The Michaels family has been in the photography business for almost 100 years. In a period marked by heavy discounting, Michaels has maintained its customer service, independence and success without having to slash the prices. Managing director Peter Michael spoke to Appliance Retailer magazine about the major issues affecting the industry.
How has your family kept an independent store running for 100 years?
It’s really simple — we stick to our knitting — we do what we do and we try not to deviate from what we’ve always done.
We’ve always been service oriented, we’ve always had a wide range of product and we’ve always had good product knowledge. We’ve been lucky that in the Melbourne CBD, and we’ve been a here a long time, camera stores have come and gone, but this core area here on Elizabeth Street has been a centre for photography, so the market has come to us.
Other similar stores in your area have failed – there must be a secret?
I don’t really think of WOW or Retravision as being equivalents — they sell everything to everyone. The product that we sell has obviously changed a hell of a lot but we’ve just remained specialists and at the same time the interest in photography has gotten stronger.
Not all of it has fallen our way: we’ve had competition from the CE channel that we didn’t have 10-15 years ago. It’s a combination of doing what we do and then focusing on doing what we could do even better.
On a serious note, we’re not price fighters — we’re not in the 10 cent print game and we never have been —instead we’re in the 30-40 cent print game but with better quality prints. We look for the segment of the market that is after quality and not just the cheapest price.
Has online made you stronger because service has become rarer?
That’s an interesting comment. We have people say to me, ‘I’ve been in this store for 10 minutes and five people have asked me if I want to be served. You go to Myer, you could have product in your hand, and you want to buy it and you can’t find someone to take your money. The focus on service in the online argument has just made it clearer that we do give really good service and our staff is so well trained and knows all about the products.
What about the industry is frustrating you at the moment?
Wholesalers becoming retailers and wholesalers competing for the same consumers. For example, Canon’s website and other online supplier competition. We’ve already got enough competition, let alone having it from our suppliers.
Samsung and Sony stores don’t seem to do any real harm — they all want to be Apple — they’ve all got Apple envy — good luck to them.
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