THE OLD GUARD

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🌇 THE STATE OF THE UNION: 

For more than six decades, I have had a hand on a camera in the photo industry. I covered the bases from photojournalist, sales in retail and wholesale, a lab owner, sports shooter, inventor and manufacturer, commercial work and a victim of over 450 weddings and a miracle. I think I kept my sanity,  from the wedding work alone you could go certified nuts.  With a few lunatics here and there I thought it might behoove me to use my .45 Colt instead of my Nikon 28-80.  It was a mix, there were some exceptional people.

CHANGE IS BOTH GOOD AND BAD

The entire industry as we knew it has died with the demise of the retail camera store. We went from selling product, teaching, training, seminars, comforting mess ups, fixing bad work in the lab, passing knowledge on to customers with classes and a learned higher level series improving the people skills and their science of photography, the art of light.

For the ten thousand dealers, closed doors and for some bankruptcy.  We had many customers and friends, photo trips and seminars, thats all gone now.  

Fifteen years ago the average attendance at the PMAi trade only show was 35,000 people from all over the world, and took a week to go through it in Vegas. Five days on the floor which took the entire LVCC both levels and no computers or cell phones in those days. Radio shack mini-walkie talkies were the communication.  

Few independent Camera stores without a lab survived the onslaught of the big box, the web and cellphones. Something like less than 750 independent stores are left in the entire country. The pic is from my last convention and roundup...thirty-three trips there.


TRADE SHOWS

The Photo Industry Vegas Trade Only shows are gone, replaced by the CES, which is all cellphones, TV’s, toys, computers and gaming in addition to about 50,000 companies selling cell phone covers.  Photography is now a state of electronics, where at one time it was a country all its own.  

The majors (Nikon and Canon, SONY and Fuji, Panasonic) knowing there aren’t enough dealers to support the thousands of dollars it cost to do a show went to retail shows, smart move.  One day of the usual three day show is dealers ( maybe) the next two or three are open to the public.

The retail shows allow the reps get to talk to thousands of end users. To my knowledge the public or retail show at the Javits in NY and one in Anaheim are whats left in addition to trade specific (Wedding Seminar - Kelby Photoshop - and Pro Organizations) which are shrinking in attendance as well.  


THE WEDDING MARKET - CELLPHONES
The wedding market is crippled too.  I never took on low end Weddings, left them to the warriors, the cheap 100-300 dollar end of the business is not a means of survival.   If you did fifty-two weddings a year at $200 dollars you didn’t make the poverty level.  Thats a part time job, and if you edit a lot it’s a five dollar an hour job and a lot of liability.

Then you walk in the hall and see disposable cameras on the table, and everyone has a cellphone.  The millennial’s, brought up on smart phones are not traditionalists.  Few aftermarket sales of albums and coffee table books cut into profit.  You give them a decoded disk and they will make their own or not care at all.

The better cellphones have cameras equal to the point and shoot which killed that market.  We sold ten point and shoots to one DSLR.   People spend 1000 dollars for a phone they’ll dump in two years but won’ t buy a decent camera for a lifetime. The camera was inconvenient and the phone glued to their head is their communication lifeline.  


ELECTION WORK
Time to punt.  After the really sick two election cycles, I am off the list for working with politicians. No more election work. No mas, No mas...   It’s a circus, competitive even with credentials.  Don’t think for a second when a critical shot can happen you don’t get bumped, pushed or shoved out of he way.

Several years back I covered  Sara Pain-land, a VP candidate for a month, on tour in Florida.  Never again, you learn a lot backstage, the things voters don’t get to see.  I have never witnessed a dysfunctional family like this one.  
I thought I was filming the sequel to “ One flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”.  Her tribe was like that TV show the Beverly Hillbillies who found oil on their land.   She found a GOP credit card and blew 150,000 dollars of voter money on her wardrobe. An estimated 50,000 was wasted on other crap for her tribe.  In my final story on her it all gets summed up

Really sick and just when things went back to normal, T-RUMP came along and the Democratic party called me. It was a mistake to answer the phone.  
As someone put it mildly , “ He could suck the air out of the room and then in a massive explosion blow it out his ass.


