3.18.2013

Bricks and Mortar Camera Stores Dying? I Don't Think So... Not in Austin.

http://blog.atmtxphoto.com/2013/03/09/precision-camera-transforms/

People want to shop local. But they want merchants to keep up with the times. ATMTX Blog shows what a camera store can be. Go read about it.

Almost everything here came from Precision Camera. The only exceptions are the two Pen lenses and the Fotodiox lens adapter...


disclosure: I do not work for Precision Camera and have received no product, money or promise of either in exchange for this blog post. 

36 comments:

Jim said...

Next time I go to visit my son in Austin I have to go there. Playland for photographers.

Kirk Tuck said...

fabulous candy store for photographers. With nice, knowledgeable clerks.

Gregg Mack said...

I can't wait to get to Precision Camera real soon now. I've heard from several people that it is really nice! I've still got a gift certificate to Precision Camera that my wife gave me in December. I've been waiting for the new store to open before I use it. Now that it's open, I can't decide what I "need" to buy. I haven't bought any photography gear for quite some time now... not since someone that I respect wrote a blog post about "it's not the gear that makes you a better photographer". Maybe it's about time for me to (temporarily) forget about that post. :-)

atmtx said...

Thanks, Kirk. Welcome back from Boston. I heard from a reader in Boston that they only have one good camera store up there. We are definitely lucky here in Austin.

Jeff said...

Perhaps the recently closed Wolf camera stores in Chicago and elsewhere could have learned from Precision Camera. The downtown stores, Central and Helix, have been Canikon only for several years. They still have lighting equipment and darkroom chemicals and paper. The darkroom stuff available is much less in last few years than before. There's nowhere to look and feel the m4/3rds cameras and lenses.

Charles Quinn said...

As a low-volume, part-time professional photographer in Austin I have always been treated like a true professional by all of the folks at Precision Camera. I feel I am treated as well as the established pros who do business there. It's a shame that the basic business strategy of treating people with respect has become a lost art. Also, the new store is outstanding.

Anonymous said...

With six Wolf Camera stores closed, the nearest brick and mortar store is 40 miles away. Ditto Jeff's problem, no m4/3rds equipment. :-(
Bob
http://deinfaces.com/

Peter F. said...

Well, when you visit your son in Boston next year (pending his acceptance to Brandeis) the best store I think is Hunt's. There are a couple of them. BTW, you just missed another big snow storm. 30 miles west of Boston, I'm looking at 8" right now (9am Tuesday) and there's to be another blast at the end of the day.

We call this a "work at home" day!!!

Peter F.

thequietphotographer said...

You say "It's a shame that the basic business strategy of treating people with respect has become a lost art."
Sadly so true, here in europe as well!
robert

Kirk Tuck said...

Peter, I was just watching the weather in your area and saw that. Wow. One day before Spring.

I'll check out Hunt's next time if you'll check out Precision Camera when you come to Austin. :-)

Pat said...

Here in Los Angeles, we have Samy's Camera. 3 floors of camera bliss with absolutely no pressure supper nice and educated sales staff. Down the street is the famous Farmers Market; in the other direction is museum row. I'm excited just thinking about going there this Friday...

Kirk Tuck said...

I go to Samy's every time I'm in L.A. It's always a fun experience and what I like to look at is their selection of lighting gear.

Craig Yuill said...

I'm happy to support bricks-and-mortar stores whenever I can. We have a few decent ones here in Vancouver BC, Canada. I popped into Beau Photo yesterday, which is more of a photo supplies store than a camera store. But it's pretty much the only store in the area where one can still find a good selection of FILM. (A roll of Rollei, anyone?) I bought some B&W film-developing chemicals and a changing bag. The gal serving me asked me to be sure to come back soon and (jokingly) buy lots of stuff. But it's no joke that if we want to see these stores survive we will have to make sure we give them our business. Let's hope they can continue to supply us with the goods and services we need.

Rene Theberge said...

