, such as decorative tiles, Christmas ornaments, and stuffed animals, didn't even have a photo angle to them, but they were a magnet for female shoppers.
"We really wanted to create a soft, fluffy look that would drive people to the albums and frames section," he says.
While the pursuit of the soccer mom at photo retail is such an overworked theme these days it's almost a cliché, when Rob Klaben and Click Camera started its efforts back in the mid-1990s, it was practically unheard of.
"Five, maybe ten years before PMA brought in the speakers who said you had to go after women, Rob was already doing it. He figured that out a long time ago," McCurry says. (See sidebar, "Marketing Matters," on page 15.)Click keeps its customers coming back with free digital camera classes and an offer to match the camera price of any of its local competitors.
Try Everything, Commit to Nothing
Another area where Click has stayed ahead of the curve under Rob's stewardship is in its digital processing services, which have been helped by the name change last year to Click Camera Digital Print Centers. "Part of it was my father prodding me that we had to have digital in our name, but I wasn't comfortable with it until we had digital processing in all our stores," he says. "Once we did, I thought [the new name] gave the most complete message to customers."
Along with having from one to three Lucidiom kiosks linked to Fuji Frontier minilabs at every Click store, each location has a Fuji Printpix kiosk for instant printing of digital images. Click also gets 18 percent of its digital processing from customers uploading images to its website, www.clickcamera.com. "With more and more digital cameras, it was important for us to become more digitally enabled than anyone else in the marketplace," Rob says.
Click has also been able to place its store-branded Lucidiom kiosks in locations outside of its retail sites, including the University of Dayton bookstore; the cafeteria of the National Cash Register Company (which employs 2,500 people); and in the Mr. Prescription drugstore chain. The kiosks are linked by high-speed Internet connections to Click stores. Rob credits another recent PTN Dealer of the Year winner, Dan's Camera City in Allentown, PA, for giving him the idea.
Rob's efforts, in turn, have inspired others in the industry.
"He's willing to learn and willing to make the changes in his business necessary in this fast-paced technological world," says Ron Inkley, a former PTN Dealer of the Year who operated his own photo retail business for 49 years in the intermountain states. "You could not find a better example of someone who looks to the future." Inkley is also a former president of PMA and PRO and is currently an advisor to PRO and a consultant to small businesses.
McCurry calls Klaben a pioneer not just because he takes on new technology, but because he's not beholden to it. "He sees it all as temporary," McCurry says with admiration. "He was an early adopter of APS and they made a lot of money on it even though it wasn't as successful as everybody thought. But they jumped on it. And they've warmly embraced whatever technology has surfaced but they don't run away with it. It's a mindset he has that basically every piece of equipment is expendable because he knows the future is going to keep changing things."
For Rob Klaben, anticipating where the photo retail market is going and adapting to those changes quickly and effectively is the only way to do business.