An educated staff is key to Art's success. "I find that the sales staff learns when they do the training," says Tony. One of the ways the staff trains on new cameras is by finding the salesperson(s) who sell the least amount of a certain brand and challenge him or her with the task of training the others during training sessions. They're given seven minutes and told not to talk about the usual features that everyone is familiar with, but instead to focus on cool features and benefits that may pertain to a certain customer base. They need to shoot with the camera and have sample photos printed that all of the stores can use at the counter to help sell that model. "They come up with features that I never realized cameras had," Tony says.
They also display images that show what certain camera models or features can help accomplish. "If you can use actual examples, it's a no-brainer sale," Tony says. "You have to talk up features and how it pertains to the customer, not just rattle off specs. It's great when we're in some of these training sessions; it helps us get charged up about things."
"We wholeheartedly believe in using photographs to sell," Tony adds. In fact, they have an attractive display of mounted photographs taken by employees in all of their stores as examples to customers of what they, too, can do with the cameras that Art's sells. Tony and his staff have found that they increased sales when they began using their own photos to show customers what's possible from the cameras. "Now you're selling with passion," he says.
The staff is currently in the process of labeling the photos with the subject and camera model/settings that were used to capture the images. It's through these examples that Tony feels his customers will realize they can take great photos, too. These prints are of everyday subjects: kids, pets, and local places.
One of the large prints on display is of Tony's son, Mark playing youth football. Taken with an entry level DSLR camera, Tony says the print has helped his staff convince customers that they'll get better results from a DSLR because customers walking in the door see what great quality is possible from such a camera, and realize they can shoot that well, too.
In addition to selling more cameras, the display prints have also increased mounting and framing sales. Tony explains that customers would ask if Art's could mount their images they way the display samples were done.
While there's the constant battle for business with the chain drugstores, when people get their prints back from Art's, they see the difference. "We're never going to be the cheapest price, but we encourage our customers to try the suite out, relax, have a cup of specialty coffee and enjoy the experience. We want them to take as much time as they want, and then tell their friends how much better the experience and the quality is here at Art's."
Art's Cameras Plus has been very successful in selling camera kits. "You don't want to seem pushy," Tony explains about sales of accessories for new camera purchases. "But you want to show your customers that you're giving them value when they buy a camera in a kit." He says that it also helps steer the sales staff to the products he wants them to sell.
"Kits are a win-win," Tony says. "They allow the business to move product that we've made a heavy commitment to, and the salesperson makes a fairly easy sale. The staff explains to customers that they could purchase the items outside of the outfit and display the cost savings for kit purchases versus individually purchased items." He explains that when you show consumers they're getting value for their money, they won't feel the need to compare prices around town before making a purchase.
"Everybody knows you have to accessorize," he continues. "If you sell someone a camera and then you have to hit them with a laundry list of accessories-even though they need these things, it can kind of make you seem like a used car salesman in their eyes." Selling kits gives the customer one thing to say yes to, because it has all the necessities at a reduced price, and then the sales associate can make another couple recommendations like an extended warranty or a card reader.
"First and foremost you've got to get them into a camera that will suit their needs," he says. "I drive that point home with my staff. They're not going to push someone into a camera just to make a spiff."
Tony is aware of his inventory at all times. "Because I can control the inventory so well, when we close out, we've got only a couple pieces of a model left, so we don't have to take such a big loss," he says. "You can't sit on inventory and not turn it."
Passports is another facet of the Art's repertoire, but portraits doesn't fall under their umbrella. "We do a fair amount of passport photos," Tony says. "But we've got a number of pro photographers who use us for photofinishing and don't want to take away business from them, so we don't do portraits."
Another photo specialty store that had been located in Milwaukee, Reimer's Photographics, went out of business in 2002. They catered to a higher-end clientele than Art's had targeted in the past, so seeing a void in the marketplace, Tony hired Dan Mueller and Jim Wendt, former Reimer's employees, and became authorized dealers for Sony and Canon camcorders. "Several of Jim's high-end video customers were so pleased that we hired him that they became instant Art's customers," said Tony. "Dan and Jim did a great job of setting up the rental department, beginning first with camcorder rentals including the high-end 3-chip models and gradually adding Canon and Nikon DSLRs and some of the more exotic lenses.
Tent Sale Brings Folks In
The Art's Cameras Plus tent sale has taken on a life of its own. After talking with several PRO members who run successful tent sales, Tony decided to try it in 2004. "There's something about a tent that brings people in," he says. "It's a lot of work, but the tent sale will continue to be an annual event." 2007 was the store's 40th anniversary and the first tent sale to be held at the new Greenfield location so they pulled out all the stops to make it special; heavily advertising in the Sunday paper, on the radio, as well as appearances Tony made on a couple of local TV programs. The actual tent event took place over two days and featured sales reps from approximately 10-12 manufacturers. "I try not to offer products from too many manufacturers because I believe it makes sense to do more business with fewer key vendors so that we can develop programs that will help us sell more of their products. You can't be important enough to vendors if you are spreading yourself too thin with each of them," says Miresse.
One of the promotional ideas for the anniversary tent sale was the creation and giveaway of Art's "Tent Buster Bucks" to the first 40 customers each day. The Bucks were put into envelopes-a minimum of $40, some contained $75, $100, and one a day contained $250. The only requirement was that they had to be spent right then. According to Tony, the vast majority of customers spent more than they were planning to (and more than what was in the envelope).