For those of you who have never had the experience of a camera superstore, THE place is B&H in New York City. It's a unique experience in that it has every piece of photographic (and AV, computer, etc.) equipment you could ever want plus it is a very special piece of New York culture. Not to be missed when in NYC. Note that it is closed on Friday afternoons, all day Saturday and on Jewish holy days.

Raianerastha said...

Unfortunately, it seems only major metropolitan areas can support full line brick and mortar stores anymore. I live in Cedar Rapids IA. Porter's closed it's doors here a few months ago, so we have only 1, locally owned, camera specialty store left. It stays afloat mostly through customized processing and framing, used equipment sales, and referrals to local pros. There is one other camera store left in the area, 30 miles away in Iowa City.

In terms of higher end or "pro" gear, the last Cedar Rapids store carries mostly Canon, with a smaller stock of Nikon, the Olympus OMD EM5. The store has held on by quickly adapting to the local market, recognizing that success lay in offering service other venues didn't offer, rather than the gear itself. (they are half a block from a Best Buy which of course undersells on price but fails when it comes to service).

My point is while it's great to see how Precision has stepped up things in Austin, those of us from smaller cities are still facing the inevitable loss of brick and mortar stores. It's sad to think of not having a place to go check out gear first hand, or just "talk shop".

John Krumm said...

Yeah, I occasionally try to envision how a camera store could thrive in our high rent tourist town of 30,000 folks. I think it might work, but it would have to be a different sort of store. Right now we have one shop manned and owned by one guy with his big dog in the window. Still enjoy going in and talking shop, and he sells some interesting cameras, the Fuji mirrorless varieties, some Panasonic m43. Won't stock Olympus any more because he says they screwed him years ago. Sells some Nikon stuff but can't afford to keep the full frames in stock and says the margins are too low anyways (doesn't help that Costco is selling D600 kits 10 miles away). He pays the bills in part by doing photography jobs (from diving to weddings) and by using the giant Epson they have to print very large format. My guess is we would need a larger store with lower rent in "the valley," (not downtown) with more stock, more services, things like beginner workshops, photo walks etc, and one extremely good, welcoming owner/manager. And it still might not work.

Jim Tardio said...

I live in LA as well...every time I go to Samys it gives me an excuse to go down a few blocks & get a chili dog at Pinks.

Kirk Tuck said...

While Precision doesn't have quite the incredible inventory of B&H it's much calmer, quieter, more civilized and friendly. You could actually plop down on the compfy couch there and have a quiet conversation with someone. Very nice.

Kirk Tuck said...

Olympus and Sony well stocked (probably every model and lens) at PC, Also Samsung.

Kirk Tuck said...

And Fuji and Leica.

Kirk Tuck said...

Note that Precision is open seven days a week.

Kirk Tuck said...

Precision has done a great job of stretching into education. A new 70 seat class room stays busy most of the time. They are constantly doing workshops, sponsored programs and demos. And that is profitable. But you have to have people who are smart and friendly. That's the secret.

atmtx said...

B&H is a fantastic place with the amazing automated cart system. I do second Kirk to say that Precision is a lot calmer and laid back in the Austin kind of way.

Peter F. said...

You bet I will. You've had some terrific deals from them.

Tom Barry said...

"But you have to have people who are smart and friendly. That's the secret."

Amen to that. And Jerry and the gang are the best at that, in my experience.

Richard Alan Fox said...

I love camera stores.
I was very fortunate to have been the Manager of repair and rental at Brooks Camera on Kearney street in San Francisco during the mid 1970's.
Those were the years of the SX-70, young Annie Leibovitz (a classmate at San Francisco Art Institute), and Honeywell potato mashers with a bare bulb addition we serviced for The San Francisco Examiner.
Those were the years of the death of independent camera repair, as integrated circuits began to replace gears and springs the old school could no longer compete.

Anonymous said...

