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DCW buys Foto Riesel

Leading photographic retailer Digital Camera Warehouse has purchased the Foto Riesel camera store at 360 Kent Street, Sydney, from liquidator BRI Ferrier for an undisclosed price.

The store will re-open as Foto Riesel by Digital Camera Warehouse ‘in the coming months’.

The store, previously owned by highly-regarded industry identity John Wallace, and operating since 1947 under a range of owners, is one of the most long-established outlets in the Sydney CBD. It was founded by one of the pioneers of the Australian photo industry, Fabian Riesel.

It went into liquidation just prior to Christmas. It  will re-open as ‘Foto Riesel by Digital Camera Warehouse’ in the coming months.

Foto Riesel was one of two Camera House stores in Sydney city, along with Broadway Camera House, but this relationship ends with the Digital Camera Warehouse acquisition.

‘The relationship with Foto Riesel and Camera House no longer exists now that we are new owners of Foto Riesel…DCW will not become a Camera House associate,’ Digital Camera Warehouse marketing manager Mark McDonald told Photo Counter.

‘In the end the debt from the previous years trading loss got us…and the restructured profitable business could not cover it quick enough,’ John Wallace explained to his ex-customers.

He identified competition from suppliers Canon, Nikon and Leica as one of the elements in Foto Riesel’s demise. along with ‘manufacturers discounting to selected retailers based on volume deals’. (See below.)

‘We’re excited to strengthen photo specialty retail in Sydney by becoming the new owners of Foto Riesel; such an iconic specialist retailer. We love its long history; it’s evolution through the changing face of the technology of photography and the retail industry,’ said Digital Camera Warehouse director, Lucinda Dalton.

‘Purchasing Foto Riesel is part of our company’s growth strategy. We believe we will add significant value to photographers of all levels in Sydney’s CBD.’

Digital Camera Warehouse said it intends to maintain the majority of existing services offered by Foto Riesel and that ‘a strong driver for the acquisition for Digital Camera Warehouse is to ensure that specialist photography knowledge continues to be accessible for photography enthusiasts.’

The new ‘Foto Riesel by Digital Camera Warehouse’ will utilise all of Digital Camera
Warehouse’s existing processes, supplier relationships and logistics practices.

DCW stated in its press release that ‘new and existing customers will benefit from competitive pricing, premium customer service, a dedicated Contact Centre based in Sydney and a greater range of the latest equipment.’

Digital Camera Warehouse already has stores in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and an established online presence. The company has been operating since 2001 and has since grown to be one of Australia’s most successful specialist retailers in an environment where many others were closing their doors.

From its inception, DCW has adopted a policy of offering an attractive price which does not change whether in-store, online or via phone order, and then not haggling or price matching.

John Wallace purchased Foto Riesel from former Camera House chairman Mark Alderson several years ago. Rumours of financial difficulties were rife for the last 12 – 18 months, although the store was in a prime position and had a strong customer base. It offered a range of photography services including retail, photo and fine art printing, second hand sales and film processing.

John Wallace elaborated on the demise of Foto Riesel in his blog,

Over the last few years traditional models of photo retailing have become challenged buy the following:
– Lower margins due to manufacturers discounting to selected retailers based on volume deals;
– Overseas imports or grey market;
– Mobile phones taking over the day to day imaging chores for most people;
– Increasing costs in rent, wages and compliance;

This has led some to re-invent and re-work businesses that were locked in a pre-phone world, and attempt to bring them into the reality of today –  this is what we attempted at Foto Riesel.

What Worked:
– Specialised products that others stores did not do;

 Product knowledge at counter level;
– Accessories that enhanced the photography experience;
– High quality film printing and processing;
– The new range of mirrorless cameras

What Failed:
– Attempting to compete with Canon, Nikon and Leica;
– Stocking large ranges of low margin cameras;
– Listening to the marketing spin from manufacturers;
– Not capitalising on your core strengths;
– Deviating from the business plan.

In the end the debt from the previous years trading loss got us…and the restructured profitable business could not cover it quick enough – lesson for everyone there.

The ideal future store would be: 
– Printing & processing;
– Film, paper chem;
– Accessories;
– Travel and trekking;
– Second hand;
– Mirrorless.


  1. […] Shipton has published a piece about the new owners of Fotoriesel, click here to have a look. I wish the new owners the best, they are pretty smart retailers and probably […]

  2. Why Suppliers, Why? Why Suppliers, Why? January 30, 2015

    “He identified competition from suppliers Canon, Nikon and Leica as one of the elements in Foto Riesel’s demise…”

    Yes, our suppliers are the retails worse enemy, not online. Canon is the greediest, but alot of suppliers have black marks against their names for turning their backs on retail photo shops. “We are never going to sell online and compete against our re-sellers…” Remember these words Canon and Epson. I feel most suppliers make more manure than a pig farm.

  3. Ron Frank Ron Frank January 30, 2015

    Whilst it is sad to witness an old name perish changing markets cause this to occur. The modern age has brought about a change in ethics of the client base and worship of the golden calf is the rule of the day for too many. The ethic of supporting the firm that supported you has been sold down the creek and the cheapest retailer often gets the deal. Sad but get it for free attitude being promoted by our society causes too many causalities. Foto Risel is only one of many. Having started our show in 1968 I have witnessed this stupidity too often.
    Decent service, knowledge and back up are now expected everywhere and then one must compete with the overseas marketing, etc. that were not there a few years back. what keeps clients is decent levels of stock coupled with the capacity to demonstrate and a competitive price structure.
    Rapid response to any problem and a book keeping structure that follows up on all problems,Staff attitude is a huge part of the equation, coupled with the above mentioned items. Hold decent rapport with your clients is vital to having repeat business in the long term. wish you all well
    Ron Frank

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