‘From the point of view of outsiders looking in,’ according to APS marketing manager, Shane Martin, ‘film and print scanners should be mandatory for any photo specialist.’
– That is, a consumer would think of a photo specialty store first if they were seeking a way to digitise their old prints, negs and slides.
Yet many photo retailers aren’t interested in ranging accessories and peripherals such as dedicated scanners, according to Russell Hester, Kaiser Baas, leaving the field open to the CE channel.
He noted that while Officeworks is selling film and neg scanners, DCW is not.
‘Certainly at Kaiser Baas we are seeing a disproportionate sell-through via the CE channel,’ he said. ‘All they do is stock them, display them and ticket them. They don’t have the technical knowledge of the photo channel, but at least they are stocking the products.
‘I see what’s being being sold simply a result of ticketing and hits on the website.’
He added that Michaels and Ted’s were exceptions to the rule, but noted that at Ted’s, scanner sales sometimes seemed to revolve around the level of enthusiasm of individual store managers.
Kaiser Baas and APS, along with BCS with the QPix brand (from BCI), distribute ranges of dedicated neg and slide scanners, with Kaiser Baas offering budget models – with scans up to 1200 dpi and prices to $199. Kaiser Baas also has some interesting print scanners, including a model which writes direct to iPads.
The top-of-the-range QPix model, the PS989, features a 14- megapixel image sensor and can scan negs and slides, and prints up to 5×7-inches and write direct to an SD card. QPix offers four models, and at the budget end is a nifty wand-type scanner for documents and prints up to 8.5 x 14 inches.
The APS ‘Scanace’ range commences with an enthusiast model and runs up to scanners which are at production standard, suitable for creating in-store scans of consumer film up to medium format.
In fact, APS initially brought its Scanace range in as an inexpensive solution – the top of the line 120-format model carries an RRP of just $1699 – for retailers wanting to offer an in-store scanning service with a scanner ‘that didn’t cost $10 – 12,000’.
Mr Martin said that one model in the Scanace range was adapted from a Paximat slide projector.
It takes about 30 seconds per slide for a scan, but as it’s automated it doesn’t cut into the store’s workflow too severely.
‘We have one customer who told me that she was getting a bit irritated by the “clunk clunk” noise from the slide magazine, but then realised every time it goes clunk, she makes a dollar!’
On the shop floor it emerged that customers were also interested in scanning their own images, and with a 2400 dpi home scanner, the Imagebox 9MP, carrying an RRP of $279, the economics are attractive for people with hundreds or even thousands of images to scan.
‘We only have 4 SKUs, and they just keep selling,’ said Shane Martin.
‘As an industry, we should be selling scanners, and offering scans. We need to give people a reason to dig out their pics from the shoebox so they start using them again. There are literally millions sitting in drawers around the country.
Added to that was the renewed interest in film, including Holga and Diana-type cameras.
He said the danger was that if the specialty channel doesn’t stock scanners, they will be picked up by another channel or will go online. ‘It’s an easy purchase online,’ he noted.
Mr Hester says that in his opinion, photo specialists are devoting too much space to (low-margin) digital cameras at the expense of higher-margin products where they are not competing with box movers.
‘They are good margin products. A mum-and-dad store or a Camera House isn’t going to sell scanners in vast quantities but a $199 sales makes them $70 – I don’t think they can make that from a camera.’
He said it’s a relatively easy sell given the cost of commercial scanning services, which start at around $1. A hundred or so scans is break-even point.
‘It a matter of – do you have stock? Is it well-displayed? Is it ticketed, with a product description? And do you staff know about it?’
He felt that the modern photo retailing focus on cameras and away from accessories and peripherals started at the beginning of the digital photography era around 10 years ago, when most models were small compacts which didn’t seem to require accessories like camera bags, tripods, filters and the like.
‘The stores are all screaming out “what’s next”, but there are things out there now they can sell,’ he said.
‘There was a change of focus at the advent of the digital age. We lost focus on accessory selling and maybe we’ve forgotten some of those skills.’
Mr Hester said this was compounded by a lack of promotion, particularly in catalogues, where the major camera brands contribute most to co-op advertising funds and thus dominate the pages.
A quick perusal of the latest Camera House catalogue out last week would seem to corroborate this observation. In a 16-page publication there is one page devoted to camera bags, one to binoculars, and a third of a page to tripods, with cameras and camera kits dominating every other page.
‘You don’t need a huge inventory or a massive range,’ said Shane Martin, APS. ‘So long as there is something in store – just one or two scanners.
‘But if you don’t play in the field never going to sell anything.’