The Camera House photo retailing group is trading on through the Coronavirus lockdown, with many stores outside of Victoria ‘back to normal’ according to national marketing manager, Kieran Gallagher.
However there have been casualties, with Camera House City Cross in Adelaide and Camera House Noosaville in Queensland closing their doors permanently. In Victoria, the Croydon and Ringwood Camera House stores are online only due to Stage Four restrictions in Melbourne, while other stores have ‘limited hours and changes in the trading arrangements attributable to COVID’. The City Cross closure in Adelaide is described as ‘an amalgamation of the City Cross and Twin City Stores.’
‘The Camera House group are proud of their resilience and ability to adapt through changes in the industry,’ said Kieran. ‘We’ve seen tricky times before but there is no doubt this is one of the trickiest we’ve encountered. Members across the group remain stoic and united and are engaging with customers in different ways. Business is surprisingly vital even through this tough time.’
He said that the virus lockdown ‘has changed what we sell and how we sell it,’ noting that there has been a shift to click and collect, with orders delivered direct to the consumer or fulfilled by the store.
‘We’ve seen the emergence of areas like live streaming that require specialist product and specialist knowledge and how we face customers is changing rapidly,’ he explained. ‘We’ve dialled up our Live Chat capabilities to mimic an encounter with real life staff, our ecommerce asset camerahouse.com.au is busier than ever, and we are engaging with customers via video streaming and a myriad of different social channels to stay connected and to empower our customers to stay connected.’
He said one of the bright spots through the lockdown has been an uptick in printing, but didn’t elaborate.
Camera House stores have had to roll back its ‘experiential activity’; ‘that’s any activity that is outside the transactional element of our business – photo walks, hand on product demos, trade days etc.’ and ‘dwell time’ – the time customers spend in the store – has reduced due to restrictions and customers choosing to be spending less time shopping.
‘Some stores selected to assess the initial risks more than others so when COVID hit our shores we had a few stores operating on reduced hours and a few closures which have subsequentially reopened with tighter restriction on customer flow,’ said Kieran.
JobKeeper has been taken up both by Camera House stores and at Raleru, the business under which the Camera House group of independent retailers operates. There have also been unspecified job losses at Raleru.
‘The Camera House group are independently owned family operated businesses and each individual store is going through the process [of applying for JobKeeper for staff] as standalone businesses.’ said Kieran, adding that JobKeeper had given some stores the confidence to ‘stay afloat and keep the staff on the books till the sun starts shining again.’
On the supply side of the equation, Kieran said Camera House was ‘supremely fortunate to have the calibre of suppliers we do as commercial partners, friends and ultimately stakeholders in our mutual destinies.’
‘It’s been a challenging time for all and our valued suppliers are no different. We’ve seen some reduced head count and challenges with the logistics behind incoming inventory, price increases based on currency moves, some business restructures and all at a time of focus on new launches and channel shifts.
‘The suppliers have shone brightly during this whole period, showing compassion and commercial realism at the same time as showing vision and commitment for the future of the camera industry.’
New business emerges
The Camera House website describes the City Cross closure as a merger with Twin City Camera House, while the old City Cross Camera House Facebook page reveals that the former team from City Cross is establishing an all-new business, Adelaide Photo Factory, which now operates from the Regent Arcade.
The Twin City and City Cross stores are both owned by the Pinksterboer family, as is the new Adelaide Photo Factory.
As the name implies, Adelaide Photo Factory is moving away from the hardware side of photo retailing to focus on film and print services: ‘The Camera House component of our store has merged with our owners at Twin City Camera House, but our lab has expanded operations into a whole new store @adelaidephotofactory in Regent Arcade!
‘We will be bringing you the best range of high quality Australian made frames from Profile Australia, assorted collections from Fujifilm instax Australia and Polaroid Australia and New Zealand as well as a huge selection of pro and consumer film with new brands on the horizon!’
Adelaide Photo Factory is ‘honouring any existing City Cross Camera House loyalty cards’.
– How are things on the supply side – is product getting through?
– In general (anecdotally I guess) have landlords been helpful?
Being independently owned, Camera House stores sit across a spectrum from shopping centres, to destination and high street stores, from regional centres to CBD locations. Some locations are owned by the members themselves and the type of landlords differ greatly by location as you can imagine. As a group we are supportive of members to enable them to secure the best commercial outcomes and as a general comment, yes, landlords have recognised the importance of flexibility and realism and many have gone over and above to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the Camera House tenants.