Thinking on Local Product Availability

Discussion in 'Product Availability' started by PHOTOTONE, Mar 30, 2007.

  1. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

    Messages:
    2,411
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Van Buren, A
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have been shooting film and making prints for almost 40 years. In the beginning I was able to purchase everything I needed locally. (I live in a town of 75,000 in middle America..USA). At one time, even the discount stores had a healthy inventory of film products, and even some entry-level darkroom gear. My first enlarger (a Bogen) was purchased at the local K-mart. Eventually I went into business as a Photographer, after working as a photographer for others for a few years. I was able to get almost all my needs at the local "Kodak Stockhouse Dealer" in town. A small family owned camera store that carried a little bit of about everything, including bulk chemistry, hypo crystals, etc. Eventually this store went away, and the only store left was a very "consumer" oriented small chain store. They acquired the "Kodak Stockhouse Dealership" but didn't stock anything. Whereas, prior to this, the original family run store would stock what I needed, and I was free to purchase it as I used it, this newer store would only "special order" what I needed, and I had to pay shipping on top of purchase price of goods. I started doing mail-order. This was in the mid-1980's. From this time forward, I have had to mail order everything I use except for the most basic of studio supplies. (staples, toilet paper, etc.) I still use a large quantity of LF materials, for both work and personal projects, in addition to digital supplies. I guestimate I will have shot close to 300 sheets of 4x5 film by the end of this month (March consumption). Not a trivial amount, plus I process all my own (B/W, E-6, etc), so there is the chemical requirements also. Local unavailability of product could not stop my consumption because I earn a living from the use of film materials, however lack of visibility and apathy on the part of retailers has stopped many consumers from using film, that would otherwise still use it.

    If more film products were visible on shelves at stores, more people would buy them! Simple as that.
     
  2. DKT

    DKT Member

    Messages:
    504
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2002
    I work in the capitol of my state, not the largest city, but not small either--there's only one store that stocks a decent line of film, paper & chemistry, and there's only one professional Q lab left in business, whereas a few years ago we had two, and about a half dozen comparable non-certified fuji/kodak labs. our state used to have the largest still photo studio in the world, and there were dozens of smaller ones and labs to support that--that are now almost all gone, or digital.

    at work--this past week and a half we shot over 200 sheets of 4x5 film and had an insane week (still going on) of printing. I made almost 250 8x10s in the past 4 days, and right now I'm running more film to make more prints. In the coming few weeks, we'll actually have to make about that many larger prints including almost a dozen murals.

    the labs we use to outsource the murals and color work, have almost all gone out of business in the past year or two. In the past week, we've been calling all over to find labs that still produce lightjets even. you would not believe the amount of labs that have gone under in the past year. we can't even get a cibachrome made locally right now, because the chemistry is all backordered.

    our lab--our E6 machine died last month, and to our horror, we found only one lab left in town that runs E6. Our Ilford machine died as well, leaving us scouring the state for parts machines. We actually have SIX 2150 processors now, two working machines mothballed, one in use, and the rest parts junkers. It took us a month almost to cobble together a working machine from scratch.

    In the past couple of months, my outlook has become rather cynical--because I don't see any support really, on the lab end. I don't see it as having more product on the shelves. That's no good if there are no E6 labs left. It's no good to me, if we replace our E6 machine and they quit making the chemistry a year from now, because all the Q labs are gone. I think we will be forced to get a new E6 processor of some sort, because there won't be any labs left to run it. It really says something, when this state that had the largest studio in the world, and had a whole industry in commercial photography that revolved around large format--when there are only a handful of E6 labs left in business, and almost all the lines are on reduced schedules.

    We're thinking of getting a betterlight back to be honest. when & if we do that, and move over out of survival more or less--do you think the people that shoot a box of film a year, or a single brick are going to pick up the slack? We used to get polaroid 55 at about $35 a box. Now it's almost more than twice that. It's a real bad time for me--sorry--but I'm not all that optimistic about the future.

    my opinions only as always/not my employers.
     
  3. Jordan.K

    Jordan.K Subscriber

    Messages:
    259
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I am really tired right now, but will post something more in response to this tomorrow. I am sorry for your troubles "DKT". I hope you guys find your way out of this and are somehow still able to continue to pursue an analog avenue. I work in a custom black and white lab and we have been fairly busy lately. We deal mainly in the fine art side of things and from what I keep hearing there is a real interest in silver gelatin prints with the art collectors these days. Who knows though..........
     
  4. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I agree completely, but the reality I see in my area in Japan is that the photo stores are now in demand of having to sell more non-film equipment and supplies than ever, so unless they expand their store space and add more shelves, they won't have as much space for the film stuff.

