Petteri Sulonen offers the cluestick to camera shops: it’s about the service, dummy.
Because the message never seems to get through, we’ll just reiterate some key points:
- If it’s not in stock, you might as well not sell it. (One day we’re going to open a shop called “Out of stock” that sells NOTHING; it will be a major competitor to every other high street retailer.) At the very least, know when it will be in stock. Act like you want the business.
- Nobody expects to pay full retail (i.e. a 10% markup) in the age of online shopping, unless they need the item urgently, it’s less hassle to buy now and you have it in stock. Forget offering to order it, we might as well wait for hotdeals.co.uk to deliver.
- It’s OK if things go wrong, providing you apologise and look like you care. That slovenly “Nuthin’ to do with me” YTS schtick that you’ve instilled into your staff does nuthin’ for us.
- If you take a number and say you’ll call the customer, call the customer.
To end, a quick summation of the photographic outlets here in Manchester:
- Almost the only game in town (sadly). A wide but shallow range (they probably sell the item you want, even if small and esoteric, but they’ll only carry the one brand, usually the worst). Film users lose out to big digital push. Stock control is abysmal (e.g. cans of compressed air but no nozzles, no Velvia, etc.). Staff variable. Long wait for service in flagship store, not helped by three miles of counter. Comprehensive catalogue. Labs appallingly cack-handed (missing negs, wrong negs, badly cut negs, once lost two valuable photos sent for restoration then returned them unrestored - lost causes all, not worth complaining). Plenty of room for improvement, hopefully by a competitor.
- Generally friendly, willing to redirect you to another store if they can’t help. Good range of stock for such a tiny shop, particularly small accessories (although don’t expect them to have the exact step-up ring size you want). Lack a full knowledge of their own catalogue and too many items need ordering. Occasional special offers. Kodak lab service cheap but variable, occasional flaws in prints, sometimes slow.
- Wildings Camera
- Closest to an “independent”, which you think would mean that they’d specialise in stuff no one else sells (the largest Jessops store is right across the road). In fact, they concentrate on the same digicams and big ticket, big brand items as any consumer goods retailer, thus there’s little differentiation. Small items are special order, no timeframe and a resigned attitude. Reasonable secondhand cabinet. Generally, a missed opportunity.
- Stephens Photo Centre
- Mainly secondhand. Big on Leica but lots of other goodies. Prices possibly on the high side but the kit is good and they have a knack of bringing out the exact thing you wanted. Now sadly out of the way of passing browsers. Minimal web site, with stock listings.
- Real Camera Company
- All secondhand, quite a treasure trove and very helpful, personal service. Will buy and sell almost anything (although it may not be worth as much as you hoped). Needs an online stock list. (More when I get my Nikon EM back from repair.)
- London Camera Exchange
- (No experience.) Searchable web site for secondhand gear.
- Advanced Photo
- Owner-run, good service for in-house processing with prints individually adjusted. Less good if sending out and specialist services (e.g. uprating B&W) expensive. Good, cheap range of frames and mounts. Free album with prints!
- Klick (and ex-Max Speilmann)
- Reasonable for 1 hour if you don’t expect much (like individual service). Avoid having processing sent out to lab; the complaints process is ridiculously long-winded. Do not appear motivated to retain custom.