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2012 though the rear-view mirror (Pt II)

We look at the second half of 2012 in photo retailing, as reported in Photo Counter


Our lead story for the first week in July was yet another Photo Counter exclusive, announcing Rob Tolmie, formerly managing director of Photo Create, was setting up a new wholesale fulfilment operation in Melbourne, under the trading name, PMI Imageworks.

(Since then I’ve emailed Rob to catch up, but with no response, and googling PMI Imageworks is equally unenlightening. Another one to follow up in January.)

In the first newsletter editorial for July, I saddled up one of my large stable of hobby-horses – the lack of judgement from trade websites which, desperate to knock out fresh content every day – throw any old piece of pap into the mix.

JohnSwainston_2012We also reported on John Swainston’s wide-ranging PMA Conference session, in which he shared some of the examples he has collected – along with some astute observations – on how how other countries do retailing.

We covered a BIS Shrapnel report which noted that ‘specialty shop occupancy costs are…unsustainably high for some tenants.’ The report identified the tension between usurious rents for small retailers, and the transfer of sales from bricks and mortar to online. Something’s got to give, but greedy shopping centre landlords have an excess of power in negotiations with mum & dad operations (most of which have been driven out of shopping malls already).

We reported that Dave Marshall’s vision of a multi-tiered IDEA was to be shelved.

This new structure was to be part of the new-look, newly-named association which Mr Marshall had been pitching to the industry. ‘[IDEA] have not progressed on expanding the groupings at this point, but it’s nice the potential exists for if and when this makes sense,’ said IDEA executive director Katherine Singson.

Another plank to that platform, attracting the big CE companies to join IDEA and exhibit at the annual photo industry exhibition have so far been unsuccessful. Let’s hope the new executive director can turn that, and thus IDEA’s financial fortunes, around. (Even if it delivers a photo show full of tyre-kickers and prams!)

We ran a feisty opinion piece by a senior Camera House retailer addressing discrepancies in the pricing of enthusiast cameras available to different categories of customers in Australia, and continuing offshore/local price gaps… Definitely a major theme for the year.

We also ran an interview with much-missed ex-Ted’s boss Richard Robertson on traps for the unwary in retail leases, from signing the contract to handing back the keys.

This was accompanied by a companion story in which global property adviser CBRE Group named Sydney and Melbourne as in the top 10 most expensive cities for retail leases, with Brisbane at # 11.

IPS New Zealand announced that it would assume sales and distribution of Kodak media, paper and chemistry from Croxley.

The Clown Prince of Rochester, Antonio Perez, sought permission to pay top EK executives bonuses even though the company was under Chapter 11 bankruptcy: ‘Eastman Kodak is seeking to redefine the word ‘success’ by paying its top executives bonuses for achieving a 30-cents-in-the-dollar payment to unsecured creditors,’ we wrote.

Perez would have been eligible for a cool $4 million in addition to his base salary.

PMA announced plans to run equipment roadshows in March/April period of 2013 in addition to its consumer seminar program. We shall see…

– Sony announced the Cyber-shot RX100, a new premium compact cameras with a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor.
– Canon announced its long-awaited entry into the mirrorless interchangeable market with the Canon EOS M.
– Pentax announced the first all-weather DSLR, the K30 – a bargain at $900 with kit lens.


Chris Harris (Bay Park Photos) experienced  a spike in passport photos rejected by the local Australia Post post office.
Chris Harris (Bay Park Photos) experienced a spike in passport photos rejected by the local Australia Post post office.

In the first week of August we led with a story about post offices rejecting passport photos taken by photo retailers, with the photo industry’s passport photo expert, John Rule (Brands Australia) adding some light to the heat the issue attracted among retailers.

IDEA finally confirmed that the 2013 photo show (once again labouring under the misnomer, ‘The Digital Show’), would be held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre September 13-15. PMA confirmed it would be running a conference in tandem with the equipment show.

We reported on Winkiwoo – Photo Create’s Facebook site for creating photo books. Winkiwoo got off to a flying start – when we looked at the site in August it had 172,000 ‘Likes’. Odd then that today (Thursday, December 20) that has dropped to 163,000.

I jumped on another of my trusty hobby horses August  – the bloody-mindedness of Choice in bad-mouthing Australian retailers: ‘Choice’ has recently tumbled on to the fact that there are local distributors playing a role in the global supply chain, and thus Australian pricing.’

We reported that Gold Coast-based online retailer Cameras Direct had launched a ‘Wholesale’ section on its website to sell multiple units of accessory lines to retailers and groups of consumers, such as camera clubs. One of the recent trends has been the emergence of hybrid retailer/wholesalers – coming both from the retail and wholesale sides of the supply chain.

