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Takeaways from my visits to the Leica, WhiteWall, and Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop stores

By Hans Hartman – Suite 48 Analytics

Mono-brand stores are on the rise. We’re all familiar with the success of Apple stores, which allow us to experience Apple’s computers and devices hands-on, receive more knowledgeable advice than we get in the average consumer electronics retail store, or have our gear repaired by “Geniuses.”

Apple was neither the first vendor with mono-brand stores, nor the last. E.g., in the world of computers and consumer electronics Microsoft, Garmin, Bose, and Amazon all have their own stores. So do Nike, Levis Strauss and many others in the world of fashion and apparel. Even a bathroom and kitchen fixture and equipment manufacturer like Kohler now has their own Signature Stores, where we flush the toilet of our dreams or compare the water streams from various shower heads.

Mono-brand stores have clear benefits:

  • They provide brand visibility at high-traffic or high-prestige locations;
  • They can let their customers see, touch or play with their physical products and experience them in a way not feasible online or practical at the multi-brand stores of their brick-and-mortar retail partners;
  • They enable brands to carry a much broader inventory than possible in partner retail stores;
  • They can hire or train sales people to have a deeper understanding of the brand’s products than is typically the case with sales people at multi-brand retail stores;
  • They can highlight customer solutions rather than just selling products, and promote their brand by, for instance, offering workshops or “getting started” trainings.

Let’s see how WhiteWallFujifilm, and Leica provide these benefits:

[Scroll down for A few more things… mobile photo news highlights]

Brand visibility

The Leica, WhiteWall and Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop stores I visited are all located at highly prestigious urban shopping locations: Leica’s San Francisco’s store is near Union Square; WhiteWall’s US store is in New York’s Soho district, Fujifilm’s US Wonder Photo Shop store is on 5th Avenue in New York’s Flatiron District – they are not plopped into the average suburban mall. Apparently, these spacious stores at expensive locations must provide good ROI, as each vendor is expanding their mono-brand store lineup:

  • Fujifilm’s Wonder Photo Shop New York store receives 300 visitors a day, a total of 83K in its first year. Fujifilm now has 8 Wonder Photo Shops worldwide.
  • Leica has 90 mono-brand stores worldwide, which, according to the company, significantly contributed to the company’s year-over-year revenue growth of more than 6% – quite an accomplishment, given the overall downward trend in the global camera market. The company is planning to add 20 to 30 new stores in China alone.
  • WhiteWall has 6 showcase stores worldwide: 5 in Germany and 1 in New York. The New York store features high-end wall décor prints of user-generated content, produced on materials such as metal, acrylic, canvas and paper. A separate floor is occupied by WhiteWall’s sister company, LUMAS, which sells short-run, photo prints labeled as “museum-quality” of more than 200 artists worldwide, produced by WhiteWall. LUMAS itself has 40 galleries around the world.

See, touch, or play with physical products

Seeing is believing – especially in regard to imaging, whether this means trying out new cameras, observing the quality of photo output products, or seeing the types of photo output products you didn’t even know existed.

The Leica and Fujifilm stores make it possible for consumers to try out the various cameras they sell and receive expert guidance if needed. In addition, the Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop offers customers the option to loan a Fuji camera for a day, at no charge. The store also hosts a working area for customers to create and print their photo products.

Broader inventory

Each imaging mono-brand store displays a broad spectrum of their products. In the case of Fujifilm this includes X-Series cameras, Instax instant print cameras, and various printed photo products. Leica not only showcases prints created by renowned Leica-using photographers, it also displays its broad assortment of cameras and lenses. Their San Francisco store also showcases and sells second-hand vintage Leica equipment to die-hard Leica fans.

Company experts on hand to provide help and training

Not only are imaging mono-brand store employees experts in their company’s products and/or services, at Leica and Fujifilm they also host free or moderately priced workshops, such as frame building classes (Fujifilm) or high-end photobook design workshops (Leica).

Interestingly enough, the benefits of workshops and customer interaction go both ways. As Fujifilm’s Jim Dolce mentioned at our 2017 Visual 1st (Mobile Photo Connect) conference: Their Wonder Photo Shop store also enables Fujifilm employees to learn first-hand from the questions customers raise when visiting their store.

The potential of mono-brand imaging showcase stores

Ultimately, we’re all in the business of promoting visual products, so showing these in the best viewing environments intuitively makes sense.

Photo output product vendors can leverage mono-brand stores to showcase the wealth of output product options with which many consumers are not familiar, or which they have not yet seen in person – i.e. vendors can showcase the variety and quality of their products better in a gallery-like environment than they can in the space-restricted kiosk areas at their retail partners.

For online-only photo product providers, who lack the physical presence at retailers, mono-brand showcase stores could be particularly important vehicles for creating awareness of their product lineup and the quality with which their products are printed. There is only so much you can visualize on screen!

Which raises the question: when will we see the first Shutterfly or Snapfish gallery stores?

Mono-brand stores offer specific “seeing is believing” opportunities to camera vendors, who historically have struggled to educate a generation of smartphone-first photographers on the advantages of their high-end cameras over smartphones. Mono-brand stores could enable consumers to try these cameras out and experience the difference with smartphones first-hand, while being guided by company experts. In addition, these consumers could benefit from in-store workshops and trainings, on-site repair, and mobile workflow integration advice.

And a few more things …

It’s Winter Olympics and M&A timeCEWE acquires 80% of French photo print app Cheerz‘s shares for €36M. Mailpix acquires RitzPix.com, its 5th acquisition after Winkflash.com, MyPix2.com, Just4MyPets.com and 1HourPhoto.com. This was all preceded by Shutterfly‘s $825M acquisition of Lifetouch, about which I raised some strategic questions.

New York Times. AR going mainstream and just in time for the Olympics: Your Guide to Augmented Reality in The Times.

Consumer AR App Trends. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out our brand-new 124-page Consumer AR App Trends study.

Snap. You don’t want an interface that your mom can understand, do you? Snapchat’s New Update Triggers Revolt by Millions of Teens.

CaptureLife. Last year’s Visual 1st presenter, CaptureLife, announces CaptureLife Dynamic Backgrounds to eliminate the need to shoot green screens, CaptureLife Smart Events to promote event photos, and CaptureLife Video Stories to create video trailers of one’s photos.

DXOMark. How far has the smartphone camera progressed vis-à-vis DSLRs? Read DXOMark’s in-depth report.

Photokina Business Forum Imaging. Join me in welcoming Israel-based Photomyne, Switzerland-based Prodibi, Germany-based Scasa, Portugal-based Storyo, and Holland-based PastBook to present their apps in our imaging startup Show & Tell session on February 28 in Cologne. Not in the initial lineup? Drop me a note!

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Best,

Hans Hartman

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