Anybody want to start a co-op to buy film, paper, chemistry etc. in bulk

Discussion in 'Toronto' started by Marek Warunkiewicz, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Marek Warunkiewicz

    Marek Warunkiewicz Member

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    Anybody want to start a co-op to buy film, paper, chemistry etc. in bulk? Was thinking of incorporating a company owned by all that would be able to buy materials from manufacturers and pass the cost savings to its members.

    We could buy directly from manufacturers instead of buying from US sources. I might be naive but maybe not. I have an incorporation dormant so it might be easy to get the requisite GST/PST numbers etc.
     
  2. accozzaglia

    accozzaglia Member

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    It would, in theory, be a not bad idea at all. In practice, it would require working out the estimates of sales and how effectively the business would draw away existing business from the regional photo film retailers. You would probably want to make this a nation-wide scope, not just GTA-regional or Ontario-only. I do have experience with two different types of co-operatives (grocery and housing), and there are many kinds of co-operative business models. If you haven't yet, google "seven co-operative principles" and use that as an anchor to envision your business plan, if you so decide to pursue it.

    For something like this, the model would probably benefit best from member-owners and non-members being able to buy from the co-op, but only member-owners are able to buy product at lower prices, receive exclusive deals, and if the co-op hosted darkroom courses, then pricing for member-owners would be nominal, and non-members would pay a fairly high rate comparable to other places. Net profit per annum, if there is any, can be paid out to all member-owners proportionate to how much they spent that year relative to all other member-owners.
     
  3. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I think it would be a great idea, especially for materials and products that are not available in a certain area. For example, it seems that there are many more papers available in europe than in north america.
     
  4. Marek Warunkiewicz

    Marek Warunkiewicz Member

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    Here's what I was thinking. I travel a LOT, New York, going to LA this year... I have quite a bit of experience in co-ops and business. I was thinking that we get together and do four to six large orders a year. I am so damn tired of not being able to get stuff, no-one in TO really stocks paper or chemistry anymore and if they do, the prices are crazy. 250 sheets of 11x14 Ilford FB Gloss would cost me close to 500, B&H 248... A bit of a difference. I have a fallow incorporation I can re-start, get the PST, GST numbers, buy direct in bulk and people can pick up from Toronto. I see this as primarily a Toronto-based thing. It's easier in the US since the transport costs are lower. I have a friend in Buffalo whose address I can use for shipping then pick up there. Also I can buy direct from Oriental for example. I'd also like to bulk order Palladium,etc., for alt process stuff, cheaper that way. Right now, I just want to see if there would be a group of people here in Eastern Canada (Ontario and Quebec) who might want to do this. If the numbers of people are good, I'll go for it.
     
  5. Venchka

    Venchka Member

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    It would be a fabulous idea if enough people commited to enough stuff to do the following:

    Buy up an entire production run of Kodachrome and Panatomic-X in 35mm AND 120 and 4x5 for the Panatomic-X.
     
  6. accozzaglia

    accozzaglia Member

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    I'm still very much with you on this idea. I will definitely pitch for this being a Toronto-based installation (e.g., base of walk-in operations) but open (and promoting itself) to online sales throughout the whole country. I will be leaving Toronto in a few weeks and I know that the regionalism inherent on a national level makes coast-to-coast-to-coast scopes difficult, if not discouraged. Same goes for linguistic loggerheads. But were such a co-operative to form and execute, it would be very reassuring that I could go online and order my supplies regardless where I might be. As a former west coaster, there are times when it felt like there might as well have been the economic Himalayans slapped somewhere west of Brandon and east of Swift Current (and Regina was some summit). :smile:

    As far as places to have walk-in retailing, you would probably need a real estate scout versed in co-operative businesses. While they're an assurance company, you should talk with someone at The Co-Operators, as they have outstanding connections with co-ops of every kind nationally. At the Building Sustainable Co-operatives Future 2007 conference, a Co-Operators representative spoke at a symposium on co-operative business structures and the best way to go about it. The one thing they stressed and I since have taken to heart is embracing the Triple Bottom Line (economic, social, and environmental) approach to running a co-op. Being a proper disposal point for used chemicals, like exhausted developer, could be one way to close that loop in the GTA (e.g., charging a nominal fee to properly dispose of it) and thus meeting an environmental bottom line (as chemical emulsions and solutions tend to be an increasingly problematic sticking point in the film versus digital debate). Social bottom line could be film imaging education, offering or hosting seminars or community education initiatives (like putting a film camera into the hands of teenagers and teaching them about darkroom chemistry).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2009
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it would be a great idea
    if it was all used in a reasonable amount
    of time. i know I don't mind shooting expired
    film and paper ( c41 and e6 and b/w ) but i am sure
    there are others who would very much mind if the materials
    they paid money for were close to expired by the time they decided
    they needed to replenish their film/paper ...

    back in the days when ilford used to sell to "rebranders"
    photowarehouse used to get master rolls of film and paper, and cut it to order.
    too bad we couldn't strike an arrangement with photowarehouse
    (who is set up to cut paper and film already) to take our money, buy the film/paper
    and hold on to it until we need it :wink:
    they are a site sponsor, AND they were gearing up to buying master rolls of film again
    (or at least had suggested they were going to do that ) .. i know, not much help for roll film shooters
    but they also buy 120 + 35mm film in bulk :smile:
     
  8. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Why don't we all ask the remaining film photo retailers in our areas what they think of the idea?
     
