Though my business would not fall strictly under Retail, my doors have been open to the public now twenty years. Changes are extreme , more so than when I was cutting my teeth working for photo labs here in Toronto.
When I first started my first mentor told me to find 20 clients and do the best work you can for them and you will survive.
So Braxus in British Columbia this 2 cents is for you to consider, when you are unsure where your company is going.
People always will require someone to take their images to a better level, therefore learn to be the best PS and technical printer able to work in various styles.
People will always want to hang their images on the wall... So learn how to frame and add that too your list of services.
People will always want to exhibit their work.. So at the front end of your shop have a gallery where artists can show their stuff.. hopefully printed and framed by you.
People will always want to bring up their past history, usually when they are hitting their 60's and have a bit of money to spend,, so learn how to scan old images and reproduce them in historic processes.
People will always want to go to a place where excellent photographers get their work done.. therefore be very decisive who you pick as clients...Yes pick your clients... and only
pick key clients you like working with and also like their work otherwise you will not enjoy your new seven day a week lifestyle.
I have surrounded myself with wonderfully talented people who are willing to take the business places I would never be able to go to . With a healthy relationship I can do what I want now that I am coming up to my 60'th birthday. I suspect I will move from Toronto to a smaller community and support my company where I can.
I am going to keep on working on being the best printer / framer I can be, by constantly taking workshops related to PS and alt printing.
I am going to reopen my gallery.. The Dylan Ellis Gallery.. and only represent archival printmaker/photographers whose work I respect and a few key clients I have been working on for 20 years.
The Dylan Ellis Gallery will be only interested in the Art Fairs in the major centers and my openings will be every 6-8 weeks showing the best work I can find out there.
I am going to exhibit my Wife and my Own work and hope to see some revenue from 20 years of exposing and printing, but there is no garuntee of the publics response to our work.
I am scanning collections and reproducing them on alternative processes to put in collections and promote my services on the net.
I will keep on hand picking key clients and hopefully make some right moves.
######I don't know how many more years we have to stay open strictly as we are today, but I'm expecting at some point we'll shutter the Photolab business. And I'll be out looking for a new job. I keep my options open on that, but not planning on leaving just yet- unless a job comes available that I have interest in.#####
So Braxus , 14 years in a photolab is a long time working for others, With equipment so cheap these days, on the used and new market I would say look at yourself and give it a go. I started Silver Shack when I was 40, the ability to work hard each day is my only endearing attribute. Learned that as a high lead logger on Vancouver Island.
Remember people will require photo services, but in the end it always boils down to a nice print, framed to the clients specs , hanging on a wall... Pretty simple if you think about it.