In February, we asked a range of retailers how they traded through Christmas, their views on 2017, and where sales might come from this year, and how much of an impact the arrival of Amazon would have on the photo specialist channel.
Here are there responses…
Ever the optimists, we foresee 2017 being better than 2016 – sales will come from people who acknowledge that their smartphone can’t do everything and they need a real camera!
Amazon Downunder doesn’t concern us as there are plenty of competitive players on-line in NZ already. We will continue to differentiate ourselves by providing an experience and education – we have just held another successful Zoo Day with Canon.
Greg Bramwell, Photo & Video International, Christchurch, NZ
Christmas was pretty good, it was our first Xmas with our new partnership with the Photo Warehouse group and we very much enjoyed being able to offer an enlarged range. It seems that the percentage of consumers that do care about their images are still going strong. It was easier to sell nice gear for a fair price than poor gear for nothing.
I’m one of life’s optimists, even through the dark years. I always thought each year was going to be better than the one before. I love some of the products we have coming on stream, and as I’m in Christchurch we would appreciate just a little period with no quakes, fires, locusts or invasions.
Once again, I’m an optimist. My clients have had the opportunity to buy from all over the place, including parallel importers in NZ. The nice people that shop with us still do, the ones that don’t, don’t. Getting used to not being everything to everyone is key. I like the ones that do. We have enough challenges now, I don’t see the next challenge as world ending.
The sales reflected the improvement of the stocks from the suppliers, as well as some strong bundle deals negotiated by our buying team.
Video performed very well, premium compact cameras also performed well. With the tight supply of cameras, we did notice an increase attach with accessories and memory cards.
The supply of stock was disappointing.
January and February have started well. Last year when it became apparent that stock would be short from the Japanese earthquake we saw a pull from our stock as retailers sourced what they could before stock became much tighter. I have just visited CP+ and was very encouraged with the level of engagement – reflecting new models and the growth of the premium end of the market. I think lens attach should also be a good opportunity for the forward year.
I think if Amazon arrive in Australia they will impact all retailers. The opportunity photo specialist retailers have is the personal ‘human’ touch and service to talk to our customers and guide them through their purchases. As the industry focuses on the higher end models – which need more support and training – it gives our retail industry a great advantage …. People need help.
Our industry also has locations all around Australia – giving customers instant access to stock and models – without having to wait for delivery. If we can integrate some of the IT smarts Amazon have with our retail service and human ‘frontline’, I think we may be able to fare better than other Industries.
Phil Gresham, Fotofast. Brisbane
Christmas and January were good, even the days between Christmas and New Year. Online was way up and we were working very long days prior to Christmas.
February has been up and down but what we have got planned with new products, promotions and additional production equipment it should be a good year.
Amazon won’t have much impact on us as we don’t sell hardware, hopefully they could be a good source of cheap film for us…
Chris Harris, Bay Park Photos, Tamworth, NSW
Trading over Christmas was down on last year for turnover but printing was up, as were sales of small items, and sales during Country Music Week were up 20 percent. February started badly but is now powering ahead.
We’re struggling against the major online stores and we regularly get people who say they buy everything online because it’s cheaper, even when I prove that we’re more competitive or as competitive on general accessories. I now tell people that those who think online’s always cheaper are of low intelligence. We don’t want them wasting our time because we have regular customers to worry about. We’re sick of their arrogance and rudeness when they come in.
I think things are only going to get better as the year progresses, and those who are trying to compete with the cheap market aren’t going to survive. I’ve noticed a few items we sell on a regular basis some of our online competitors have discontinued.
Amazon shouldn’t affect us a great deal. Most people inland don’t like buying online because of warranty issues. We continually had people in Port Macquarie who bought online bring us faulty goods and expect us to fix them for free or show them how to use it for free and then get abusive when we said there was a fee!
Alan Lane, Camera Lane, Melbourne
We had a fair Christmas but kicked on in January with above average turnover and profit. But then February was a below average due to poor supply by wholesalers who are not ordering enough new stocks. I have the customers, I have all the information, and I take their trade-ins but can’t get stock .
It’s hard to predict 2017 because of supply, but there is lots of money out there. One of my customers is the Ferrari manager in Melbourne. He told me he had a record sales for January of $20 million and he gets 38 of the new model costing $850,000 and already 36 customers have put down deposits. The customers are there but the stock is not ..
I don’t blame Amazon coming to Australia as the customers are here with money to spend and maybe they will be like Kogan and by-pass local wholesalers. Our biggest disappointment is that local wholesalers are running their own stores and websites, ignoring the fact that we made them what they are. We will survive because we give service, support and a shoulder to lean on for older customers who aren’t computer savvy.
I’m sure Amazon will take our customers’ money then send the goods from O/S to avoid paying GST. It’s an an old trick and the government says we haven’t the time or staff to police it, so they let it happen. I read that the ATO could have made billions in GST if they blocked the imports coming in GST-free, let alone all the Australian hard earned money going O/S adding to our credit card debt .
John Ralph, John Ralph Camera House Erina, NSW
I was pleased with the final results for this Christmas and January trading. With the shortness of supply across the range and the lack of demand for lower-priced cameras, I had been prepared for a greater downturn.
I think our market is now dependent on the higher end sales and generally this means customers buying for themselves rather than the purchase of gifts for others. The areas that did do well in that gift area were the accessory areas of bags, filters and tripods, and we had our best sales of binoculars since the 2000 Olympics.
In the lab, demand was steady with increases in slide and film scanning, film processing and general enlargements giving an overall good result. Whilst our total sales were slightly down, the shift to higher margin lines meant the profit remained.
The last 12 months has shown a steady increase in total sales over the previous year. Camera House was able to provide us with sufficient stock across our specialty category to keep sales in the upper price ranges. We found most months were up, which compensated for loss of the gift camera sales in December.
I feel that there are many new DSLR and mirrorless owners who provide a base for future lens and accessory sales. We are now running seven regular educational events each month catering to around 70 attendees. Our flagship event last year involved five weeks in Africa – a once in a lifetime experience. Our main consumer events involve a Video Expo in April and a Lens Expo in November. I feel that lenses and video accessories are going to be the main industry growth areas in the coming year.
The impact of Amazon is to be respected but I feel that we have the opportunity to be competitive and offer the in-store experience. I would expect that if Amazon opens a warehouse locally, they will also have to pay GST, which levels the field a little. It is certainly a warning that we cannot afford to be complacent and have to look after every customer, one at a time, if we are to remain relevant. There is a value placed on personal service by our customers, particularly the older (my) generation. I think our challenge is to engage our children and grandchildren to ensure the future of the specialist channel.