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  1. #121
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    At the mall in Toledo, the manager of the Ritz is named Ted. He is a very competent fellow fluent in camera-speak who can wax poetic about an old Nikon manual camera between sales of digital gear to newbies. He also hires folk who know and remember fondly the old days.

    More importantly, however, he has the knack of attracting new photographers and keeping them interested in the hobby. He takes time and explains his merchandise patiently and thoroughly to potential buyers.

    But he's not through with them after they buy.

    I saw him last Saturday morning as he was wheeling a cart with gear through the food court. He told me that he was going to conduct the first of four classes he offers to purchasers of a camera. Later, after a couple hours, I saw him heading back. He told me there were 18 persons in the class at a mall meeting room.

    He offers the series of four classes to non-buyers, too, for $50, which is a good deal, I think.

    In any case, how many camera stores offer such a class? Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

    Oh, yes, he also prides himself on his and his staff's ability to turn out top-notch prints for those of us who still use film.
    Last edited by rosey; 03-04-2009 at 04:14 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Added comment

  2. #122
    Photo Central - AT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobNewYork View Post
    Andrew - you have it in a nutshell.

    Have you also noted how an increasing number of people buy their equipment in the big box store - and then come to you with the problems - because they can't get help in the store where they bought it?

    I do hope the big boxes leave the smaller markets, but of course, that means that the larger markets will have only big boxes. The other issue I have is that when the box stores move into an area they demand, and get, tax abatements.

    You gotta love the level playing field!

    Keep at it Andrew - we're with you!

    Bob H
    I appreciate your support Bob - I'm certainly trying to do my best.

    And yes, every day we have people asking us to help them with products they bought elsewhere. I've even had people (yes, more than one!) tell me that they want to support us too, so they'll make sure to come to us with their questions "even if" they buy their equipment elsewhere.

    Normally, I try to look at these circumstances as opportunities to earn their loyalty, but too often the support comes first, only to have them order online to save $30.00 or what have you.

    But we continue to do business as we have, and we will continue to treat everyone with respect. When that stops working, it won't be worth being in business anyway. I'm certainly not in it to get rich!

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  3. #123

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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Central - AT View Post
    I appreciate your support Bob - I'm certainly trying to do my best.

    And yes, every day we have people asking us to help them with products they bought elsewhere. I've even had people (yes, more than one!) tell me that they want to support us too, so they'll make sure to come to us with their questions "even if" they buy their equipment elsewhere.

    Normally, I try to look at these circumstances as opportunities to earn their loyalty, but too often the support comes first, only to have them order online to save $30.00 or what have you.

    But we continue to do business as we have, and we will continue to treat everyone with respect. When that stops working, it won't be worth being in business anyway. I'm certainly not in it to get rich!

    Cheers,

    Andrew
    Just sometimes it seems like everyone has a right to make a living - except you! Call me a cynic - but I think if you were in it to get rich, you'd have to toss out your integrity.

    Cheers.

    Bob H
    "Why is there always a better way?"

  4. #124

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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Central - AT View Post
    Finally, with regards to chains, there is another element which I see regularly and which discourages me to no end. For those people who are new to photography who purchase from a chain (whether a Best Buy type, or even a "photo chain" like Ritz or Henry's (Canada's version of Ritz)), too often they lose interest in photography because they aren't given a chance. They buy a camera (film or digital), don't know how to get past step A or B, and don't realize the potential they are missing because no one is willing and able to help them along.
    Do you have an organized way to help people along, like with instructional advice or classes? Last year, for example, my mother bought a new Mac laptop. She's one of the least technically sophisticated people I know, but when she got the new computer, Apple offered weekly in-store training sessions (for a nominal additional fee, of course), and they were very helpful to her in getting used to basic tasks like using the mail program and the browser. It's true that Apple has buckets of cash and a high-margin product, but they wouldn't do it if it didn't make money for them somehow. I wonder if you couldn't offer something like that to people who bought cameras, even if you had to charge a little extra for it--customers liking their cameras better and coming into the store regularly may buy more stuff for them. And it's certainly something that bottom-feeder retailers and online shops wouldn't do.

  5. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moopheus View Post
    Do you have an organized way to help people along, like with instructional advice or classes?
    Moopheus,

    Thank you for your question. We do, in fact, do everything that you mention, We run classes of various kinds, including basic photography and composition, digital slr courses, lighting, shoot + critique (these are great - our staff goes shooting with the group, offering help, advice, showing them different gear etc, and follow up the next week with a critique of the groups 8x10 or larger prints from the shoot - a good time!) and more.