"Those were the years of the death of independent camera repair, as integrated circuits began to replace gears and springs the old school could no longer compete".
Amen to that!
I made the mistake of trying my hand in the repair end of the business just as the tide was changing... mistake!

Those were also the days of trying to compete with the then "mail order" giants in NYC.
As a mom and pop operation, I gave up trying to sell gear 'at cost' to try and compete with them, and made a better living selling film, processing, accessories, and photo frames,which entailed much less investment and much much better return on the $.The heck with trying to be a "camera" store
The retail photo industry has changed dramatically from then. Just about every photographic or electronics item is price fixed, and any store owner that cannot compete today is doing something dramatically wrong! The biggest problem is having enough $ to carry the inventory necessary. The frequency of model changes is also detrimental to a smaller store if they don't have the traffic for fast turnover.

Ron Nabity said...

We still have a couple of camera stores in the Sacramento area. One of the owners got frustrated with the shoppers who would come in and play with the gear and ask questions without buying. They began charging customers $15 per hour to talk to a salesperson, with the cost being credited toward a purchase.

I don't know if they are still doing this, the backlash was pretty strong. I get their point about losing sales after working with a customer, but it didn't seem like a good way to establish a constructive relationship with a customer. IMHO. They did make the news, however.

The other stores are much more friendly.

Kirk Tuck said...

PC's workaround to shoppers who harvest information and might be tempted to order elsewhere is to offer a free, three hour course (very well done course) about how to use your camera. Kind of an introduction to photography. Ian, one of the teachers, is a great instructor and it adds a value of $50 to $100 to each camera. It's an especially valuable addition for most beginners and it keeps them even more loyal to the store.

Ron Nabity said...

That's a great approach - offers an incentive and gives something useful to the customer, rather than take something away.

Anthony Bridges said...

In the Dallas Forth-Worth area there are still two stores that have a wide selection of products - Arlington Camera and Competitive Camera. I find myself visiting Camera-Stop in Plano for the good work they do with 1hr prints and the nice staff. (BWC is the king of local pro printing and they still develop film).

theaterculture said...

The first time I walked into B&H as an 18 year old, the first words out of my mouth were "I didn't realize the elves were Orthodox..." It definitely has that Santa's workshop vibe, and just oozes that New York sense that everybody in the whole place had someplace else they needed to be about 10 minutes ago.

theaterculture said...

Absolutely. It's a chain, but I go back to the big Henry's store here in downtown Toronto because the clerks usually know what they're talking about, will actually ask somebody else in the store when they don't, and make their one required attempt to sell you an extended warranty or a UV filter and drop it instantly if you're not buying immediately.

They recently moved their entire used department out to the suburbs (most of the used sales are done on eBay anyway, according to the clerks) and expanded their Henry's School of Imaging. Last time I was there they were doing a lot of promotional stuff like "x% off on a camera package after a workshop" or "one free digital retouching class with printer purchase," using the educational stuff to feed the core business. Seemed smart to me.

Chris Malcolm said...

The big camera retailers have been dying in Edinburgh, population around half a million. Jessops (a chain) was the latest to be closed. There's still one big store which caters to professionals, which includes anyone using the kit they consider professional. But there's still one small "high street" retailer doing well. Their shop window is thick with closely packed lenses, including more Sony alpha compatible lenses than I've ever seen on display -- second hand. They're an old fashioned have a go at repairing anything shop, modern digital P&S, old film cameras, lenses. Cameratiks.

I'm sure a large part of their success is the old fashioned ingredient of knowledgeable helpful staff who aren't being motivated by bonuses to try to sell you this month's most unpopular item. Almost every time I go in I have to wait while they deal with someone else first. Unlike the big glossy now defunct retailers, when you had to wait for the staff to stop chatting to each other while hoping someone else would step forward & deal with the tiresome intrusion of a customer.

Kirk Tuck said...

Is that where John Rebus and Ian Rankin buy their cameras? If so, I'd like to come shop there on the off chance that I'll run into one of them...

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.