by Ron Pybus Published 01/06/2009
Just to contradict this dramatic downturn was the approval of three major developments in the town. Two major new shopping centres, a cinema, bowling alley, a new library complex, hundreds of new flats, two new major supermarkets and many new retail shops. The plans will dramatically transform Trowbridge from a rural, backwater, market town, to a major shopping centre with free parking! It will rival Bath and Bristol for its range and quality of shops.
Within one week of planning permission being given, the bulldozers were in, and work has commenced. This development will mean that more people are brought into the area and the spend will rise dramatically. Above all, the image of the area will rise, and hopefully expectations will rise along with the glitz of new shops.
You can learn far more from your customers than you can from any reports, talks or commercial organisations. I have increased the time I spend talking to my customers after they have completed their purchases. I wanted to find out their feelings about their experience with us, their vision of the future, how we could provide a better service and what changes they would like to see. All this information is added into the mix.
I have regular contact with several retailers in Trowbridge, Melksham and Westbury and in discussions with them we are all finding that there is a change in shopping patterns and demands. A more marked of these is a greater divide between those who want an item and want it as cheap as possible, almost irrespective of the quality and those who are prepared to pay a reasonable amount for an item, but want improved quality.
In the 1980s quality control was the 'in' thing in manufacturing, but in the 21st century most goods are shipped out to retailers and it is the customer who monitors quality by taking faulty goods back to the shop. This is all done with the aim of cost cutting. You must all have faced this situation recently where something you have purchased either does not work properly or does not work at all.
I recently had a week's holiday in Greece observing tavernas at close hand. It was interesting to see a similar change in Greece, with tavernas having already made changes in both range and quality of meals as well as service, whilst retaining prices at a reasonable level. Managers and waiters all confirmed that they had made changes in the last few months in response to customer comment and as a result of the financial changes.
It has recently been reported that 'comfort' items such as chocolate are increasing in sales and maybe photographers can play on this factor.
No photographer can deny that photographs are, in most cases, a luxury item and in a financial crisis, an item that can be deferred or cut out all together. So this is the scene - where do we go from here?
Each one of you will make your own choice. The one certainty is that you will need to make changes. In a time of stability we all tend to continue on the same tracks and we tend not to look around and review what we are actually doing. If nothing else this dramatic financial change is an opportunity to take a step back and review exactly how you operate, how you can improve, how you can retain or increase your share of the market and how you can compete with others. I am just the same as everyone else. If it is working - why fix it! Now is the time to make some fixes, before things stop working.
In talking with customers I identified that the number of photographs in my packages (most of my initial sales are packages) was often too great for their needs. My original packages had been based on the number of images on a roll of 35mm film. Three sittings, 10 pictures per sitting with a few spare for the identifier tag and difficult customers. Reducing the number of pictures but retaining the price at its present level meant a greater profit. In changing from film to digital I had never really considered the various price breaks that my lab put on numbers of prints.
A quick review clearly identified that I was not operating at maximum cost effectiveness. I have now reduced the number of images in each of the packages, very slightly increased the prices and package my printing requirements to the break points in the lab's pricing structure.
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