Two years ago we ran a story on Brendan Waites and Ocean Grove Camera & Photo under the head ‘Man opens photo store!!” With a lot or store closures at the time, it was good to see at least one person willing to start a new business in photo retailing!
We spoke you you about 2 years ago when you were going a year. So how have you fared since then?
The support my store receives from locals is fantastic. Once people realised the services we offer, word spread pretty quickly. People are still happy that they no longer have to drive out of town to print their photos. The store is making money. The idea was for me to go out on my own after a good few years at Roydhouse Camera House and to have a go at making something work for myself. I’m rapt to say we are still here and things are pretty solid. It hasn’t been without its trials. Getting used to the ‘seasonal slump’ still takes some adjusting, but we have been through effectively four winters now so we’re getting used to it.
It’s clear that Camera and Photo is more about photo – what services are popular with your customers in Ocean Grove?
Absolutely, from the outset I knew Ocean Grove needed a good photo printing service for the mums and dads type market. We have filled that niche well. Our canvas prints have been selling really well. It’s still a very popular style of printing and I am in the process of refining that even more, with varying sizes and a range of framed canvas options coming soon.
I’ve also been very happy with the number of my own landscape prints that are selling. The Bellarine Peninsula is perfect for shooting landscapes and my collection grows by the month. Because I have all the gear to produce everything from a postcard sized print to a huge canvas, people are customizing my photos to suit their needs.
Also, my photography workshops have been very well received. I’ve had over 500 people attend my Entry Level DSLR workshop since opening and I have plans for more. Of course finding the time to implement these is always a challenge.
Have you changed the hardware vs services mix over the past 2 years?
Yes. I found very quickly that here in Ocean Grove I really don’t need to have loaded shelves of the latest hardware. Nine out of 10 customers will come in, or contact me already knowing exactly what they want and what the best price they can find is. So I have loaded up more on canvas print displays and frames and albums.
Most of our services are well supported. Sensor and general camera cleans, workshops, backing-up photos from phones/tablets have all been popular.
How you you deal with prints from mobile phone – wifi or cable or microSD card?
We use the fantastic Dakis-driven photo kiosks. Right now we can plug in just about any phone and download the images. Upgrading to Windows 10 on our kiosks has been a real winner too. David Slade from IPS has been invaluable in his assistance with keeping our in-store kiosks running smoothly.
In the rare cases we can’t get the photos via a cable, we direct our customers to our online photo ordering service via our website at cameraandphoto.com.au . We connect their phones to our wi-fi, so there are no data charges for them and walk them through the steps. This usually gives us regular orders from the customer once they realise thay can order prints from pretty much anywhere in the world.
Is this a growing part of the business?
Yes. We’ve seen a steady decline in printing from memory cards since opening in 2013.
You run a Noritsu Green printer – are customers pleased with the results?
Could not be happier. This is a great printer. My only gripe is that I didn’t opt for the 12-inch version, but that will come I’m sure! We now print for a number of professional photographers who all love our quality and recommend us to their clients.
Dry labs are said to be not as long-lived as Agx labs – after a few years in commission does the Green owe you anything?
No. Like all machinery, it’s not without its minor flaws, but we’ve managed to clean those up very quickly with very little down time. The Noritsu prints pretty much non-stop in Nov/Dec/Jan and it just keeps delivering. We can have a print out of it in about two minutes from a kiosk order, which is phenomenal really.
You are clearly a loyal Olympus retailer – has that worked for you?
Yes and no. My personal loyalty to Olympus comes across to any customer in the market for a new camera. I know the product well and I use it to shoot all of the landscapes people see when they come in. However this can sometimes be detrimental when the customer has come in with another brand in mind. Sell them what they want! Olympus has been fantastic in their support. I am a small player for them, but their continued support has been great.
Do you outsource many of your services?
All of our film printing is outsourced to the Analogue Academy in Geelong. This makes turnaround longer, but most people are happy to wait for film these days. We also outsource our video to DVD transfers. Otherwise we (I) do it all!