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Convention message: the key is service

Catherine Logue, (Training For Learning and Hutt St Photos, Adelaide), presents an overview of last week's PMA Convention.
Catherine Logue, (Training For Learning and Hutt St Photos, Adelaide), presents an overview of last week’s PMA Convention.

Messages from the seasoned team of professionals at the PMA Convention in Melbourne 2013 were shared with enthusiasm and freedom. The day of knowledge, tips, ideas and information on Thursday was well-planned and executed.

What was obvious is that the size of our industry is not what it was in days gone by. On the other hand, the inspiring thought is that we – photo retailers –  have a spot in the speciality retail market. Example after example from people in the industry demonstrated that each has identified different concepts and made them their own, offering their own client base a unique ‘value proposition’ in our ever-changing photographic environment.

The key points that came from the conference speakers where summed up succinctly by Russell Zimmerman (executive director, Australian Retailers Association) on Friday morning:
– Speciality retail is alive and well;
– It is important to spot opportunities as they arise – they are there;
– Service will be what sets you apart from other businesses in your field;
– Independents have the flexibility to move quickly when change is required.

Russell Zimmerman, Australian Retailers Association.
Russell Zimmerman, Australian Retailers Association: Service is the thing. (Pic: Alan Logue)

We experienced a plethora of speakers offering their own observations, experience, wisdom and ideas. I marveled at the collection of people in the audience. Large and small business owners, Australians and New Zealanders, all sharing thoughts and concepts that work in their businesses. It was a true demonstration of why events such as this still have an important place in our industry development and growth.

Chris Wilkinson (First Retail), shared success stories from around the world, ideas that worked in Germany, some that had been applied in the UK and examples of specialisation that had made a difference to businesses in North America. The added bonus was that Chris had taken a range of photographs (that end product that is the core of our business) and shared those with all of us.

Chris Wilkinson, First Retail.
Chris Wilkinson, First Retail: A travel satchel full of success stories. (Pic: Alan Logue)

We are in a visual industry, and our stores need to reflect that. How do you do to tell people you are in the world of visual imaging? Do you show people your images on your phone when you go to an event, or do you carry a couple of photographs? Maybe you even have a brag book in your camera bag? ‘I didn’t bring a camera with me this time,’ I hear you say, ‘I took images on my phone.’

Are you going to print those for your staff when you get back or will they just remain on the phone? It is our common complaint. How do we get people to print from their phone? But our own behaviour is often the same as our recalcitrant customers! We need to sell the use of images when we get back to our businesses.

One suggestion at a panel discussion was to offer to download the customer’s images onto the desktop in a folder, on a USB or card to save time, rather than have them stand at a kiosk for a long time while the download happens. The opportunity you then have is to offer to burn them to a disc, teach the customer how to store images safely, so when they lose their phone, they still have the images.

Several speakers and members of the audience commented that we need to educate our customers. Here is a prime example of how easy it can be to do that: Create a campaign in store to help your customers store their images, burn to a disc or USB. Offer a storage solution. Offer a tips sheet on how to catalogue the images they take. Facebook call it ‘Make Another Album’. They even use our words. How do you educate your customers to do that?

Have a week-long promotion in your store on saving and preserving images. Use examples of that old sepia print from Grandma’s photo album and talk about how important it is for the family history. Show photos of the events in a family’s life cycle, the birth, the first day at school, the day the same youngster received an award for their sport or hobby pursuit, their 21st birthday, their wedding day, then followed by the birth of their first child, and the famous 40th birthday overseas.

We talk about images being the way to tell stories and preserving our family’s history, and yet we forget to tap into that in our own stores. Make a photo book that is titled ‘The First 40 Years’. Have a range of discs that the customer can use to save images and offer the add-on: ‘Would you like two extra discs to give to your children?’

Darren Vowles, Online Marketing 101.
Darren Vowles, Online Marketing 101: Keep your website fresh and interesting. (Pic: Alan Logue)

We have the tools to be specialty retailers. We need to make the most of what we have right at our finger tips.