    And I really think all these new camera bags that are made to fit laptop computers, adaptors, etc so nicely, are just taking way too much space! :D
     
  5. DKT

    DKT Member

    Messages:
    504
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2002
    I don't really know the answer--I've been thinking a lot about it lately, and at work we have some rough proposals we're hashing out looking at what it would cost to pursue both angles--scanning or capture back versus replacing analog equipment & cost of chemistry, materials etc. there are pros & cons for each option, and in the end it comes down to just taking a guess almost, about how it will play out.

    I just don't know--all I see is decline, sad to say, with at least E6--and that will be what pushes us over, since it used to be that b/w film was our mainstay, only now almost all our publication work and outside services revolves around 4x5 chromes or scans. The only reason why we shoot 4x5 is for the resolution and camera control. everything we used to do on small format has been done with digital since about 2000.

    As to the local product--well, we never bought that much locally, because we dealt with gov't contracts. Most of the vendors I never heard of as far as being a consumer. We got materials, and even cameras, at below wholesale prices. This past year, is the first where we actually don't have a contract. I'm not sure what that means to be honest--I think it means no vendors bid on it, which isn't really good for the longterm outlook.

    We did support the local labs though, and had some close ties with a few as well. This is how we accumulated so many 2150s, because those labs were going out of business and the machines are basically worthless now. we've actually passed up all sorts of free equipment like forox duplicators, marron carroll cameras, MP4s etc--that had nothing wrong with them, only because we had no use for them either and have our own "obsolete" stuff now to get rid of as well.

    Locally--I support the camera store that stocks film & paper. I have my own darkroom and everything I use comes from them pretty much. We have an account there for work as well, but it's limited what we buy, to mainly last minute stuff when we run out. Right now they sell a box of 100 sheets of paper for what we can get 250 sheet box for. I know why there are price differences, but that doesn't mean much to the purchasing system.

    I wish I knew the answer. February was a crappy month--spent trying to fix the ilford machine, and then coming in one day and finding that the color developer tank had cracked overnight & fried out the circuit board on the E6 and almost started a fire more or less. The machine was toast. The company was unresponsive--no more. We're stuck with almost a 1000 bucks worth of chemistry ready to go out of date and no outlet to get rid of it, becuase almost all these labs are gone, and we can't surplus it either.

    oh well--it's saturday, I want to think happy thoughts, not doom & gloom.
     
  6. hal9000

    hal9000 Member

    Messages:
    227
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Location:
    Berlin, Germ
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Move to Berlin!

    I guess I am lucky to live in Berlin - we have Fotoimpex and Monochrom, two shops with very good stocks of films, papers, chemistry and darkroom equipment. Plus we still have a few of the older large photography stores with chemistry and papers as well. On top of that there are a number of labs that handle custom processing. At Fotoimpex there is often a line on Saturdays, and I sure see lots of people walking around with film cameras around here. So I am feeling optimistic and looking forward to continuing using analog products for a long time to come.
     
  7. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

    Messages:
    250
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2004
    Location:
    Yemen Baby!
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Up until lat year, I was an assistant manager in a fairly busy photo store in suburban DC. We stocked all of the Kodak papers, a good supply of Agfa VC papers, All of the Ilford MG papers (FB and RC Warm and cold), all of the films from Kodak, Ilford, and Agfa while they were around and even Bergger papers. In addition we carried all of the common Kodak developers, fixers, and indicator stop bath as well as sepia toners and Selinium. There were a smattering of Ilford chemicals, Rodinal, Berg toners, liquid light, Marshall's oils, tray cleaner, sodium sulfite, and a smattering of other things as well. In other words, a pretty good selection of analog photo consumables. Over the past 5 years, there has been a considerable drop in sales even though we had darn near everything out and ready to sell. In the last year, a lot of it was not reordered because there were much more profitable lines with higher turnovers like bags, and digital accessories. The ONLY reason that the store keeps the papers and chemicals at all is that the local community college has a pretty active photo department. It isn't as easy as "stock it and they will come", there is a genuine lack of interest in the analog photo world. Stores have to carry what sells, and what sells the quickest, and analog supplies just ain't them. Things change...


    Isaac
     
  8. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

    Messages:
    757
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I try to support the local shops as much as I can - but it gets harder and harder to do so. Volume of items plays an important part in the store's ability to offer items, but understanding the economics doesn't make it any easier to deal with. Sometimes they do shoot themselves in the foot, though. One store where I used to buy most of my 120 film no longer stocks enough to meet volume purchasing (full brick of each type). They will be glad to special order it for me - but owner's policy is no discounts on special order merchandise. So mail order it is - I can't afford to buy it any other way. And so it goes.
     