MAJOR SPORTS 

We have little or no Major Sports coverage anymore as it is all contracted, as it is all Press pools, Getty, REUTERS, etc, and  frankly when I covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during preseason my temperature gauge attached to my shirt registered 115 degrees and at my age now (76)  thats asking for a heart attack and thats not joking.

Our hockey team is closed environment and pooled, and our baseball team is so screwed up, and more shooters than customers.  And they are fighting for a new stadium, a joke win first then ask for a stadium. 


NEWSPAPERS AND POOLS

And what newspapers?  Printed media is a lost art and papers buy from the pools. I survived because I was able to go out get the story and the pictures instead of a two person crew.


NO CAMERA STORES LEFT
Business wise a camera store can be a financial disaster these days.  At one time Pinellas County,  FL  and Hillsboro County, FL  had eleven full line camera stores surrounding Tampa Bay including mine.  Almost one camera store for every gun shop.  

Today there are NO camera stores, but hundreds of gun shops.  Both retail and pawn stores selling guns.  I was in my prime an active wing, skeet, trap, and competitive IPSC three gun combat shooter, but thats not what the bulk of these gun stores are selling today.  Few seminars ( more like a sell-a-thon) as the Big Box stores, including Best Buy and others are doing all the retail selling.  And today the only local store is in Pasco County 25 miles north, Mom and Pop, about the size of a two car garage.   The other store is forty miles south in Sarasota and few if any discounting.

At the yearly trek to Vegas, for the PMAI trade show we met with our Nikon Representative, who became the US sales manager.  He told us about “Big Box Stores” and the effect they would create eventually dominating and controlling the US retail market.  For every flagship pro camera level sold, the big box stores sold a hundred newbie or entry level cameras.  

And then came Amazon and shopping changed.   Needless to say,  what I spent on gasoline, finding a parking spot  a mile from any stores front  door and mixed  shopping meaning five stops and starts, and that parking on a 95 degree day with a heat index of 105 was no fun.  The gasoline saved is enough to pay for my prime membership.  Heatstroke avoided, thats just age.   

Buying on the web is where the money went.  B&H and Adorama own the industry, a billion dollar one.  Also the market items are not the same stuff made in the USA years ago. The last independent retail camera store dealers, are mainly selling Chinese disposable products to maintain profit but those customers are dwindling as the cellphone allows cross shopping and seeing who has the best pricing.


SOCIAL MEDIA
And then the smartphone with advanced camera features sealed the fate of the small camera end of the business.  I got out of the retail end in time.  As of last November there are only two stores left on the entire West coast of Florida.  With no competition the people further look for what they want on line and surf the web.   Social media has changed how we record, communicate and transfer data.  We don’t show our photos we e-mail them and that was the icing on the grave.   And how we get hacked. 


REAL NEWS, THE JAPANESE FINANCIALS SHOW DECLINES FOR NIKON AND CANON

  1. Due to loss of competitiveness
  2. Lack of Chinese customers buying SLRs in Japan 
  3. Compact point and shoots replaced by cellphones, better cameras being built in combined with a method for sending it
  4. And a lack of retail stores to sell the higher end complex cameras.  
  5. Serious enough for camera divisions to be up for sale and the selling off of prime subdivisions. 
  6. Some of the smaller manufacturers have consolidated.  Some might not be there much longer.  
  7. Canon stated its intention to shift more production to Japan back in November. At that time the company quoted an increase to 50 percent domestic production over time.  
  8. Canon isn’t the only company looking to increase its production in Japan. Both Panasonic and Sharp are considering increasing their domestic production, though neither have explicitly confirmed plans to do so.  Major problem is Chinese quality control.