Another opportunity is the web presence of your business. Darren Vowles shared some great tips on Thursday. He asked how long since you updated information or images on your website, and how easy is it to navigate your site? Each time you visit the newsagency, the magazines have a new cover story and different articles. Does your website get refreshed or does it look the same each time the customer logs in?

(Pic: Alan Logue)

David Watson (strategy Point), gave a great session on using social media. Tips and techniques to maximise your Facebook or Linkedin connections. I hear many people say it takes too long or they are not sure how to use it. As photo imaging specialists we know the ins and outs of managing our machines, the ups and downs of chemistry and paper, and a wealth of knowledge about shooting images. So why are we so hesitant about learning the how-tos on the application of electronic media like websites, Facebook and the rest? They are great tools. How often do we hear retailers say, ‘We open seven days a week, I would like some time off.’ Remember the internet gives us a 24-hour business. Maximise the use of this opportunity and provide your business a real 24/7 interface. Do you remember when we used to call our windows ‘the silent salesperson’. The bonus with the internet is that people don’t have to physically walk past your store, they can view online from around the world.

The opportunities that are offered to us are in front of us everyday. Make the most of the ideas and the things that we are good at. Listen to your customers. Work at answering their needs. Both Russell and Darren observed that as independents we can move quickly, without waiting for in-house approvals and lengthy development programs. If you have an idea, try it out. It may need some modifications, it may not be a million-dollar money spinner, but it might just drive some new customers into your business. It might just give you a new category. The old adage ‘If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me’ is something we need to consider. PMA Australia and Fujifilm Australia have announced a ‘Print it or Lose it’ campaign which is yet another opportunity for retailers to maximise their business offerings.

‘Spot the opportunities’ and ‘offer service’ are the two concepts I am taking away from the conference, and I believe these are very do-able.
Catherine Logue,
Training For Learning


  1. Alan Alan September 18, 2013

    I agree with everything she said!
    Seriously though, I really enjoyed the PMA section of the show this year. Very good speakers and a great chance to network and catch up with other owners and managers.
    The Digital Show was a hit with the consumers – there is no doubt of that just looking at the (unknown) numbers of people on the floor of the show.
    I did however feel somewhat sorry for the “trade only” type exhibitors who had to fend off retail clients whilst trying to deal with their dealer customers (us!). On 3 stands, I was queued up waiting while the staff tried, in a nice way, to move non trade clients off the stand so we could talk about products.
    Maybe next year we look at the “front half of the hall area being consumer, and a “line” down the middle which might pass through the wholesaler stands so that the area behind the line is trade only, and the large wholesaler stands sort of stradle it so they can look after the public, and also the trade.
    Perhaps the rates for space could reflect the different number of people visiting the different areas and then maybe we could get back some of the previous wholesalers, who are still in business, but who don’t want to pay for space and also have to deal with the public, who are not their direct customers.
    It was also interesting that Canon, Nikon and others were selling dirct from their stands – if I was a local retailer, I’d probably be somewhat peeved by this.

  2. John Atkins John Atkins September 19, 2013

    There are not enough retailers left to have a Trade Show of this type,
    Maybe a small inexpensive trade show might work. The Industry really needs a full blown consumer show like LA to create consumer interest in photography as a hobby and for memory and display.

  3. Peter Rose Peter Rose September 20, 2013

    Comments from Russell Zimmerman (head of the Australian Retailers Association) are spot on:
    Specialty retail is here to stay (albeit “clicks and mortar”?),The huge choice in products,the,lack of time and the need to interact with a human, will ensure our survival.
    The positive feedback from Photocounter and those who attended the conference give PMA further encouragement to continue our mission in “growing the imaging industry”.Hopefully the enthusiasm evident during the conference, will create further advocates who are necessary to ensure a strong, independent association acting on your behalf.

  4. Alan Alan September 20, 2013

    Well said Pete – there should be no shortage of helpers to make it happen.

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