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Author Topic: Competitive pricing with big box stores  (Read 1968 times)
rgvsdigitalpimp
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« on: February 06, 2013, 03:07:10 PM »
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Hey all quick question.  I have a photographer buddy of mine asking me for my pricing on photo prints on photo paper.  I have BC's Gloss Photo Paper roll right now and did some research to try to come up with a good competitive price list.  I was getting my prices from this site:

http://help.deviantart.com/337/

Well, a 16x20 on glossy photo paper base price is about $17.00
I went online to my local big box Sams and Costco photo site to compare with them and they sell 16x20 prints for $5.00!!  And ready for pickup in one hour!  How in the world can I compete with that?  What would be my reasoning for charging up in the $10-15 range while those stores have the same print at $5!

Any advice would be helpful.  Thank you all
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bill t.
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 03:12:17 PM »
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You're barking up the wrong tree.
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KenBabcock
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 03:16:38 PM »
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You're using expensive pigmented ink, they're not.  You're using expensive(ish) paper, they're not.

How do you compete with the big box store?  You don't!  Carve out a niche of your own.  You have to force people to buy images from you that only you have access to.  Hey you like that particular shot buddy... well you can only buy it from me.  Leave the print on demand market to those that are already in it.  Any yahoo can print a photo these days.  But you want to sell images as fine art prints that you have and I don't.  

Your fine art images will last a lifetime.  The quick prints from big box stores will be lucky to survive a couple of years.  

You have to market yourself to a different crowd or you will never make money printing.  

Again, do NOT compete with the $5 prints.  The wear and tear on your 8300 is worth more than that!!  Force clients to purchase images only available through you.  

When you figure out that you want clients and not customers is when you'll know what you have to do to make it in this field.

**EDIT**  And yes, I was once in your position with a big printer trying to figure out how to make money.  I figured it out and now have 6 LF printers.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2013, 03:19:06 PM by Ken Babcock » Logged
rgvsdigitalpimp
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2013, 03:20:47 PM »
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Bill T, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. 

Ken, the thing is I'm not a photographer.  I don't sell images.  I print for photographers.  Right now I'm focusing on only canvas.  I want to expand my business and offer other services such as printing photo's for photographers.  My client has the image.  He took it.  So I don't really have that "but it from me" option.  Thanks Ken for the reply.  Got some good info on why they should come to me instead of use big box stores. 
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2013, 03:23:19 PM »
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My understanding is that the OP is trying to sell a service to other photographers, not his own photographs. The previous replies are correct that it's pointless trying to compete with big box stores ON THEIR TERMS. If you are offering a printing service, you need to be offering more: (i) custom service - you'll put time and effort into meeting the client's specific needs - for which they pay; (ii) high quality materials for which you can point to certification of quality and longevity. Those are really the only two factors that could differentiate a small service provider from the mass market. There are quite a few print service bureaux doing business in this manner and succeeding.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
KenBabcock
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2013, 03:30:36 PM »
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When Bill said "barking up the wrong tree" he essentially meant what I said in fewer words.

If you don't have your own images to sell then you need to continue doing what you're doing - sell fine art images.  The problem is that many photographers are now buying large printers and printing their own.  But you need to try and gain some of the market.  Offer services others don't.  Offer high quality canvases (or paper) that you can't get at Sam's Club.  Images that are clear, crisp and spot on color-wise each and every time.

Learn tricks of the trade, like the cracking problem I helped you with a few weeks ago when you were out of canvas but had to deliver the prints and they were cracking.  That comes with experience only. 

Like I said, you want to look for clients and not customers.  It takes time to build a clientele but if you're good enough and have a passion for what you do, you'll get there.
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rgvsdigitalpimp
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2013, 03:33:38 PM »
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Thank you, Mark and Ken. Im feeling much better now pricing my prints accordingly.
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bill t.
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2013, 03:38:02 PM »
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You've got to be the best damned post-processor/printer in the state.  You need to forge working relationships with high end photographers such as well known portrait and commercial guys, and they've got to feel you will bend over backwards to provide first class service at all times, and that you can save their butts when they mess up.  Or you've got to appeal to some niche market like artists needing giclee prints, to whom Costco prints are foaming-mouthed horrors.

The big boxes are using those prints as a price leader to get people into the store.  You could never win against them for the huge majority of folks who can't tell the difference between a 1 hour photo and a fine art print, and wouldn't care to try.
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KenBabcock
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2013, 03:40:52 PM »
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No problem.  Don't be afraid to walk away from jobs that want to underpay.  I do it all the time. If you become known as the cheap printing guy you can forget ever printing to make a profit.  All the cheap ones I've known over the years get a bad rep fast and go under quickly.  The power of the Internet and the reputation you gain (good or bad) is unbelievable.  
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Benny Profane
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2013, 06:57:47 AM »
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This is also an issue in the retouching profession, of which I am a card carrying member. Do not attempt to compete against the low cost vendors (in my case, it's Indians over the internet). Focus on the high end, and give them superior service. If that doesn't work, well, find another business.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2013, 08:00:39 AM »
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The thing is to not offer "the same" print, offer a better print! Some people won't notice or care about the difference, nothing you can do about that. Those that do are will hopefully be your customers.
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Peter
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Bullfrog
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2013, 09:45:31 PM »
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Bill T, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. 