THE FUTURE FROM CANON

In an article in Fortune magazine Canon has expanded its theology.   Late 2016 marks the inaugural year of Phase V. Over the next five years we will expand the ambitious reforms we have promoted to date. I want the Canon of 2020 to look completely different from how it does now, completing a transformation into an all-new Canon capable of achieving new growth.

Across our business operations we are strengthening and expanding the growth engines we acquired through diversifcation and M&A. In manufacturing, we are refocusing on Japan- based production, implementing advanced automation while maximizing our in-house production capabilities. 

At the same time, IoT, big data, artificial intelligence and other next- generation technologies are enabling us to develop a new production system. In R&D, we are embracing open innovation to integrate leading-edge technologies from different fields. 

And as we work to complete our Three Regional Headquarters management system, we are restructuring our worldwide sales network to capture the dynamism of global economic growth. Along the way, Canon remains committed to cultivating global human resources that enable us to work successfully across international borders. 

PURCHASED:  Canon has purchased OCE, a leader in large printing format as digital is now on a par with offset printing. Large printing is a 80 trillion dollar a year business.  

PURCHASED:  They now own TOKKI  a leader in touch screen devices and production of OLEDS.

PURCHASED: Another acquisition is MOLECULAR IMPRINTS, now called Canon Nanotech will be shipping its first new machines this year for the growing IC market.   

PURCHASED:  They now own Milestone industries. This will place them strong in the network camera business, surveillance  production monitoring, market research and identification.

PURCHASED:   TOSHIBA Medical Systems, a leader in radiology.


Convenience
Many millennials so accustomed to buying and throwing away things, like their smartphone every two years, costing 600-900 dollars, the price built into the ridiculous monthly fees included in that great contract.  Thats what ate up the hobby, fun, sports, photography available cash and time.  You not only have a phone, you have a camera and the ability to transmit.  

Credit Managers lost jobs
NIKON and CANON took hits and had to restructure when two of the Big Boxes, Circuit City and the horribly run RITZ chain cost Nikon and Canon like 28+ millions in advances when they folded.  This big box deal backfired with those two majors and really cost the independent stores because both raised wholesale prices to further hinder, and to accommodate the losses.  

The few independent stores in the nation now have less reps or none at all
Less deals, lower profits, less credit deals and most large dollar purchases by the retailer are due 30 days period,  and failure to pay on time means no further orders.  With fast model changes, being stuck with a dated model, in some cases quality as in the case of Canon base lenses you have problems, no you have nightmares.  Profit margins are down between Nikon and Canon, you cannot stay in business without a lab or selling ancillary higher profit junk rebranded and overpriced distributed directly from companies here and made in the land of JUNK’s. 

Several distributors acting as group buying advocates
D
o a good job with rebranding and repackaging the cheap stuff, and I mean real better packaging to look expensive, and retaining a higher false profit margin.  But what they are selling is junk,  keystoned four times and discounted 40% to get you in.  Just like the TV ads, WAIT! Buy one and get the second free, just pay the S&H charges. HINT: S&H is what the second and first thing is really worth.  3-4 weeks delivery, thats because it comes from China. No warehousing on US property, no tariffs and so forth.

Killer for the little guy with a store
The margins to dealer are below 18% and that covers nothing after discounts and credit card fees.  Lets call it what it really is, the other culprit, the smartphone and connectivity has replaced addiction wise the cigarette as the nemesis of our society.  

Both cigarettes and texting can kill
Actually cigarettes will kill more but texting kills younger citizens and faster.  Both are distractions. But Nikon and Canons poor management and bad business dealings killed the independent retailer.  It reflects in their positions today.

Nikon dropped a couple of very troubling bombshells today
The first was a “Recognition of Extraordinary Loss” due to company-wide restructuring; the second was the cancellation of the much-delayed series of Nikon DL compact cameras announced in February of 2016. They made the mistake of going against Fuji and SONY with their award winning cameras in this class and could not top them.

NOTE:
I will be available working from 6:00 am to 12:00 (Noon) daily  by phone and email the rest of the day having fun knowing my decision to get out of retail and become a service suits me just fine.