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Author Topic: Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography  (Read 10695 times)

Dan Wells

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The bankruptcy of Ritz Camera accelerates and exacerbates a trend that hurts people trying to get into serious photography - the loss of local camera stores with any knowledge of photography. The major cities are doing fine - most of them support one or two very good professional camera stores. Boston, where I grew up, has Hunts, and used to have SBI as a local competitor. Hunts bought SBI, but Calumet came in at about the same time, so there are still two very good stores in town. New York, of course, has B+H as the neighborhood camera store, plus several others. What worries me is the smaller cities, like where I live now (Burlington, VT area). We still have a couple of places around, and will even if Ritz closes down completely - there are three Ritz stores around (one of which is quite good), plus three remaining independents (we lost one independent completely). Two of the three independents are very dependent on photofinishing (and probably struggling), as, of course, are the Ritz branches. Only one of the independents, plus the good Ritz branch, keep many SLRs in stock (the others will have one or two Rebel/D40 level bodies).
    What worries me is that, in the past five years, we've lost a full line independent that stocked SLRs up to the D700/5D level (you could NEVER buy a D3x or a 24-inch printer off the shelf up here - just not enough demand), had another independent retreat pretty much exclusively into used gear and repairs, and had a third independent (who used to stock the 5D mk I) has retreated to a frames and P&S business plus a few very low-end SLRs (featuring Olympus). The remaining independent is an hour away from me, and I've never been there, but DOES seem to be a full line Nikon and Canon dealer (up to the D700 and 5D mkII) - the last one in the area. Five years ago, we had five camera stores that would sell you a mid-line SLR off the shelf, while there are now two left (one of which is our good Ritz branch, and may soon be gone).
    If small cities lose their "real" camera stores, where will people getting into photography go? Those of us who've been at it for a long time don't have a problem - B+H isn't going anywhere. Folks who just want a generic point and shoot will go into a Best Buy or even a Wal-Mart and buy one with little regard for image quality, but what about photography students and hobbyists buying their first SLR? Many stores that sold quite a bit of gear, and outfitted many new photographers with their first serious camera, depended heavily on photofinishing as well, and
may not make it.

                                                    -Dan

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BJL

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2009, 12:43:27 pm »

I agree that it is sad that in many smaller cities and towns, there is no chance to try out a camera with the help of a competent sales person. The main in-person camera shopping options now are Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Circuit City. Sorry, scratch even Circuit City.

However, that is already true in my city with Ritz still in existence, since the arrival of Ritz forced out the last independent camera stores. Our local Ritz employees are in general little more knowledgeable than those at big box stores. (Bigger Ritz stores might be better.)

Maybe our new camera shopping model has to be getting information and opinions online and then a bit of handling in the big box store, or borrowing a camera from a friend or fellow student in a photographic class ... or just doing it entirely on-line.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 12:44:17 pm by BJL »
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thierrylegros396

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2009, 12:53:08 pm »

Quote from: Dan Wells
The bankruptcy of Ritz Camera accelerates and exacerbates a trend that hurts people trying to get into serious photography - the loss of local camera stores with any knowledge of photography. The major cities are doing fine - most of them support one or two very good professional camera stores. Boston, where I grew up, has Hunts, and used to have SBI as a local competitor. Hunts bought SBI, but Calumet came in at about the same time, so there are still two very good stores in town. New York, of course, has B+H as the neighborhood camera store, plus several others. What worries me is the smaller cities, like where I live now (Burlington, VT area). We still have a couple of places around, and will even if Ritz closes down completely - there are three Ritz stores around (one of which is quite good), plus three remaining independents (we lost one independent completely). Two of the three independents are very dependent on photofinishing (and probably struggling), as, of course, are the Ritz branches. Only one of the independents, plus the good Ritz branch, keep many SLRs in stock (the others will have one or two Rebel/D40 level bodies).
    What worries me is that, in the past five years, we've lost a full line independent that stocked SLRs up to the D700/5D level (you could NEVER buy a D3x or a 24-inch printer off the shelf up here - just not enough demand), had another independent retreat pretty much exclusively into used gear and repairs, and had a third independent (who used to stock the 5D mk I) has retreated to a frames and P&S business plus a few very low-end SLRs (featuring Olympus). The remaining independent is an hour away from me, and I've never been there, but DOES seem to be a full line Nikon and Canon dealer (up to the D700 and 5D mkII) - the last one in the area. Five years ago, we had five camera stores that would sell you a mid-line SLR off the shelf, while there are now two left (one of which is our good Ritz branch, and may soon be gone).
    If small cities lose their "real" camera stores, where will people getting into photography go? Those of us who've been at it for a long time don't have a problem - B+H isn't going anywhere. Folks who just want a generic point and shoot will go into a Best Buy or even a Wal-Mart and buy one with little regard for image quality, but what about photography students and hobbyists buying their first SLR? Many stores that sold quite a bit of gear, and outfitted many new photographers with their first serious camera, depended heavily on photofinishing as well, and
may not make it.

                                                    -Dan

The problem is the same for hifi and the whole electronic business, people are buying prices !!!

Professionals, enthousiasts or hobbyists prefer to buy what they want.

