Where Have all the Camera Stores Gone????

old-pr-pix

EOS RP
Dec 26, 2011
439
75
Codebunny, while your assessment of 'camera store' staff may reflect your experience and the unfortunate reality of many places; I assure you, although they may be rare, there have been, and still are, camera stores with skilled and passionate staff. I bought my Pana G9 a couple years ago from the same sales person that I bought my first Canon from (1978 - A1). In-between there were several in-store purchases (T-90, F-1, G-15, "L" lenses, flashes, etc.). Recently my 'sales guy' and the store general manager spent over half an hour helping me get my now two year old G9 out of some bizarre mode I managed to accidentally get into. In the process they preserved all the custom settings I had set and wanted to keep. There was no sale involved, just help and chat about the latest stuff. I do use the New York sources for lots of purchases, but I'm not close to New York so there is no way they can provide true hands on support.
 
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neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
25,782
4,171
Personally, I see little need for a ‘sales guy’ today. In the days before the internet (when product brochures were printed using cuneiform writing on sandstone tablets, IIRC), having a person knowledgeable about the features of a product and able to offer advice about competing models was helpful. Now, I can research all that information myself, at great depth if I choose.

I can see some utility for a showroom, because the ergonomics of a camera or a car can’t be adequately conveyed electronically. But even then, worst case is you order it and, if necessary, return it. That is possible with cameras and even cars. Made back to school shopping for the kids an adventure this year.

As a side note, a quintessential need for trying something in person – clothes shopping – has been altered by the pandemic. Locally, fitting rooms are closed by ordinance. So the best one can do is hold an article of clothing up to take a guess on the fit. It often means buying two sizes and returning one (or both).

When I bought a new car last summer (which was good timing since this summer the few cars available carry a large markup), I did my research, provided the dealer with the model/trim/color/accessories I required and the price I was willing to pay, and upon agreement I showed up at the dealership with a cashier’s check for the total amount. No ‘sales’ required, just a clerk.
 

docsmith

EOS R
CR Pro
Sep 17, 2010
1,064
519
The fate of many camera stores was sealed with the advent of digital. In the pre-digital era, if you were a serious photographer you worked in black and white and did your own processing and enlarging. When I took up photography in high school I became a very good customer of one of the local camera stores in my hometown but I never bought a single camera or lens there. What I did buy were reams of photo paper, bulk Tri-X that I rolled into cassettes myself and lots of chemicals.

About 80% of the floor space of the store was devoted to darkroom equipment and supplies, with cameras comprising just a few counter display cases. Selling a camera was a nice bit of gravy, but the bread and butter were the consumables, which were sold to amateurs, professionals and commercial users.

Later, when I worked on a newspaper in a small city, we pretty much kept the camera store in business because of the chemicals, paper and other supplies we bought. They even delivered the supplies to us when we would call in an order.

Digital changed all that. That permanent, steady source of income dried up and camera stores in mid to small markets would never be able to sell enough cameras to stay in business. Online competition may have been the final nail in the coffin, but their fate was sealed once digital entered the market.
Ha...never thought about it until this thread, buy my hometown photography store was right next to the hometown newspaper. Location...location....

We are really describing multiple different business models. The first model being discussed is really mostly about printing and printing accessories, the second was to take advantage of the boom in camera sales during the analog to digital shift, and the third is a more sustained model based on much lower camera sales plus accessories.

What interests me most about this was that it is really the lost revenue from printing that ******* the hometown camera store. Following this line of thought, selling cameras was always secondary to the success of "hometown" camera stores. Now that "camera" stores are mostly dependent upon actual camera sales, that is a much smaller market and fewer stores can survive.