Who controls the materials market?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by arigram, Mar 28, 2007.

  1. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I don't know anything about economics. In fact their mere mention puts out big red pimples on my nose. But I am interested in some opinions in some matters that affect me (photographically) personally.

    Three cases in point:
    - I called the greek distributor of Ilford, Damkalides and asked about the new products of the company: the cool/warmtone paper developers, the selenium, the SFX film. Their answer is that they don't stock it and only with a special order with a minimum quantity can get them for me.
    - Fuji doesn't bring color film in 120 faster than 100 asa at all.
    - Orders from greek distributors can take months even be completely forgotten: after four months, I had to cancel the order for a Lowepro bag because I got tired of waiting. The Manfrotto distributor is no quicker and has even forgotten an order after months. Two other distributors (Hasselblad, Elinchrom) had to be threaten by sending letters to the parent company to behave professionally.

    So, who controls the market?

    - Does the customer control the market?
    But, if I don't find film which I need in stock, get in trouble when I order thousands of euros of professional equipment and in the end be lied to and accept horrible service, am I to blame?
    Am I to blame when I can't buy Ilford or Fuji products and then have to switch to digital because I believe the market is dead?
    If I mail order, what happens to the local representatives?
    They start to believe they don't have a market and so they stop stocking eve more items or close all together.
    And you end up with "there is no market in Greece".

    - Does the representative control the market?
    But, if they don't stock, advertise or assist their customers, don't they destroy their own market? A distributor that doesn't stock atleast a sample of a not so specialised product, or be extra quick in bringing it in, how can they find a market for that product?
    So, if the Ilford distributor sells only a very limited number of different products, how can the local people know about them, unless they read APUG or order from abroad?
    How often do you read in APUG about a member who was told with "some authority" that a product was discontinued just because the local distributor stopped stocking it?
    Does the greek distributor effectively controls the greek Ilford market for example?

    - Does the parent, manufacturing company control the market?
    In the end, does Ilford, or Fuji, or Hasselblad really know their markets and their representatives? Can they expand and contract in a geographical location by will? Can Ilford sell more products if the local distributor does not care about letting their customers know that some new ones are available and being able to sell a few of them to attract more?

    If the analog market has been restricted to a niche, to advertisements in analog magazins, APUG or word of mouth, I think its not only due to the Global Market Forces but also an effect of local representation.

    I have more than once stated the importance of APUG in this global society and I am often dissapointed to find out that the pumpered members often neglect the real situation in the world.

    Its not just the shiny new digital products that attract the eye, or their seeming advantages, or even the huge advertising campaigns by the manufacturers.
    Often it is the local people, the national distributors, the little local guys that control their market.
    Very, very few people will struggle over the availabillity of their materials, the vast majority will take the easy route and accept what's available. Even fewer will get into the trouble of searching for solutions far away from their locallity, ordering, buying large quantities, sending money, etc.

    There are very few people like me who live in an island, read APUG, order their material from abroad and stick with the medium "just because". It would be so, very easy to just switch to digital and forget about it.

    Will analog be restricted in large markets like the US and UK and the rest of the world will be digital just because of the actions of local representatives?
     
  2. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    The blame is definitely at the feet of the distributor. It is their job to advance the products that they supply in their local market. That is part of why they get an exclusive deal in that territory. Secondary blame would go to the manufacturer as it is they who select the distributor, though sometimes they have little choice in practice.

    I can't speak for the Greek distributor, but most around the world are not specialists in one particular manufacturer and will be distributors for a wide range of very different product lines. This inevitably means that they will concentrate their attention on the lines that make them the most profit. If this happens to be something other than film, then film will get less of their attention. Plus, do not underestimate the ability of distributors to shoot themselves in the foot with poor performance and lousy business practices...

    It is, as you say, a Catch-22 situation: buyers get fed up with poor service and order from overseas and the resulting fall in orders from the official distributor convinces them that they were right not to put much effort into film, and they will put in even less effort in future.

