The Death of Brick & Mortar Photo Shops
This morning I awoke, planned on posting a guest article, and then head out to shoot the Sony NEX mount 28 2.8 from SLR Magic so I can get the review started. I checked my e-mail, and as I sat and read them I found one in particular that caught my attention. Some of you may remember that for a while I used to do “Question & Answer Wednesday”, and I have been thinking about bringing it back as I get so many comments and questions every day. I thought this e-mail would make for a good post this morning as it always seems like a highly debated topic when I see it on forums, sites, etc.
The e-mail that got me this morning was not so much a question though, it was about physical Photography Stores that are going out of business due to the mass amounts of online sales these days.
Here is the e-mail…
“I just read your post about the Think Tank roller bag. And something
caught my attention after listening to a recent story on the radio
about photographic retailers.
Quote: “I did just order a new camera flight bag from Think Tank.” “I
checked it out in a shop and the quality was fantastic.”
I’m sure we’re all guilty, and this is in no way meant to be an
attack. (Which is why I didn’t post it in the comments.) But just food
for thought and interesting piece regarding the competition
traditional retailers are facing online. As I’m sure they will all
need to think about changing their strategy in order to survive.
Have a listen to this radio interview with a photographic business
that’s had to close its doors after 46 years in business.
Fast forward to 25.50 to get to the interview.
Anyway, if you decide to post anything about it. No need to quote /
reference me. Rather stay anonymous. Just thought you might find the
and here is my response/thoughts on this topic:
I agree about this as my local camera shop just went out of business. The oldest photo store in Pheonix. But, IMO, they deserved to go out of business! Why? I used to shop there religiously. Then about 3 years ago they started jacking up prices as they were losing money to online shops. I would go in and a camera would be $200-$500 more than online shops such as B&H Photo. When I asked if they would match the price, they said “No, and if you order from B&H you will get grey market goods“. That was a lie (and I knew it but many would take that as fact) as B&H does not ship out grey market unless you specifically order grey market (and they tell you this, for example with their Canon and Nikon lenses).
Last year I went in to the shop to buy a Domke bag as they were a Domke dealer. I figured I would pay the extra $50 to get it now, and support the shop. I went in to buy an F-803, which they usually had on hand, and they had not a one. Their reason was that “No one buys Domke anymore” and then they tried to sell me some cheap overpriced off brand. That was an early sign of their troubles as I noticed they were stocking less and less of the good stuff.
Then there was the time they were selling the Nikon D3x at full retail, plus tax of course. I said if they cut off $200 I would buy from them (online I would have saved hundreds of dollars). Their reply was “Sorry, we can sell these all day at full price”. I kindly declined.
The store NEVER tried to compete with any kind of online shop/site, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they would be out of business. There are shops that managed to thrive by creating an online presence and are doing well, but those who did not were lazy and did not prepare for what was obviously the future of shopping. If I owned a long standing shop, I would have hired some guru to create a killer website where I could sell online at competitive prices. I would have taken a small loss the first two years to be competitive with the big guys and offer amazing personal service. That would have been the only chance to survive.
One guy that comes to mind when I think of this is Ken Hansen (email here). He used to have a huge store in New York and he felt the Squeeze years ago from B&H. Today he is semi-retired and works from his home selling only Leica and used gear, and he does quite well. He has amazing service, and stays competitive with pricing even though his profit margins are small. He has a reputation online and off. He does not have a website, but does have an online presence.
Then there are shops like Dale Photo. They created a great online website presence, and David Farkas who is the goto guy at Dale, runs a blog where he talks about gear. He created an online presence and seems to do well. Of course you have the huge B&H Photo which EVERYONE knows about! Why is this exactly? They were smart from the get go with creating their online mega site and it’s the best in the business as far as I am concerned. I’ve been buying online from them for YEARS.
Yes, I have seen many small shops change their future doom by creating a great online site and online buzz. Those who did not were lazy IMO and basically hoped things would get better, when the future is indeed online shopping.
With devices like the ipad, iphone, etc…online is the future. Period.
Also, I have to mention this… when I checked out the Think Tank bag at another local shop, it was $319 plus tax. Online I can get it for $279 and free shipping. Saving over $50. I’m not rich, nor can I afford to throw money away. The shop would not budge on the price so I ordered online. I predict they will be the next shop to go down, maybe not this year but soon.
So I can not feel sorry for the owners of long standing shops who failed to recognize the importance of creating an online presence as THIS IS the future, like it or not. Another thing I dislike about local shops was if I had to return something they acted like you were a bad person and gave you grief about it. Online is simple. Print a form and ship it back. No hassles or guilt. No restock fee (which is another problem with physical shops).
Anyway, sorry if I got on a small rant! Just feel strongly on this and when others tell me to buy in the shop, believe me, I try! The shops that are hurting just cant seem to give any deals or breaks, and paying extra so they can stay in business a few months or year longer doesn’t seem like a smart strategy. They need the strategy with an online website and if they failed to do that then it is only a matter of time. Running any business is tough, and you have to stay up with the times if you want to future proof. To those who do, it can save their business. To those who don’t then sadly they stand no chance. The shops who have yet to create an online presence, it may be too late. Sad but true.
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