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Staff training critical: PSS conference

Maryanne Dransfield reports on the recent Photo Specialty Stores (New Zealand) annual conference in Wellington…

As most independent photo/imaging retailers know, it’s a hard graft out there fighting for the allusive consumer dollar.

Graham Hall presents Supplier of the Year award to Dove Electronic’s Marcus van Gerwen. Dove distributes Sony and Fuji products. 

In New Zealand a group of independent retailers was established by two photo store owners, Paul Wardlaw of Lazer Photos and Cameras and Graham Hall of Donald Buckley Photo & Frame to provide support and camaraderie among retailers and enable communication with each other. Now three years on, the Photo Speciality Stores (PSS) has grown to become a group of 17 businesses.

PSS is more than just a buying group, it’s a group of like-minded business owners who want to share ideas, have a passion not just for photography but for retail, and see a future in being involved in the imaging business.

The group recently held its annual conference in Wellington where a lot of positive energy and robust discussion took place and although each individual’s business is different, there were nuggets that could be used by everyone to improve their bottom line.

A decisive outcome of the meeting is a shared vision by members going forward. The group want to work with as many suppliers as they can and realise that the industry needs to work together. However, some suppliers have been more supportive than others to the group and this was acknowledged by a presentation being made to the supplier of the year, Dove Electronics who distribute Sony and Fuji products, and an award to the company who is the easiest to deal with, Harrisons Frames.

The ‘Ease of Business’ award went to Harrison Frames. From left: Henry and Jack Harrison, with Graham Hall

Unlike a lot of other industries where training of staff is a mandatory requirement, this appears to be lacking in the photo/imaging industry. The PSS group is going to put clear expectations on suppliers that staff training and support is important and that it needs to take place on a regular basis. This will help staff to stay abreast of all the new technology and will help sales.

As well as all the general discussion, speakers addressed topics of relevance to the PSS group members. Paul Wardlaw encouraged members to find their ‘golden goose’.

‘You need to break down your product into 10 different categories. You need to know how much profit there is in each category. Focus on growing sales category by category. The key is to analyse everything and write it down, stand outside your store, be honest, have new eyes, find your high profit category – this is your golden goose and you will have a great business going forward,’ he said.

Glen Burrin of 2Degrees, a telecommunications provider whose mobile network launched in 2009, spoke about innovation. He also focused on trends and how the download of apps is exploding, as well as the growing demand for more data.

‘IT is changing with growing emphasis on mobility. Businesses are rethinking how to manage mobile use,’ he said.

Key points that 2Degrees has focused on that are relevant to independent retailers are:
– Desire was to be the best in the market;
– Create your own path to market;
– Be quick at adapting;
– Act, not react;
– Be customer-centric;
– Be a leader, not a follower.

A myriad of ideas were shared in a session about activities that have proved successful for PSS store owners. The prize for the most innovative and transferable idea went to Graham Boswell of Snapshot, Hamilton. Graham spoke about his store’s success in running education and experience events.

‘Success has been found in building a community of photographers. We recently held our third ‘Zoo Day’ event partnering with Canon, where we invited a wildlife photographer to participate. This was advertised through Facebook, email and in the in-store newsletter and we had over 100 people participate.

‘We held a Photo Marathon of six classes over two weeks in conjunction with a professional photographer. He donated his time but we charged $20 per person per class as a fundraiser for Dementia Waikato to whom the store donated $2000,’ he said.

The store had a photography boot-camp day planned for the Waikato Gardens and also plans to hold a drone experience event in the near future.

First Retail Group managing director and former photo store owner Chris Wilkinson presented an overview of where retail is at and the dynamic and challenging times we live in. He said disruptive technology is on our doorstep so everyone needs to adapt to survive and thrive. In making reference to Amazon’s imminent arrival in this part of the world he said retailers can expect competition to intensify as the market prepares for Amazon’s regional entry.

‘Remember loyalty is fragile and choices and opportunities are overwhelming,’ said Chris.

Retail coach Stephen Feldon addressed seven dials that will lead to success: foot traffic; engagement rate; conversion rate; average sales value; suggestive selling; increase annual number of visits by customer; and margins. Stephen suggested planning a calendar of seven weeks and doing one dial per week. He said it was important to involve staff and get them to buy into the project.

A mini trade show was held with preferred suppliers exhibiting their latest technology in cameras. PSS stores are suppliers’ choice for moving their high end cameras because photo specialist stores have the skills and knowledge to sell them. 

As well as the annual conference, the PSS group runs a member-only forum, a group bi-monthly retail flyer and a Christmas catalogue.

Stores interested in joining an active and successful photo specialty buying group are encouraged to contact Maryanne Dransfield at


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