    The only way I can see is for the remaining manufacturers to put local distribution in to the hands of specialist companies that handle traditional products and associated materials and equipment only. The difficulty for the manufacturers is finding companies and people with the experience and skills to do that highly specialized job effectively. But, if the existing model is not working effectively, and it seems that in many places that is the case, they may as well give it a try and look for local companies that are willing to concentrate on advancing the business and not just sitting back and waiting for the orders to roll in - even if these companies do not have as much experience as the larger, more established distributors.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  3. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I live in a "small island", too, and I'm with you on this. Japan is filled with a lot of goods, but not really an ideal place when it comes down to looking for certain photo products that most of us here desire. It's shielded off from getting foreign products at moderate and friendly cost. Instead, we have certain importers playing a role of being "local" distributors, but they don't do a good job in terms of supplying materials and pricing them for the domestic market that people appreciate.

    It's called "protectionism" and "rip-off." It's some kind of protectionism because of the trade rules and the government pressure that we as customers hear nothing about, and it's a rip-off business because these importers have no competitors and set prices freely high. It's very much a top-down structure, very bureaucractic, and we are at the very bottom end.

    But in your case, can you find anything local? I mean Is there any Greek company that manufactures photo products? If not, what about from the surrounding areas? Where is the closest place you can find and order what you need other than the one(s) you've been having problems with? If you could find alternative products, you might want to switch to them.
     
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  4. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    One thing I have to add to what I wrote earlier is that in case of Japan, Fuji is the big player and its distribution network is huge locally. It's like how Kodak was in the U.S. until some years ago. But everything else is not so. This is the risk we are facing; if this photo giant quits what it's doing, we will be done. Actually we are starting to see a sign of it because the major photo publications here don't run articles on the products they get no ad money for, so the film photography has ceased to exist. And for the majority, it seems the inkjet-based replacement is drawing more attention.

    Our only other choice to survive, that is to order abroad is becoming an ordinary practice these days, but I personally oppose the idea of individuals mass-ordering and making all these cargo airplanes fly and delivery trucks drive around 24 hrs long distance. The shipping fees don't cover the environmental damage cost, and it's just getting harder to swallow this kind of reality.
     
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  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Ari, your totally right in your totally right in being frustrated in getting materials in your home market.

    I spent nearly an hour in a photo dealers in Izmir, 2 days ago, trying to get 5x4 Ilford Delta 100. The dealer was extremely helpful, he rang a number of other shops, then rang the Ilford importers in Istanbul only to be told that they didn't import it. All that was available quickly was HP5.

    Interestingly he said that despite knowing photographers who were still using sheet film in the area he had no demand for it, and he thought they all bought from the UK or Germany via the internet or mail order.

    Many years ago in the UK Agfa ceased importing photographic materials and an enlightened photographer Peter Goldfield began importing Agfa materials privately (Martin Reed of Silverprint an APUG sponsor worked for him).

    People like this are needed more than ever around the world, the UK has Silverprint, the US has J&C, Digitaltruth etc, Germany has Photoimpex, all are run by committed photographers, as opposed to just plain businessmen, people who know what we as photographers want.

    So yes Ari, we are at the mercy of the official importers unless manufacturers change their policies and allow dealers to import direct.

    Ian
     
  6. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    Well, if we assume that the distributers are doing everything they can to maximize their profits, then it's probably safe to assume that there really isn't a large enough market for them to concentrate on film related stuff. I'm willing to bet that there is a non zero chance that they are not doing everything they can to wring every cent out of their market, that can lead to inefficiencies and the problems you mentioned. There is a potential bright spot. If they are indeed not doing their job or if the film market is too small for them to adequately service it, there is the possibility of a dedicated distributer to fill in the gap. If there were a person that would concentrate on these materials, the profit would probably not be as high as a more diversified distributer (let's not kid ourselves) but there may be enough profits to support someone that really cares about these products. The potential upside for a company like Ilford is that a dedicated distributer would most likely increase sales because of the efforts to promote the products and the willingness to stock stuff.


