Change is constant – and these days, lonely!

We have known for many years that change is the name of the game for all players in our industry, so none of the recent news in Photo Counter, whatever its nature, should really surprise any of us. But this is no time for hand-wringing or adopting a wait-and-see approach.

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Changing corporate strategies mean specialist photo retailers can no longer rely on large suppliers to work with them.

As Graeme Samuel from the ACCC pointed out back in 2008, few industries have experienced the levels and magnitude of upheaval that our sector has. But given that consumers have an insatiable need and want of images for sharing or printing, our industry is far from dead.

The answer of what to do in relation to all the disruption going on clearly centers on your mindset, your entrepreneurial talent and the customer strategies you put into action on behalf of your business.

Mindset is all about whether or not you genuinely take total responsibility for what happens each and every day. Are you a victim of circumstances or are you someone who sets the strategy and makes it happen irrespective of what’s going on? Entrepreneurial talent centres on leadership, vision,and commitment to make things happen in ‘greenfield’ or highly disruptive environments. And customer implementation strategies blend mindset and entrepreneurial talent with the ability to relentlessly pursue fresh consumer insights that lead to a profitable return on investment.

Canon_storeIn other words it all starts with YOU. In times of uncertainty there’s a tendency to hunker down and wait. But that’s no longer an option because more new competitors, be they retail, wholesale, manufacturing or online are entering our market space and competing more aggressively. This coupled with the toughening competition and lowering margins among existing players is totally reshaping our industry here in Australia and New Zealand.

By way of showing just how much change we have seen in just three years, take a close look at the strategic group map I created in 2009:

That was then: In just three years the competitive scene in photo retailing has changed dramatically. (Source: Budd Consulting)

That was then: In just three years the competitive scene in photo retailing has changed dramatically. (Source: Budd Consulting)

You will notice I had ‘Bookstores’ as a competing channel. This was on the basis of the introduction of ‘print on demand’ kiosks in book stores, initially for custom-printing of books but easily adapted to the creation of photo books. A few years down the track and the print on demand experiment by book retailers has largely proven unsuccessful, and thus that one potential threat to specialist photo retailers disappeared.

Pico_thumbOn the other hand, in 2009 ‘Online’ was a single channel. Now we have: bricks and mortar stores with retail websites; online retailers opening b&m stores; (the multi-channel approach); local standalone online retailers; offshore online retailers, Ebay; and distributors’ online stores. The competition from ‘manufacturer-branded stores’ has diminished (Kodak due to its financial difficulties and Fujifilm due to changing marketing strategies) but they have been replaced by the likes of Canon and Nikon being more active with their own online offerings and direct marketing to consumers.

PboxIn 2009 the impact of group buying sites like Groupon, LivingSocial or Scoopon, the large increase in the number of online companies, or the rise of global print service providers like Vista and Photo Box weren’t part of the picture. They certainly are now, with the emerging new channel of the ‘Print Service Provider’ fast securing a foothold in a territory photo retailers once called their own.

Nikon_storeWhichever way you look at our industry’s future and your company’s goals within it, mastering the skill of riding the waves of change has never been more important or more urgent – or, more lonely.

We used to be able to look to our market-leading companies and a strong, united alliance of retailers and wholesalers sharing mutual self-interest to mark out a path. For a whole range of reasons, some unique to Australia and New Zealand and some more global in nature, that’s not presently the case.

Buying groups are part of the answer, but more than ever specialist retailers need to be self-reliant to succeed.

We’d like to help – albeit in a modest way. Over the next few months Budd Consulting and  Photo Counter will be publishing a series of articles addressing the marketing challenges faced by the small independent retailer.
– Peter Budd, Budd Consulting
(Marketing consultants to the photo channel,  ph: 0408 322 208)


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