The view from here


It has been slightly more than six months since Atlantic Photo Supply became the last camera store operating in downtown Halifax. How times have changed. When I first started in the camera business, back in the early 1980’s as a sales representative for the camera company Ricoh (it doesn’t even exist in Canada anymore), there were half a dozen camera stores operating within a few city blocks of each other. Every store had a loyal following and there was a vibrant buzz of activity amongst the stores as they all vied for customers in a business they all loved.

Photo by Kelly Anderson

Photography was more than a just a business. It was a passion for not only the owners of those stores but the employees who worked in them. At that time, a camera store was a cool place to work. There was still a mystery to taking pictures and skilled photographers were the result of years of schooling and training.

The camera store was a gathering place for those photographers and those who espoused to be like them.  It was not unusual on Saturdays in stores like Gary Myers’ on Blower Street, or Reid Sweet, for a number of customers to gather at the store and for several hours just talk about photography.

I can remember how exciting it was to go from store to store and see all the latest equipment and to learn how it all worked from the people behind the counter. They were the wealth of information that has now been replaced for many by the medium in which I am communicating this blog – the internet. At that time there was no internet. If you wanted to learn about the latest offering from Canon or Nikon or Minolta (remember them?) you headed to one of the camera stores and talked with one of the store veterans or a fresh faced kid excited that he was working at a camera store.

Fast-forward to today and how things have changed. The camera stores have gone – some have migrated to the power centers like Bayers Lake while others have simply closed up for good. Information is now easily obtained with the click of a mouse and competition for the consumers’ hard earned dollar has become as fierce as I can ever remember.

Photo by Kelly Anderson

One thing has not changed, however, and that is the passion of those who work in a real camera store. I’m talking about a store like mine and others like it, dotted across this province. For those who work in them, there is still an excitement surrounding taking pictures. For them, it’s not about profit margin, inventory turns and attachment rates.  It’s about taking great pictures. It’s about the next amazing piece of camera technology coming out from Canon or Nikon and it’s about helping a seasoned photographer or that first time buyer find that just right piece of equipment.

Many people have asked me if we’re doing OK as the last camera store standing on the peninsula. Some think we are doing spectacularly as customers seek new places to shop downtown, that were going elsewhere before. Others wonder if we can survive at all with the competition from the big boxes and on-line retailers. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Over the past six months or so, we’ve seen an improvement in some aspects of our business but just being here is not going to make us successful. Over the long term what will keep customers coming through our doors is knowledge.  Sure, you can buy a camera from one of the stores in the “parks” or order it from one of the many e-stores found on-line, but if you really want to get your hands on a camera, talk to someone who has used it and get the pros and cons of this camera versus another, you’ll shop at a store like mine.

Photo by Kelly Anderson

If you share a passion for photography, like the people who work in my store and my photo lab, you will seek us out.  For people like me, a camera store is still a cool place to work.

Brian Giffin1 Comment