  9. reub2000

    reub2000 Member

    Messages:
    646
    Joined:
    May 23, 2006
    Location:
    Evanston, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Ritz Camera carries Tri-X and Ilford MGIV. That's about it. If I want more I have to go downtown to Central Camera. There they have a lot of different film, in many different sizes, plus a sizable selection of chemistry. Near the front they have a nice selection of used cameras and manual focus lenses.
     
  10. Brac

    Brac Member

    Messages:
    632
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Unfortunately even when photographic stores carry films papers and chemicals the quantities they sell mean that prices are not cheap. For many years now I've bought all my materials mail order from specialised dealers at much lower prices, which also gives me a wider range to chose from. The only time I buy film in a shop is from two German supermarket chains (Aldi & Lidl) who have branches here. They offer twin packs of 36exp colour print film (either Kodak or Fuji) for £1.99 (about $3.90) - that's incredibly cheap. Also the local Poundland shop sells 36exp Ferrania film for £1 a roll. Most of the big supermarket chains still carry 35mm & APS film too, but they usually want over £5 a roll!
     
  11. juan

    juan Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,745
    Joined:
    May 7, 2003
    Location:
    St. Simons I
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The one remaining local photo store is quite frank in saying that the only reason they carry any traditional materials is to supply the local colleges. If I want something besides T-grain emulsions and RC paper, they'll be happy to order it - at nearly double the price I can get it over the Internet. They seem to prefer that I order from someone else, so I do.

    I see the same kind of posts on my music forums. There are still local music stores, but they are having a harder and harder time. Kids come in and try out several brands of saxophone, for instance, decide which they like, then order it from the Internet in order to save $50 on a $500 instrument. This is very foolish as the local music store would include any needed adjustments in the price.

    We're in a market that's changing very much. Who knows how it will shake out.
    juan
     
  12. Edwardv

    Edwardv Member

    Messages:
    397
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Last week I went to Service Photo to purchase some items; and to my surprise they are now stocking Oriental fiber paper as well as some other items that were not offered before. Service Photo is making a strong effect to provide film, paper and chemistry to all traditional photographers in the area. I will and recommmend everyone in the Baltimore area to support Service Photo.




    Service Photo
    3838 Falls Road
    Baltimore, MD 21211
    410-235-6200
    800-344-3776
     
  13. aldevo

    aldevo Member

    Messages:
    895
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
    Location:
    Cambridge, M
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Agreed. It really isn't all that different from what's been going on the past 10 years in retail, excluding apparel. Small retailers selling big ticket stuff are getting squished...

    Dedicated brick and mortar camera stores - even those that largely sell digital photography products - are having a real tough time as far as I can tell. I can name at least one Boston-area retail store that has told me that their used equipment (like many they have an eBay storefront), digital photofinishing, and framing departments are the only things that keep them in the game.

    One of the larger retailers in the Boston area (not the one named in the example above) recently opened a store in Kenmore Square in Boston which seemed like a good idea in light of the fact that it's directly across the street from the New England School of Photography and is in a very heavy foot traffic area. But it's been a bust - NESOP instructors have already been telling their students for years to order the stuff off the web from B&H and Freestyle and to pool their purchases to get volume discounts and save on shipping.

    Even Adorama and B&H have been steadily branching out into other areas, such as high-end Audio/Visual and now even do a pretty good business selling desktop and laptop PCs to small businesses. Makes sense, as people increasingly order digicams from amazon.com and similar.

    And shopping through amazon.com does have the one advantage in that you will have no trouble whatsoever returning the product. The proft margins ain't great even on digicams - so it isn't worth their time to challenge it. You just can't expect to walk into a brick and mortar store and return a $1,500 camera as it were a $5 pair of socks. I don't care what return policy is on the wall - you get an interrogation.

    That all said, I see no reason why companies with good distribution that have taken pains to establish themselves as specialists in analog photography products (J&C, Freestyle, etc.) shouldn't continue to reap good returns from these product lines as long as they remain available. Those of us who are looking to stick with analog for the long haul have a pretty good awareness of where to get these products now - and it ain't Bestbuy.com or Amazon.com.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2007
  14. roteague

    roteague Member

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Location:
    Kaneohe, Haw
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    The market has decidely changed. One of our local camera stores went out of business after 45 years. The last few years I went in there, all they wanted to sell me was digital equipment - but, they found out the hard way that they can't compete with WalMart just down the block selling some of the same items. The stores have to be different to make it, and many aren't willing to step ouside the box.