    Isaac
     
  7. haris

    haris Guest

    Oh, well, no problems here. Nobody import, no distributers, not even sellers anymore. So, arigram, when you once get used to those facts, you will start to buy abroad, and never ask yourself those questions. And trust me, it is doable that way :smile:
     
  8. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Buy from abroad is relatively painless, the main problem is that you have to buy large quantities which mean:
    a) you have to give lots of money upfront
    b) can take time
    so, you can't buy a few rolls or a bottle or two of developer quickly, you have to buy for the whole six months or year before hand. Which is fine if you have lots of money to spend at once.

    The main issue is what happens with the market.
    I am ok, what about the other people who do not know about ordering or are not willing to do so? What about the distributor themselves? What about the manufacturing company?
    If all greek users start buying from Germany or the UK then Ilford or Kodak or Tetenal or whatever will lose the whole greek market and possibly result to even less film users.
    After all, if someone walks in a local store and they tell him they have no film or paper left, I am sure the first thing they will understand is that the market of film is dead, so will the distributor if people mail order instead of buying from them.
    I have only bought from abroad things that I can't find in Greece (Ilford PanF+ for example) but the local distributors are so shitty I hate dealing with them. The only reason I do it is to support my Cretan distributor.
    But if she goes bust, I will probably order from Germany, not Athens.

    So in the end, its not really me who loses, but Ilford, Kodak and the others that lose the local market.
    I am sure it doesn't help Ilford when I personally have to inform the local stores that not only they still produce, but they have developed new products and are researching for even more. It always comes as a shock.
     
  9. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I believe so. Just this week I had trouble finding a store that knew they could even obtain certain Ilfochrome products. I was told by all of them that they couldnt get it, even after I inisted that they were wrong and told them to contact the distributor. In at least 2 cases I was talking directly with the store's buyer. All of them use the same distributor, and all of them were 100% wrong. To their credit, one store dug deeper and found out they were wrong, but only after I pushed them to do so. The other two said in effect "sorry pal, you are out of luck". One of them did dig deeper (but obviously not deep enough) and called me back with the same wrong answer as before. Its a wonder there are any analog products selling with this inexcusable confusion going on.

    Wayne
     
  10. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I think you hit it on the head.



    Wayne
     
  11. haris

    haris Guest

    Well, arigram, when you have no options but one, it is easy. You go that route :smile: Here are no options. I can chose, to go digi or to buy abroad. You have to accept fact that you can find yourself (or you already are) in same situation. Then you will see that what are you telling now is good thinking, but academic, that is you can't do anything about it. Oh, no, there is one thing. You can ask Ilford, Kodak, Tetenal or others to sign contract you to be theire distributer. If you can find funding capital for that, and you think there is financial viability, go for it. I can't. In my country (population about 4 millions) if here is 100 film photographers I would be happy... In fact if here is 100 photographers at all I would be happy :smile:

    I am afraid that even in countries like France, UK, Germany, in future you will not be able to walk into store and to buy liter of developer or 2 rolls of film. Even those big markets will change in a way everything will have to be preordered...

    Science, religion, destiny, please, prove me I am wrong!!!!!!
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I'm sure you're right. In a few big cities you'll be all right -- London, Paris, Berlin, Munich -- but otherwise it will be a question of knowing a nearby dealer if you're lucky (in the UK, for example, Robert White in Bournemouth, Camerex in Exeter, Bernard Hunter in Bristol) or mail order. I don't know anywhere in Poitiers (40 km) and I might as well go to Paris (300 km) as Tours (100 km) -- or order from the UK.

    You also have to ask why the small dealer would bother to special-order: top prices, long delays, when mail order is cheaper and quicker. Ilford's new direct-order scheme is clever, and may be a model for the future.

