It is sad to see this trend of traditional camera stores closing, fighting like hell, but ending up in bankruptcy or being forced to hold liquidation sales, all because of our obsession with finding the absolute lowest price and using the internet to do so. Of course today's smart phones with their excellent cameras don't help matters, either.
That was brought to mind today when I received an email from Ritz Camera & Image. Here's what it said:
We would like to extend our most sincere thanks to you for your support over the years at Ritz Camera & Image in Bethesda, MD. In the past couple years, we've seen our online division RitzCamera.comflourish while our store in Bethesda has struggled.
We would like to encourage you to please stop in and pick up any completed orders and prints by Thursday, May 3rd 2018. Our doors close permanently at the end of this week.
While it is with heavy hearts that we close our Bethesda store, we hope you will continue to experience great savings and service online at RitzCamera.com.
Like so many of our customers, we’re certain you will find the merchandise you want at the price you need, plus an exceptional online shopping experience.
Thank you from your team at Ritz Camera & Image.
Why are traditional camera stores closing?
Recently, the largest -- and only remaining independent camera store in Atlanta, GA, made this announcement and explanation:
As you are well aware, the coming of the Internet and high-volume consumer electronics stores have progressively shrunk our retail market. We have adapted to these changes in as many creative ways as we could and have survived to be the last photo and video store in Atlanta. But we have reached a point that we can no longer sustain a retail business. So it is with great regret that we will be closing Showcase Photo & Video on Tuesday, February 28th.
Showcase general manager John Williams offered several reasons to PetaPixel.com for this trend, including the fact that many states do not collect sales tax on online sales, placing the brick and mortar stores at a price disadvantage. But beyond that, he had this to say:
“The second issue has to do with the amount of, shall we say, digital information that’s now available. In the old days customers would sometimes seek information or seek pricing for a product by using one of the several photography magazines that were available, so they thumb to the back, find the product and see what the price was in the back of the books.”
“Sometimes that was reliable and many a times it was not. Well today, the consumers do not have to worry about a magazine as they have a computer in their hand in their smart phone that will tell them instantly what the product sells for here and elsewhere so they have an instant comparison shopping. And well, I’m fine with that and we are very competitive with most everybody else in the whole country.”
“However the consumer, more often than not, now is not coming in to listen to our conversation about the product, the value that we bring to the product and what special offers that we might have. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is steadily declining store traffic and as the store traffic has declined the sales volume follows that and has been shrinking.”
That last sentence, to my mind, is the most telling. Today's time-pressed and internet-savvy consumers care more about getting their information fast, finding the best price fast, and then ordering their products fast in the most convenient way possible. They care much less about engaging a camera sales person in conversation, hearing their pitches, or even listening to their advice.
It's all about me and it's all about now.
That's why Ritz, which once had more than 2,000 stores, keeps closing stores and is directing its customers to its website for "an exceptional online shopping experience."
I love photography and I love cameras. I always enjoyed speaking with knowledgeable experts in those traditional camera stores -- especially the independent shops run by pros, which Ritz and other big chains put out of business simply because of volume-based pricing.
Now, I guess, it's their turn to go.