  9. aluk

    aluk Member

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    John, I recognise that Marek's proposal certainly aims to undercut retailers. However, I am not sure if you realize that owing to the smaller size of the Canadian market, prices here are highly inflated as compared to the United States, as Marek mentioned. For example, the Astia 135 x 20 pack at Freestyle is listed at $122. The same thing from Canada's largest photo retailer, Henry's, costs the equivalent of 223 US Dollars - quite a difference, and one that poses a serious difficulty to many analogue photographers up here. Therefore, while I am certainly in favour of supporting those local shops that have chosen to continue supplying us with traditional photography goods, someone along the line needs to realize that the current prices are simply unsustainable, especially given how close (and tempting) the US market is to us.
     
  10. GJA

    GJA Member

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    John, i would if i could find one, but they are all gone! As far as I know the closest place for me would be about a two and a half hour drive to Boston or a four hour drive to NYC.
     
  11. jon

    jon Member

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    I'd be interested, especially when it comes to 4x5 film. My current "cheapo" method involves weeks of waiting around for ERA PSS film to make its way from China. Nice film though.

    As much as I like to support local business, my pocket-book trumps their balance books nowadays. Even relatively common brands, like Ilford are significantly higher-priced. 100 sheets of 4x5 FP4 comes to like $147 with tax at Henry's -- almost $50 more than at Freestyle after the conversion.

    And while I laud a retail store like Henry's for continuing to sell analog materials, their darkroom section makes me feel like I'm going in to the porno area at the video store. Tucked away in a sad little corner at the back, the only thing its missing are the saloon doors.
     
  12. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    I agree with Jon, The Henry's Darkroom section in their Superstore is sad looking.

    I too am interested in the Cooperative idea. Maybe, just maybe it will force some of the established retailers to sharpen their pricing a bit.
     
  13. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    Could you check to see what you can get in 5x7... especially lower speed color neg?
     
  14. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I'm potentially interested, although I live in Summitville (aka Regina :smile: ). However, I do get to Toronto a couple of times a year.

    I think the real issue is whether you can get enough people together to make the diversity we would likely want fit the economies of scale that we would resultantly need. For example, I use Ilford products (film and paper, and some chemistry), Photographer's Formulary products (TF4 fixer and glycin, plus a few other bulk chemical ingredients, especially now that JD Photochem is shutting down), Foma films (primarily in Arista clothing), Kodak films (Ektar and some black-and-white) and chemicals (Photo-Flo, HC-110), and Fuji films (Velvia and Superia). That's just me - and that's a huge variety. Granted, even if the coop only handled, say, Ilford it might still be worth my while to participate.

    It surprises me that Toronto can't support a healthy darkroom section, but I have seen Henry's darkroom section recently so I know you guys are telling it like it is.
     
  15. Uncle Bill

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    The healthy darkroom section is down the street at Downtown Camera, Eight Elm and Aden near Hospital Row and Ryerson have a decent selection of darkroom stuff. Out here in Halton, Burlington Camera is my go to if I don't want to deal with downtown traffic.

    I have no idea why Henrys has a measly darkroom section compared to the other stores. Probably better margin in darkroom products than in the cameras.
     
  16. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    When I'm in Toronto, I buy most of my materials from Downtown Camera (about a block from Henry's).

    It would be nice if some of the retailers would "sharpen" their pricing a little. The only pro lab left in Thunder Bay just informed me that they will no longer be stocking any darkroom supplies. While their pricing was a little high, I always bought what darkroom supplies I could get from them. Thunder Bay has a population of over 100,000 and now there are NO darkroom supplies available at retail.
     
  17. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    Jim, is that something you know for sure? their website still show business as usual. I use to get most of my chemicals from them. Last I heard from Claire was in May this year and everything was OK. thanks for sharing the latest with us.
     
  18. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I read it on another forum, and emailed Claire a few days ago mentioning it and asking what she still had in stock. She replied with a stock list and didn't correct my statement. She has very little in stock compared to what she once did, e.g. no hydroquinone.
     
  19. Rlibersky

    Rlibersky Subscriber

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    I would love to get in on some 8x10, 5x7 plus-x
     
  20. Marek Warunkiewicz

    Marek Warunkiewicz Member

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    I've bought most of Claire's remaining stock of "popular" chemicals. Going to New York next week to stock up on some other stuff, like Collodion, Silver Nitrate etc. Can't stand this having to go to six or seven places, pay huge amounts for shipping etc. JD is definitely stopping the photo end of things, sadly.
     
  21. accozzaglia

    accozzaglia Member

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    You should talk also to MEC in Vancouver about how they set up co-op memberships.
     
  22. Uncle Bill

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    Having a background in bricks and mortar retail and catalogue at one time long ago, have you thought how this Co-op will work, will it be strictly online? Will it have a storefront? If you are going strictly online have you thought out how you will store all the film, paper and chemicals, taken into account supply chain (pick and pack as well as shipping). At some point very quick it will outgrow your house and the Co-op could need a third party warehouse/pick and pack facility. All this will be costs that will have to be factored in.

    In addition to accozzaglia's suggestion in talking to MEC on Co-op set up. I would also talk to Fotoimpex in Germany and other specialist retailers who sell film, paper and chemicals online.
     
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  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    photowarehouse in oxnard california
    is already a bricks/mortar/retail business. they already
    have a shipping/packing department ...
    they are set up already with a jig to cut film to any size asked for
    and have been buying film and paper in bulk for schools and other institutions
    for years. they sell BULK 35mm + 120 rolls too.
    people who were shooting ULF + large format ( as well as 2x3 / 3x4 )
    remember they sold "made in england" film and had HUGE deals / great prices.

    they might be a perfect partner to do this sort of thing, and may have
    a keen interest since they already did it in days gone by ...