    Meanwhile, to cheer people up, here's a picture of Martin Reed at Silverprint taken in November or thereabouts (it's already appeared in another thread, but they deserve all the support we can give).

    Cheers,

    R.
     

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  13. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    It's funny that I've had similar experiences at the stores in bigger cities here in Japan, but not at the local one in the rural area, which is close to where I live. Certain toxic chemicals like selenium toner are getting hard to get over here, but when I found out that I could get it at this local store where there's virtually no film equipment or supplies any more, I was pretty happy. The store clerks had no knowledge of the things that I wanted to order, but it was just a matter of how to talk them out in the end.

    For this I have learned that I have to find someone in the store who is not busy at all, and if it's a young lady, it's sort of easier for me to deal with for some reason...
     
  14. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Oriental/Cybergraphics in Japan has online-shopping and direct mail order options for their products, and most of their items are listed much cheaper than the ones in regualr retail stores.

    But I still prefer to buy things at the stores I go to and have a little chat with the people there about the products I'm interested in getting sometimes.
     
  15. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    It would be a brave and fool hardy individual who would open an independent photography store today!

    The reality is that none of them can survive trying, for example, to sell digicameras. The "big box" stores and web-sellers can always out price them. And with reduced film sales there's no money to be made there anymore. Buy/Sell used gear like the days of old? Hey, it's a digital era - NO ONE WANTS USED GEAR!

    As to processing, the one-hour operations at the drug store chains and other retailers (e.g. Wally and Target) have fully adapted to the digishooters, offering both D-I-Y and "we'll do it for you" options. And yes, they can do C-41 too.

    So you can imagine how unlikely it is becoming to expect to find places to purchase chemicals and related gear nowadays just about anywhere. Sadly, the "indy" photo store is dying off like the dinosaurs.

    Simple fact is, now we almost always have to go to the web - and hope there are no restrictions on shipping the chemicals we need.
     
  16. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    You've got to be kidding. The fact is we do need independent photo supply stores who have a better understanding on the traditional photo materials that we need than those with a corporate mentality.

    When you order something online or at a store, if it doesn't show up on their computer screen, you need actual people with brain to do a search for you to find out, and they have to be independent-minded people, otherwise they will say no they don't have it or whatever. That will be the end no matter where you go. But that's not the way to keep going on this road.

    I kind of see this very similar to the book industry. What have Barnes & Noble and amazon done to the current book market over the years? And who owns the major publishing companies in the industry?

    If the biggies set out a certain trend in the mainstream market and there are no alternatives, I'm not sure if we will still have a healthly-enough market-economy or not. I'm not sure if we can still practice art within such a narrow scope. I understand the global marginalization of the whole photo market, but that doesn't mean it's a justifiable thing to watch if you really care about it.
     
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  17. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    The fact is that this is exactly what we need some local photo stores for. Toxic chemicals are hard to transport even within the same country, generally speaking. But if your local store can special-order them for you, you won't lose any sleep.
     
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  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi george -

    its funny that you say this ..
    i was just thinking today that it would be
    a perfect time to open an all analog photo store.
    since all the existing photo stores are failing to carry any
    chemicals, film, or paper, people are forced to buy online since there
    is no one local left.

    you suggest that no one wants used photo equipment?
    seems like ebay is going strong :smile:



     
  19. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    Ebay is selling items on a worldwide basis, a store selling used analog gear is hopeless unless you have a big web presence. There is a reason why stores have mostly stopped selling analog photo supplies and it's not because they hate analog photographers. It's because that stuff doesn't sell in large enough quantities to make it worth it. Analog photography is a niche, freestyle, J&C, silverprint, etc. may be the only places that the market can support anymore.


    Isaac
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I don't know if the "nitche" market thing has anything to do with what we've been discussing here. Wouldn't you rather actually see and feel what you are buying first before paying your money?

    I wonder if people buy used cars online as often and as much as we here do buy used cameras and lenses.