So, we have to change and boycott large stores that sell everything sometimes without any service.


It's time to change.

Otherwise tomorrow we would not be able to buy really what we need.

Here in Europe it's also the same for food, and we wanna have the choice to buy good food !!!


Thierry
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Joe Behar

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2009, 12:56:23 pm »

From a dealer perspective;

We know that everyone wants to get the best value for the purchasing dollar. We honestly strive to do our best to achieve that. I relate the following little story. You decide for yourself.

There was a business owner who displayed the following sign in his store.

Best posible price
Best possible service
Best possible selection.


Choose any two

Unfortunately, too many people demand all three and the truth of the matter is that dealers simply cannot deliver on all of them.

You can get the lowest price and a wide selection at the big box stores, but forget service and knowledge.

You can get specialty goods, good advice and lots of support from a dedicated dealer, but you're not going to get the lowest price.

Its like that in virtually every industry, but for some reason photographers either don't want to or can't understand this.

End of rant, stepping down from my soapbox.

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DarkPenguin

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2009, 02:19:35 pm »

Quote from: Joe Behar
Best posible price
Best possible service
Best possible selection.

Ritz offered none of the above.
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mahleu

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2009, 02:41:56 pm »

I work in a shop and it's very hard to compete with internet companies that operate from warehouses and international sellers
who are simply cheaper. We get a lot of people through who come in play with a camera pick our brains and then buy from the
cheapest place they can. We even had someone bring in a warranty camera that was bought elsewhere so we told them politely
where to stick that.

We still make enough to make it viable but a lot of our camera sales have disappeared.
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Rob C

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2009, 03:04:00 pm »

It seems that Jessops, the biggest group of photo shops in the UK, has decided to close sixteen of its outlets, as far as I can remember from the tv news; sign of the fantastic modern times, with a camera in every ´phone (except mine).

But it´s nothing new. Even back in the 70s it was getting tougher. My local dealer was a Leica specialist (I think he still is - as I don´t live there now and seldom visit, I can´t be sure) who also handled Nikon and Hasselblad. I went to see him once to discover that Hasselblad had flown the coop. Reason? The dealer could not buy from Hass at the prices that folks down south in London could sell. Where the business?

Rob C

fike

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2009, 03:36:59 pm »

I am pretty sad about the demise of the local photo shop, but Ritz is not a store that I would miss if it went away.  They rarely know ANYTHING about the cameras they sell.  They barely understand the rudiments of the craft of photography or printing.  They don't even have good prices.  Sometimes companies just lose their way.  Perhaps Ritz can right the ship, but I am not too hopeful.  

It seems that if you really want service on a camera purchase, your best bet is to go to NYC or to go to a photo show where manufacturers bring in their representatives to discuss the equipment.  



...I feel bad for those who have lost their jobs with Ritz.  This is a bad economy to have to be looking.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 03:37:39 pm by fike »
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Fike, Trailpixie, or Marc Shaffer

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2009, 05:28:18 pm »

I don't agree with any sort of rosey glow about the service large camera chains have been giving to new photographers. If it wasn't for the dreadful economy around the world some of them should still have deserved to be out of business anyway. The great shame is the demise of the small independent shops who sell new and second hand, know their stock, smile when you go in the shop, and make sure nothing is ever any trouble at all. Generally you need a Leica dealer to know the meaning of service, even if they do sell Canon and Nikon as well, but the large chains are for shifting stock, not offering a knowledge based service to new or even experienced photographers. The internet of course is to blame, or applaud....

Steve

dalethorn

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2009, 08:28:22 pm »

Retail electronics has enough problems without creating more of their own problems themselves. My experience with Ritz and several purchases was going back in a few days after some of those purchases, and being treated like a stranger. Actually, being treated like a stranger would be good if the customer was treated like a king there, but that wasn't the case. The lack of a warm smile and enthusiastic attitude says what about them? They aren't paid well, or they aren't photo enthusiasts. What a surprise. I remember an interview at a high end audio shop in the mid 1970's. I was told by the son of the owner (the son was managing new hires) that "we don't want audiophiles, because ..... (they argue too much, whatever), we want people who can push equipment."
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Kuryan Thomas

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2009, 08:36:53 pm »

Quote from: Dan Wells
Those of us who've been at it for a long time don't have a problem - B+H isn't going anywhere. Folks who just want a generic point and shoot will go into a Best Buy or even a Wal-Mart and buy one with little regard for image quality, but what about photography students and hobbyists buying their first SLR?
I think you've identified the problem - outside the large cities, there aren't enough people to fit the "students and early hobbyists" description you gave. And as others have said, Ritz doesn't fit the bill there either.
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Snook

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2009, 07:47:42 am »

Quote from: DarkPenguin
Ritz offered none of the above.