    We also offer full support - we do free house calls for those who need it, whether it's to set up a new printer, figure out how to light their studio, etc. I spent two hours last week helping a gentleman learn how to organize and file his images on his computer. It had nothing to do with anything we sold him, and it cost him nothing, but he'll remember us the next time he needs something (I hope!).

    Moreover, we will spend as long as we need to in store to not only teach our customers how to use their gear, but we're happy to help them improve their images as well. Personally, that's my favourite part of the job. It's amazing how few images we see coming from the gear we sell (excluding what gets printed in our lab, but that is private material - we can't critique it if we're not asked to!).

    And yet, despite all we do, people still go elsewhere to save a buck (and we even match prices, so we can't be accused of being "expensive"). But as long as I can feed my family I'll stick to my way of doing things. Thankfully my staff all feel the same way.

    Cheers all,

    Andrew

  6. #126
    accozzaglia's Avatar
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    This is what National Camera Exchange in the Twin Cities used to offer as a value-added service.

    Quote Originally Posted by Moopheus View Post
    Do you have an organized way to help people along, like with instructional advice or classes? Last year, for example, my mother bought a new Mac laptop. She's one of the least technically sophisticated people I know, but when she got the new computer, Apple offered weekly in-store training sessions (for a nominal additional fee, of course), and they were very helpful to her in getting used to basic tasks like using the mail program and the browser. It's true that Apple has buckets of cash and a high-margin product, but they wouldn't do it if it didn't make money for them somehow. I wonder if you couldn't offer something like that to people who bought cameras, even if you had to charge a little extra for it--customers liking their cameras better and coming into the store regularly may buy more stuff for them. And it's certainly something that bottom-feeder retailers and online shops wouldn't do.

  7. #127
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    The Today show just announced that Ritz Camera is going out of business and the liquidation sales start tomorrow, Saturday, 4 April.
    Louie

  8. #128

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    from what i understand not all stores are being closed
    about 400+ are going, and about 300 are staying ...
    the 3 here in ri where i am, are closing ...

  9. #129

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    Times have changed and if you can not keep up with the pace you are doomed.
    If your sales-people have no clue what they are selling, the customers leave in irritation and don't come back.

    Yesteryear is gone and one is all to happy to find a store that knows what they are selling and are willing to help you.

    Shure I am buying online, most of the time because I can not get it localy or online is 40% or more cheaper.

    Ritz is gone, so what ? The next big-box-mover will take their place and get lost in the future.
    Some will survive, hopefully....... like smaller stores that care..... and that is to our benifit !

    Peter

  10. #130

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    I think there'll be very few stores left with knowledgeable staff providing true service. Online stores don't have the investment in staff or bricks and mortar and hence their margins can be lower. If people are to make a living "best price" and "best, most knowledgeable service" are virtually mutually exclusive. Once price becomes the basic determinant it implies lower profit margins and requires higher volumes which itself means reduced costs and service if one is to pay the bills.

    Some niches will remain. For example APUGgers don't expect an 11x14 print from a custom lab at the same price as a chain drugstore. That is not true of the majority of the population. However, as people have gravitated to these drugstores, pro-lab volumes have declined. The overheads of the labs, however, are fixed - so the labs must accept declining income or raise prices to maintain their living standards - thereby becoming less price-competitive.

    I had a small store and studio and my favorite part was sharing my knowledge, trading "war-stories" and helping people develop their skills. As time went on, however, I found people buying their film in the big-box stores - and asking me to load their cameras; spending hours discussing which camera to buy, buying it online and asking me to show them how to use it. I had one customer tell me that he wanted to buy a camera from me but I would have to match the online price. He wanted to buy from me because I gave a free one hour lesson with purchase. When I told him the online price was less than my cost - but I gave lessons at $50 per hour - he was highly offended and stormed out!

    I closed down once I realized I was working 7 days a week purely for the landlord. If I'd wanted that I'd have sent my resume to the landlord!! I'd developed a few commercial photography clients which I kept - and developed more. Without the overhead and the need to be at the store 7 days a week I realized I should have made that decision years ago.

    As you can tell I have a great affinity for the small guy. If I take up a store's time discussing or looking at equipment - I buy from them, however much cheaper I could buy online. That may mean that I buy less than I otherwise would but I think it's the right thing to do. If I intend to buy online I will not take up the store's time and thereby use their resources without recompense.

    Bob H
    "Why is there always a better way?"



 

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