In August we also ran one of our occasional price parity checks, comparing local pricing to US pricing, concluding that ‘the differential in US MSRP (manufacturers’ suggested retail price) and Australian RRP has shrunk considerably since initiatives in that direction by market leader Canon late last year.’

We waxed lyrical in an editorial about the support Fujifilm USA was providing its specialist retailer customers via the Business Builders program – in stark contrast to their treatment by Fujifilm Austrlalia.  (What – you lot still here!?)

CR Kennedy held an official opening of its spacious new premises in Port Melbourne: 5000 square metres of office space and 7000 square metres of warehousing, on six hectares!

We reported on ‘the story so far’ as it related to Kodak and its distribution model into Australia and New Zealand.

Foto Riesel opened a new 240 sq metre lab called Create at 360 Kent Street.

Panasonic announced four new digital compacts for release in September and October.
– Samsung announced local availability of Wi-Fi enabled compact system cameras – the NX20 and NX1000.
– Polaroid announced the Z2300 digital instant camera.
– Pentax announced the 26x X-5.
– Canon announced the 30x SX500 IS.
– Nikon announced four new Coolpix cameras including the Android S800C.


Adrian-Fleming-Kodak-MD-1Kodak announced that it wanted nothing more to do with photography, putting the remaining parts of its photo business up for sale. Local managing director Adrian Fleming (pictured right) said there would be no local change.

Samsung announced what it called a new product category with  the launch of the Samsung Galaxy camera, which marries digital compact camera performance to tablet-like wireless network connectivity, ‘creating a brand new type of device’.

Sony Australia has announced November availability of the NEX-5R mirrorless interchangeable with built-in Wi-Fi, and the mainstream camera industry’s first (and very belated) entry into the action cam market with its eponymous model.

Epson confirmed that its new Surelab SL-D3000 inkjet minilab was available in Australia, with a base price of $29,995 in single paper roll configuration.

The Low Value Parcel Processing Taskforce’s final report was released, complete with a useful table outlining the break-even point if the GST threshold was reduced. Even if costs for collection were a ridiculously high $33, break-even point would be a $500 threshold. If that collection cost was $25, break even would be a $200 threshold. Yet the threshold seems set to stay at $1000 at least until 2014.

– Nikon announced a new model in its line of  mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras: the Nikon 1 System J2.
– Sony announced the Alpha SLT-A99 DSLR, the NEX-6 mirrorless interchangeable and a  full-frame digital compact, the Cyber-Shot RX1 


Location of the disputed islands which provoked Chinese protests directed at Japanese businesses, including Canon and Panasonic.
Location of the disputed islands which provoked Chinese protests directed at Japanese businesses, including Canon and Panasonic.

In the first week of October we reported that street demonstrations and alleged employee sabotage had forced Panasonic and Canon to temporarily suspend operations in several factories in China.

This falling out between Japan and China may have further ramifications next year.

We reported that online sales growth outstripped total retail sales by a factor of four in the 12 months to June, according to to the latest Roy Morgan Research ‘State of the Nation Report’.

The Lytro light field camera entered the local marketplace at an RRP from $499.

Woolworths sold the Dick Smith chain to Australian private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners for a bargain basement price of $20 million.

A truckload of new product announcements in early october following Photokina the previous month. Among them: the EOS 6D, PowerShot G15, PowerShot S110,  and the PowerShot SX50 HS (50x zoom!) from Canon; the full–frame Nikon D600 DSLR; the M-E (entry-level Leica M model), S system (successor to Leica S2 DSLR); D-Lux 6 digital compact, and V-Lux 4 24x superzoom compact from Leica; the Lite E-PL5 and Mini E-PM2 mirrorless interchangeables and the Stylus XZ-2 premium compact from Olympus; the XF-1 from Fujifilm and the (still-delayed) Lumix GH3 from Panasonic.

One of our lead stories in early October was contributed by Margaret Brown, technical editor, Photo Review Australia, who noted that local distributors weren’t making it easy to find out what’s  available locally in terms of high- margin accessory sales – providing another reason for potential customers to go online and offshore.

Photo Direct encouraged retailers to jump on board with its MyTego device/smartphone custom vinyl skins.

APS started a new business, APS Logistics, providing warehousing, distribution and even re-packaging services.

Sony bought into Olympus to the tune of $620 million.

The lunatics running the asylum in Rochester,  NY, confirmed their intention to offload the consumer inkjet business, touted less than 12 months earlier by the aforementioned Clown Prince as the path to prosperity in the ‘new Kodak’.

On October 11 another Photo Counter exclusive, with Stuart Holmes, managing director of Independent Photo (IPS), boldy nominating for the role of president of IDEA, Gary Pertot, (product manager, Adeal) putting his name forward for vice-president, Consumer, and Photo Direct managing director Steuart Meers also nominating for a role on the board.

