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Time for more mergers in the photography retail sector?

Today it was announced that two of the largest photography retailers in the UK - Calumet and Wex Photography - has decided to merge. This event was initiated by the acquisition of Wex Photography by the owner of Calumet - Aurelius.

The photography industry has always been slow to adapt to changes in consumer behavior and market conditions. In Denmark this is quiet obvious through the poor performance of many small and independant photography retailers. Tools like PriceRunner is forcing prices down to zero-margin level faster than you can say "please buy from me I have the new product in stock" after a new product has been launched.
Consumers are not necessary loyal to a specific retailer and will shop around if they can save 10€ on a camera, a lens or any other photography equipment. It doesn't have to been an expensive purchase for the discount hunters to go for the cheapest retailer.

As a solution photography retailers has established their own purchasing company - co-owned by all participating members - to facilitate better purchasing prices. But the market for photography equipment is global, logistics cheap and you don't have to buy volume in China to get good prices and fast delivery - even with your own brand stamped on the product. As a consequence even a small stand alone photography retailer can buy directly from a number of manufactures and distributors and get similar or better prices than a "purchasing organisation".

The margin structure is simple: Manufactor -> master distributor -> distributor -> purchasing organisation -> retailer -> consumer. Guess who is making the smallest margin in this chain?

The only way to improve the gross margin is by skipping a few margin steps in the purchasing process - also to be able to afford keeping stock, as fast delivery is also a competitive factor.

Photography retailers in Denmark and other countries need to grow big fast by own means. And one way is to merge through a stock exchange program (cash free) and group under a shared brand.

The small independant photography store is dying fast and many are only keep alive by using the equity funds the owner has builded over the past 10-20 years.


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