Ken, the thing is I'm not a photographer.  I don't sell images.  I print for photographers.  Right now I'm focusing on only canvas.  I want to expand my business and offer other services such as printing photo's for photographers.  My client has the image.  He took it.  So I don't really have that "but it from me" option.  Thanks Ken for the reply.  Got some good info on why they should come to me instead of use big box stores. 

As others have said, it is unwise to piggy back the competition.  YOu must differentiate.

I was a retailer in a previous life (owned my own store although it was not photography) and competed head on with big box.  Or more accurately, I didn't. 

Your problem (as was mine when I had the store) is that certain services and products sold in retail are the SAME.  A box of Tide is a box of Tide.  It does the same thing no matter where you buy it - but Walmart may sell it at a loss for $2 a box - and this is the actual wholesale cost of a small Mom and Pop.

So, back to photography,  if your service is printing photographs and their service is printing photographs - who do you think will win if the only thing you can claim is "friendly service" (I am not a fan of Walmart).

People who pay for these kinds of prints don't want to be overwhelmed with techno-crap.  They don't care how big your printer is, or how many profiles it has (they view their best shots under flourscent lights as proofs - what more can I say :0-).   They may visit you to check you out, but if the service is basically the same,  you will waste time.

n my view, you need to do what they cannot - and not even attempt to attract their customer base.  Its like trying to move a mountain.

I'm not in the business of printing - and don't want to be.  But as a consumer, and a person who would consider purchasing the service, I would not pay you to do what I can get done in a pharmacy or big box. 

HOwever, recently, I have been working to get a collection together.   I am considering trying to exhibit my work (hopefully next year) and I have been pricing printers who will do perfect quality prints on paper, or mounted on board, or on canvas.  And frames. 

I called around recently (I'm in Ontario Canada) and the pricing for a 20x30 print on paper is around $50.00 - about the same for a simple frame - which means I'm at $100 a print before travel, set up, booth rental, tent, and my time.

Its pricey - but if my current printer bites the dust (smile)  - I would consider it.

Art exhibitions are happening (usually in the summer) and get last years' catalogue of artists and mail them.  How many of the exhibitors actually have their own printer - I have no idea.  It may be another dead end - but that's all I got.

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bill t.
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 11:46:45 AM »
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Here's part of the reason you can never win.

http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/jsp/Landing/surelab-d-series-ad.do?RMID=PI_20130214_SureLab_General&RRID=EPSONP300307
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2013, 11:54:33 AM »
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Quite amazing indeed. So does this technology open the market to new service providers allowing them to compete head to head in the mass market, or does it further push profitability into the custom high-end? I can see it perhaps doing both.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Sal Baker
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2013, 01:27:40 PM »
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Unless they had other printers, the user would be in trouble if a client wanted decent black and white (1 black ink only), matte paper, or a print over 12 inces wide.

Sal
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davidh202
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2013, 01:29:50 PM »
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The specs on the D series says they can produce the best color gamut yet with only 6 inks.
So much for 9 & 11 color inksets.
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davidh202
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2013, 01:37:03 PM »
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The D series is being marketed to studio photographers that print automated batches of nothing but small prints and 8x10s similar to what the 1 hour photo labs did with rolls of developed film.Need 50 proofs or 4 x 6s etc no need to send off the files and wait for them to be returned printed.
Not meant for 1 and 2 print orders in a store 
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2013, 03:33:53 PM »
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Not for the 30x20 fine art paper market either even though there's ICC profiles supplied.
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Bullfrog
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2013, 04:21:23 PM »
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My own experience (for what its' worth) as a retailer is the market segments every 10 years - so if giclee canvas has been out that long - its price point has been eroded to the point it is not likely profitable - or it is fast approaching that mark.  

This would seem to be where "glossy 8x10" market has gone, you can now get your prints done while you shop for groceries and buy beer.  

However, those pigs of printers are expensive and would require a much higher ROI.  

So,  I think its what others have said, if you are the innovator and set new standards - you can charge (almost) whatever you want, assuming the product is good and in demand.  

Here in Ontario Walmart did change the retail landscape, but we still have Mom and Pop's in niche markets - and on printers,  the larger printing houses I have found which have sharper price points and better deals are still too far away to justify the back and forth driving for the low volume of prints I do.

Its the reason I have this large format printer - while it doesn't justify itself financially, its convenient and I've accepted the loss as part of learning.

However,  when my printer coughs its last cookie (ie when the print heads go), I will not buy another, but instead purchase a smaller desktop printer to do proofs, and then farm out those I want to keep or sell to a printing shop who does quality work and is reliable.

So, I think while giclee on canvas may become the new "lost leader" -  if the market of printers grows, and shops set up closer to my home (within 30 km) - I expect it will create a new channel and those that can make the transition will do well.

Just my 2c

« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 04:32:19 PM by Bullfrog » Logged
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