(UPDATED May 12): The working partnership between buying group PhotoPlus and buying/marketing group Leading Edge (PhotoEdge) will end on July 1 this year at the instigation of Photo Plus.
Leading Edge general manager Michael Carr wrote to the 54 stores in the combined group today (May 7) informing them of the development.
‘…Leading Edge Digital and PhotoPlus have had a working partnership for the past three years. Over this time the Leading Edge Team has taken on more and more day-to-day management of the PhotoPlus members’ requirements. In the last year the entire program has been managed by Leading Edge Group,’ wrote Mr Carr.
‘Leading Edge Group has received correspondence from Wayne Styles [managing director, PhotoPlus] advising that PhotoPlus has decided to cease their association with Leading Edge Group effective 30th June, 2014. Effectively this means that the 19 PhotoPlus Members will no longer be part of the PhotoEdge/Leading Edge Digital Group from the 1st July 2014.’
Lee Scott, group merchandise manager for Leading Edge Digital told Photo Counter that while the decision was ‘surprising and a little disappointing’ the ending of the partnership was amicable, and there was no ill-will surrounding it. He anticipated that at least some PhotoPlus members would re-sign with Leading Edge on their own behalf, adding that two PhotoPlus stores had already ‘responded positively’ to the invitation to re-join Leading Edge.
Leading Edge will continue to use the PhotoEdge branding for its photo retailing group. There are currently 35 stores in the group, and 19 PhotoPlus stores.
‘There is no reason why stores couldn’t be members of both groups,’ said Mr Scott. ‘Our fee structure for membership is low and we have a strong offer, and a store can leave the group with just 30 days’ written notice.
‘I expect a number of PhotoPlus stores will want to stay with us.’
In his letter to members, Michael Carr invited PhotoPlus stores to sign on with Leading Edge and outlined what the group had to offer:
‘The offer we have for independent businesses, including group marketing, support, trading terms, preferred suppliers, central billing, Electronic Remittance Accounts Portal, Intranet and the Leading Edge Group Member Rewards (non-trade benefits) is a compelling offer,’ he wrote.
Wayne Styles, the principal of PhotoPlus, said the relationship with Leading Edge ‘was fantastic – still is.’
He agreed that Leading Edge had been handling all administration over the past 12 months and ‘they’ve been doing a sterling job.’
‘The only reason we’ve departed is that, three years ago we didn’t anticipate what would happen to the photo channel. We didn’t think it would dissipate so quickly…Neither Michael (Carr) or myself would have predicted the industry would have changed so much.’
PhotoPlus eliminates fees
Mr Styles emphasised that the decision to leave the combined group was made by the PhotoPlus members themselves.
‘Our group has halved in numbers in that time. And not just our group – Leading Edge, Camera House have all suffered’ – from retailers retiring, in some cases passing away, and in some cases simply choosing a new career path.
He said specialist numbers were down to around 400 nationally, and that suppliers had lost interest in the photo channel.
‘It’s very difficult to operate a successful business in an unsuccessful channel,’ he observed.
He said that in the end, although the alliance had been highly successful, it was no longer affordable.
‘From July 1, PhotoPlus will be operating with no fees at all,’ he announced, adding that the group had been running for 40 years and only introduced membership fees in 1987. ‘Before that we were fee-less. There’s definitely no reason we can’t make it work.’
He was not so certain that it would be possible for retailers to be members of both groups, except perhaps if they ran a mixed photographics/electronics business, as is the case in some country towns, and were part of the Leading Edge Electronics group.
‘If any member wanted to remain with PhotoEdge, we have no objection to that. We accept that our members are free to stay with us or go to Photo Edge,’ he said.