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NY/NJ Dealers Share Money-Making Ideas

I was lucky enough to attend a meeting of the NY/NJ Metro division of PMA last month with a focus on innovative ideas that three local retailers were sharing with the other dealers in their area. Not worried about competition between each other, they were willing to share what's working for them, and how others may be able to incorporate such ideas into their own businesses.

Picture Spa Visits

The first speaker was Sid Davidowitz, talking about his latest concept, The Picture Spa at Moto Photo. Davidowitz, who has two Moto Photo stores in New Jersey, opened The Picture Spa late last year. The Picture Spa is adjacent to one of Davidowitz's Moto Photo stores, and customers can walk between the two, however the Spa offers the comfortable and soothing feel of a "Spa visit" for spending time at the kiosks creating photo prints and other gifts. (Editor's note: see the January 2007 issue of PTN, page 20).

"We used to be able to throw money at a problem in the photo industry. You can't do that anymore," said Davidowitz, explaining that when APS came out, dealers bought new equipment to process/print APS film; the same with digital. But, when it comes to how consumers use kiosks, you can't just put a couple of terminals on a counter and expect the money to just roll in.

He explained that today's consumer needs to be shown—in context—what she can do with her photos, and that's a big part of the atmosphere in The Picture Spa. Examples of photo art are hung on the wall, poster size; scrapbook pages are on display; photo books sit on the tables; and other photo gifts adorn display shelves.

According to Davidowitz, his customers have been "wowed" by The Picture Spa. He notes the culture shift that's occurred from order taking to entertaining customers—which must be acknowledged. And he warns others not to ignore the male customers, explaining that they should feel comfortable in the environment as well.

Add-on Sales

The next speaker was David Guida, owner of Livingston Camera Mart and Millburn Camera, located in New Jersey.

Guida's take home point was, "Add-on sales are where you can make the extra profit." Explaining to the other dealers in the room, Guida said he listened to his customers, and in doing so, has been able to offer new services that fit their current needs. One of those new services is an add on sale to regular D&P. The "Photo Story" is a collection of digital still photos and digital video clips that are compiled into a story, and burned to DVD.

Guida noted that he doesn't add music, to avoid copyright issues. He suggested that Photo Stories needn't be stills and video, but could be stills only—reminiscent of the carousel-laden "slideshow" that was prominent years ago; or even a compilation of "shoeboxes full of images" that you've scanned for your customers. These are great for bringing about tears of happiness when folks see their images, he said.

Guida offered his fellow retailers a few hints to make it easy on themselves: use software that is "drag and drop" easy, make the photo story a maximum of 5 – 10 minutes, and avoid the urge to do complex editing.

He said he's found that many customers won't go through the trouble of putting their digital images and videos/video clips together at home, even though there are plenty of inexpensive consumer solutions—it is too time consuming or daunting a thought, but for the retailer, its an easy new service that can bring in new profits.

Guida also says that his staff demos the video clip feature on all digital cameras, at the time of the camera sale—educating customers how they can shoot the video clips on the new cameras.

One last suggestion: "Make sure your branding is in the movie." He makes sure to put the store's name in the photo story's credits, for brand recognition and possible future sales.

New "Old" Products

James Park, of Color Tek in NYC was the final speaker of the evening, and he discussed recent additions to his business: photo gifts, photo art, and custom framing. "Nothing is new," he said. "We always knew about them [photo gifts and custom framing]." But its how you market these services that makes the difference. The photo gifts, photo art, and custom framing are all high margin items that require little investment.

In 2005, he decided to bring photo gift production in-house. What he discovered when he did this, is that photo gifts aren't just for the winter holidays. "Now there's no day that we don't do photo gifts," he explained.

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