Idea # 1 - Facing up to the challenges ahead
Bill McCurry continues - Let's look at
a few of those pockets of growth. If you accept
the conventional wisdom that 2009 will be an
economically challenging year, then focus on
what people do invest their cash on. That would
be the things near and dear to them . . . this
includes family and family heirlooms. The
album/collage print and "photo gifting" markets
are prime candidates for growth and profit
potential. While some bemoan the fact that big
boxes are discounting these products and
undercutting the market before it even gets
established, that's not a major issue (IMHO).
What our industry needs now is consumer
awareness. Let the majors advertise so the
consumer is aware and then the specialty stores
can come in with better products, easier ways to
make them, immediate delivery and a more
It's not hard for specialty to offer a
different product. In the digital 4x6 world your
only obvious product differentiation was
matte/glossy, border/borderless, thick or thin
paper. Today with books you have literally
millions of variations by combining different
papers, bindings; page layouts . . . No two
books will look the same - even if the kiosk
looks the same. In the case of mugs, some of the
mass market mugs don't even look like they'd
hold water or go through the dishwasher. If
that's what's being sold in your town, buy one
from your competitor, wash it 10 times and show
it to your customer . . . Maybe offer a trade-in
on your competitor's mugs claiming yours will
hold up better after ten washings. Yes, that's
more "in your face" than most of us are used to.
It's a different approach for most retailers
(outside of New York City anyway). These are
different times and require leadership of a new
Leadership is what's missing today . . . and
if it's missing from your company you're in deep
trouble. Recently an upper management person
from a major imaging firm reported to me, almost
with tears in his eyes, in a very strained
voice, "I asked the owner what we're going to do
to stem the sales erosion. The owner looked at
me and said he had no idea, he had no plan, he
had to think about it. I'm scared to death, I've
got two kids of college age and my boss has no
plan and no idea . . . Where can I go?"
There are very few times where a boss
should hold back on information from their
management team. This is one of those times.
Even if the boss was clueless (which this one
was) a better answer would have been, "I'm glad
you asked the question and I'm glad you're
concerned. I am also. I've got a few thoughts
but I trust you and the team here. So, before I
share my thoughts with anyone, I'd like to hear
what each of the team thinks we should do. So,
I'll be quiet for a few days and just be
listening to ideas. What do you think we should
do?" This approach gets the boss two things.
First it buys time for the boss to think of
something reassuring and show leadership.
Secondly, it provides more data points for the
boss and helps the boss get on the same page as
the team leaders. It can also point out
potential disconnects. When the boss does layout
the plan for success the boss will know where
various team members are coming from.
Leadership is making things happen that
wouldn't happen without leadership. Mike
Woodland is the President of Dan's Camera City
in Allentown, PA. This store is familiar to
regular MMIE readers.
I've gotten a series of emails from Mike
about things he's trying to do, ideas he's
trying to implement in his store and in his town
to drum up business while others are wringing
their hands. Mike is going out and making things
happen. His emails were sent to me in
confidence, soI can't divulge Mike's exact
strategies at this time. I'm confident he will
share his thoughts when they are finalized.
Instead, let's look at Mike's way of
thinking. First off, Mike's looking around the
community, who are the other people who have
similar needs? What independent retailers can
Mike partner with to drive new customers to both
Dan's Camera City and to his local partner? It's
common sense to work with others, now more than
ever synergy is needed to overcome budgetary
Mike's also looking at how his customers will
be shopping differently in the year ahead. How
important will "crafting" of scrapbooks or
collage posters or gifts be? What events will
parents bring their kids to?
What about education and customer knowledge?
Dan's Camera University will be going full tilt,
including some free classes on Saturday morning
just to drive traffic and educate customers
about new products or overlooked products.
There is no question; the employees at Dan's
Camera City know that their company's leadership
has a plan for surviving and thriving in 2009.
Forbe's Magazine recently ran an article
"Telltale signs your employer is going out of
business". One of these signs was cancellation
of training programs or cutting out trade show
attendance. Ouch! Sometimes travel expenses do
get sacrificed when cash is tight. It's not
always an option. If you don't have the cash,
you don't have the cash. That's understandable.
From Forbe's perspective, it's also a
beginning of The End for the business. If you
can't stay current, you can't survive. Our
industry is changing more rapidly than most. If
you were in the industry in the 1980's you could
skip a PMA or two and catch up on what's new the
next year. Those days are long gone. Sure, you
can read about new products and new technologies
in the trade press. What you need to get from
this year's PMA are revenue sources. What are
other retailers like yourself doing to bring in
profit dollars? What's the next new wave idea
you can jump on to boost your company?
These ideas are found in the educational
sessions, they are found in the hallways talking
to fellow retailers. They are found at the
various networking events. Listening to people
who have the same equipment or common software
to you will help you gather ideas and support to
get to your operation that next level. Find out
what user groups are meeting that you can join
into. Will your kiosk manufacturer have a user
session? Will your on-line provider have a
gathering? Your buying group? Your PMA division?
This isn't a time to catch up on your sleep . .
. work the crowd - you need to discover those
golden ideas. They'll be carefully hidden from
view so listen far and wide.
PMA is obviously concerned about costs to
attend this year's show - they've got a superb
deal on registering for educational sessions -
an "all you can eat" type package. They also
have some hotel deals. And airfares are
surprising low right now. If you want to save a
few more bucks, think about sharing a room with
someone. If you would like to share a room and
don't know who to share with, drop us an email
and we will keep names of people looking to
share rooms and share them with those who email
in. This list won't be publicly posted, just
emailed out to folks who ask to share a room.
This is "service" for our readers at the request
of one reader who would like to attend PMA and
do it as economically as possible.
We look forward to seeing you there.