Independent camera shops should focus on selling more digital SLR ‘accessories’ in a bid to overcome tighter profit margins and online competition, say industry experts.

The news follows a growing list of high-street casualties.

Earlier this year Photo Optics, closed 12 stores after calling in administrators.

More recently Essex-based camera retailer AJ Purdy ran into trouble, blaming its demise largely on the credit crunch and ?below cost? pricing set by competitors.

And last week high-street photo processors Klick Photopoint and Max Spielmann called in administrators, with the loss of more than 800 jobs.

Matt Gibbs, Retail and Technology account director at market analysts GfK, told us: ?The danger for independent retailers is that distribution has broadened considerably in the past few months with mass merchandisers and mail order/online retailers taking a substantial share of product below the £400 mark.?

Stores equipped to fight back

However, it seems high-street stores are well placed to fight back as digital SLR demand spirals on the back of falling prices.

The Photo Marketing Association (PMA)?s UK director Nigel McNaught told us: ?The accessory business is where the independent can strike because the Amazons, Argoses and supermarkets are not good at accessories. They don?t sell lenses and bags and so on.?

McNaught explained that, in addition to face-to-face customer service, independents can ?tailor? camera kits to individual customer need, to include, for example, a flashgun.

Booming demand for DSLRs among consumers may spell good news for high-street retailers. ?What it should hopefully lead to is more people wanting to do things with their photographs,? added McNaught.

He cited photobooks and canvas printing as two ?speciality printing products? where the margins are higher than, say, 6x4in prints.

He said that, whereas a store might make a £5 profit on 100 6x4in prints, the profit on a £49.99 ?photobook? could bring in a £25 margin.

Consumer DSLR upgrade potential

Gibbs echoed McNaught?s comments: ?An increase in the number of DSLR users will benefit those who specialise in sales of add-ons such as lenses, accessories and so on, since no matter what the cost of the DSLR, there is a likelihood that further purchases will be made by the user.?

He added. ?Though current volume development is being driven by the lower price points, these are all users who may well choose to upgrade two or three years down the line.?

? A fuller report will appear in a future issue of AP


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