I agree and do not understand how they did not die a LONG time ago.
Seriuosly.
Most professionals are buying from B&H or the likes. Best Quality, Great refund policy, Things shipped out overnight, No tax should I continue??
These stores were hardly for the professional and more like robbing the tourist or old lady that did not know better.
No surprise here!
Snook
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Kuryan Thomas

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2009, 08:20:23 am »

Quote from: Snook
No tax
By the way, most states do in fact have laws that require residents to declare and pay "use taxes" on purchases made outside the state, minus a credit for taxes paid to other states. Although most people don't in fact make these declarations, states are doing their best to force the retailers to reveal the names and addresses of purchasers. New York state recently won a court decision requiring Amazon.com to reveal the names and addresses of purchasers residing in New York.

So although stores such as B&H, Adorama, and Amazon don't charge taxes, strictly speaking that isn't an advantage over a local store, because legally you are required to pay taxes anyway. While an individual could possibly get away with it, a business probably couldn't.
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kaelaria

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2009, 09:56:45 am »

Ritz was useless.  Overpriced, cheap brands, terrible selection of what little they had.  Complete morons in-store, which was often little more than a one-hour processing bench.  I too and shocked they lasted this long.  They used to be in every mall around here, but had pulled out of them one by one over the last 2 years.  No one even noticed.

The other locals here are TERRIBLY overpriced, and not very knowledgeable.  I have called to check stock frequently for many items, often met with a price 20% or more over online prices, and a sales person that puts me on hold to figure out what I'm talking about.  Big Box stores?  They don't carry anything I'm remotely interested in or need.

My shopping has been almost exclusively online for many years, and I suspect that trend has proven to be popular.
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Bill Koenig

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2009, 12:38:01 pm »

IMO. the Internet, and the digital camera, has a lot to do with all of the changes you talk about.
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Bill Koenig,

Wally

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2009, 12:54:28 pm »

Quote from: Dan Wells
but what about photography students and hobbyists buying their first SLR?

I actually think they are far better served now than ever before. You can sit a computer anywhere in the world, log on, and find out pretty much anything you want to know about photography from the lastest DSLR to how to coat your own glass plates.

You have websites like this one, and countless others who have active forums where you can ask pretty much anything and get an answer, then you can click the mouse a few times, type a few keys and buy whatever you wish no matter where you live
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Joe Behar

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2009, 01:01:12 pm »

Quote from: Wally
I actually think they are far better served now than ever before. You can sit a computer anywhere in the world, log on, and find out pretty much anything you want to know about photography from the lastest DSLR to how to coat your own glass plates.

You have websites like this one, and countless others who have active forums where you can ask pretty much anything and get an answer, then you can click the mouse a few times, type a few keys and buy whatever you wish no matter where you live

And none of those things will tell you if you like a camera or not. If it feels right in your hands, if you like the viewfinder, if it fits well in your camera bag or the one you're considering buying.
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JeffKohn

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2009, 04:19:24 pm »

Quote from: Wally
I actually think they are far better served now than ever before. You can sit a computer anywhere in the world, log on, and find out pretty much anything you want to know about photography from the lastest DSLR to how to coat your own glass plates.

You have websites like this one, and countless others who have active forums where you can ask pretty much anything and get an answer, then you can click the mouse a few times, type a few keys and buy whatever you wish no matter where you live
I definitely agree with this. I would much rather do my research on the internet than with a local salesperson whose knowledge is going to be limited to the product he carries, and whose advice may be geared towards which products he wants to move rather than which products would actually be best for me. Also, the tech specs available in B&H product listings are more detailed and more reliable than what you'll get from a local sales person.
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Jeff Kohn
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DarkPenguin

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2009, 04:40:21 pm »

Quote from: JeffKohn
I definitely agree with this. I would much rather do my research on the internet than with a local salesperson whose knowledge is going to be limited to the product he carries, and whose advice may be geared towards which products he wants to move rather than which products would actually be best for me. Also, the tech specs available in B&H product listings are more detailed and more reliable than what you'll get from a local sales person.

Not true at good stores.  Definitely true at Ritz.
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Wally

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Loss of local camera stores is an issue for newcomers to photography
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2009, 10:04:30 pm »

Quote from: Joe Behar
And none of those things will tell you if you like a camera or not. If it feels right in your hands, if you like the viewfinder, if it fits well in your camera bag or the one you're considering buying.

and yet ironically you sell cameras online, and put the URL for your online store at the bottom of each post. How are people supposed to know if the cameras they buy from your online store feel right in their hands, if they like the viewfinder, if it fits well in their camera bag or is the one they are considering buying?

Or do you not really believe what you post? Or you do believe it yet choose to sell online anyway? It really can't work both ways.

Also I wonder how many local Mom and Pop camera stores Vistek being "Canada's Camera Store" have pushed out of business?

I also find this quote said by you to be quite ironic

Quote from: Joe Behar
I know its a lot easier to walk into a store and just ask the first person you meet about the product you're interested in, but the reality is that most every client interested in MFDB's needs personalized attention. That's the reason I and my coleagues in the Digital Capture Group are here.....Please feel free to contact me.

Joe Behar

so when it comes to you selling something walking into a local store and talking to the salesperson is not the way to go. That is why you are here online, because the local store you can just walk into is no good at selling cameras and has no idea what they are talking about, and can't give personal attention.

I am not trying to pick on you, or be a troll I am just stunned by the hypocrisy
« Last Edit: February 27, 2009, 10:17:30 pm by Wally »
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