I’ve been impressed by the ways in which photographic retailers and manufacturers have responded to the challenge of closed retail outlets and reduced opportunities for photographers to get out and about as they would be doing at this time of the year.
All the big brands, including Leica, have launched video training courses and photographic challenges. Sigma has just launched its #Sigmashotathome photo and video contest, adopting the stay-at-home flavour of the month. There are some impressive prizes but, unfortunately, the contest is limited to the United States at the moment. If you live there, take a look at the website. Encouragingly, there is no requirement to use a Sigma product.
Retailers – in this country major chains such as London Camera Exchange and Wex Photographic – are producing almost daily updates and interactive opportunities to enable customers to enjoy virtual shopping experiences. I’ve even seen “Not-in-Store” events scheduled to view specific camera and lens ranges.
There is no doubt that all sectors of the industry are struggling at the moment. With little prospect of being let out into the wide world for many weeks, most keen photographers will have put off buying decisions and will be feeling that they can soldier on a bit longer with the gear they already own. The fact that we are at the beginning of the summer, a time when thoughts turn to new gear, is particularly worrying for retailers. They will be hoping for a rush once the restrictions are lifted.
Better times will return. Germany is even now experimenting with the re-opening of smaller shops and, presumably, this will include camera outlets such as one of my favourite Leica stores, Meister Camera in Berlin’s elegant Fasanenstrasse.
This could happen here in the UK during May and being able to visit our regular photographic stores will be a welcome relief from weeks of lockdown. While larger shops and department stores will probably remain closed for longer, most camera stores – even the branches of the bigger chains – fall into the “small store” category. Let’s hope they can resume business sooner rather than later.