While the ‘establishment’ candidates James Murray (Nikon) and Marc Radatt (Olympus) were elected president and vice-president respectively, all three of the ‘unendorsed’  candidates moved onto the IDEA board, giving smaller ‘second tier’ distributor members, who tend to be closer to the photo specialist sector, a potentially stronger voice in the association.

In one of the first major tests of the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the ACCC commenced Federal Court proceedings against HP, seeking ‘the full range of penalties’ against the company.

Kodak Australia appointed Independent Photo (IPS) as an authorised distributor for the full range of Kodak Paper & Output Systems (P&OS) and Retail Systems Solutions (RSS) products to the photo speciality market in Australia, in addition to their recent appointment to that role in New Zealand.

Late in October, after a series of resignations from Kodak Express NZ members unhappy about Leading Edge NZ assuming management of the program, Kodak responded exclusively to Photo Counter on the issue.


The growing interest in more sophisticated and expensive compact cameras like this $650 Canon Powershot G15  is an opportunity for specialists.
The growing interest in more sophisticated and expensive compact cameras like this $650 Canon Powershot G15 is an opportunity for specialists.

We led off the month with a story on the collapse of the me-too digital compact market and the simultaneous rise in popularity of ‘proper’ cameras, noting that: ‘Camera distributors in 2012/13 will be relying more on the product knowledge and selling skills of specialist retailers in this fundamentally changed product mix.

‘Mass merchants may well re-assess their commitment to a category in decline – specifically the low end compact camera. Consequently, the importance of the photo specialist to their camera suppliers is likely to increase.’

In best grumpy old man mode, I wrote an extended Opinion piece noting that much of the real innovation in camera technology was not coming from the established (Japanese) camera makers.

We reported on the launch of a new online retail brand, Snappit, which will be a ‘pure-play’ online discount camera retailer with a strong social hub to attract photo enthusiasts and bargain hunters. The new business is operated out of premises at 387 City Road, Sth Melbourne.

Raleru assumed Australian distributorship for the ProMaster brand range of photographic accessories.

Will this distributorship extend to retailers other than camera House? Sorry, can’t tell you. I asked Camera House, but without success. (If you find out, please drop me a line. A lot of people are interested!)

Samsung has announced the launch of the trail-blazing Samsung Galaxy Camera,  featuring the Android 4.1 device operating system and a 4.8-inch LCD touch screen.

PMA announced its program of ‘Info’tography’ seminars and workshops for 2013, with top pro photographer Nick Rains first cab off the rank in early February, followed by Australia’s post-capture guru (Dr) Les Walkling in March

Nikon Australia has announced a new enthusiast’s DSLR, the 24-megapixel Nikon D5200.

Harvey Norman became the first major retailer to feel the sting in the new consumer laws with the ACCC bringing court proceedings against 11 HN franchisees for allegedly misrepresenting consumer rights – in conversations across the counter.

Sony launched an odd social media campaign extolling the virtues of its mirrorless interchangeable cameras by bagging DSLRs and people who like them, in passing using incorrect figures on DSLR penetration in Australia.

Polaroid established a distributorship in NZ via Brands Distribution Group.

Canon Australia launched its own online photo printing business, Photo Pico (branded ‘photoPICO’) offering ‘HD’ photo books, canvas prints and enlargements to its extensive consumer customer base.

At the Harvey Norman AGM, Gerry Harvey predicted that the Harvey Norman chain would be the ‘last man standing‘ as other retailers fall by the wayside. The following day, Harvey Norman’s most formidable competitor, JB Hi-Fi, announced it was moving into whitegoods, one of Harvey Norman’s bastions. Game on, we opined…

Figures from GfK showed just how depressed Photo category sales have been over the past 12 months. But every cloud has a silver lining…

(While it was a little like extracting teeth), we were able to confirm from Samsung that it will be distributing its ground-breaking Samsung Galaxy camera/device in Australia via both digital imaging retailers and phone retailers Optus and Telechoice, where it will be the first camera offered on a pay-by-the-month plan.


Finally some sanity in the GST-free imports debate from the GST Distribution Review panel – headed up by those well-known radicals Nick Greiner and John Brumby – with a call for for an immediate reduction in the GST threshold to $500, and an eventual $20 limit

Ted’s Cameras launched a premium option for its Ted’s Photo Lounge service, offering Canon ‘High Definition’ printing of photo books, posters, canvas and calendars.

…And in our penultimate (always wanted to use that word) edition of the Photo Counter newsletter for 2012 we ran yet another exclusive, with Fujifilm quietly launching a new online, Facebook-only photo book business called Pixado.





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