Calumet Closes All U.S. Locations

On Thursday March 13, 2014 Calumet announced that after 75 years they would be closing down all U.S. locations immediately. This announcement came as a surprise to me, fellow photographers, and most unfortunately to Calumet’s own employees. Reports state the company did not inform employees of a possible closure although some saw this coming. 

Personally I am sad to see another big camera and video store close, specially one that was relatively close to me in Hollywood, CA. I visited the store a few times and I have to say neither their prices or customer service impressed me enough to give them most of my business. I didn’t have any negative experiences with Calumet either but I do understand why these stores are closing down.

The internet has made it possible to research items extensively and look for the best price from a myriad of stores nationwide as well as internationally. The only saving grace these stores have is the ability to get your hands on a piece of equipment quickly and to test out the product before buying it. In my experience there are very few times when I need a piece of equipment on the spot, specially if it’s pricey. I usually take my time to research what I need on the internet and look for a good deal. If I do want to test out a piece of equipment I look to people that I know who have it or have used it, or I go to a store to test it out if they have it in stock. 

According to some former Calumet employees the company was spreading itself so thin, after purchasing Penn and Ritz camera stores, they could no longer supply all their stores with new equipment. Customers would go into the stores only to find out their item wasn’t in stock and would have to special order it. Now, that doesn’t quite make sense to me if the reason I drive down to a store is because I want the item right away. If I need to special order it then why not just buy it online to begin with?  

Customer service is probably the most important aspect of a brick and mortar store nowadays. I am a very relaxed person, it takes a lot to make me aggravated, but if I am ready to drop a substantial amount of money on something and I’m choosing to go to a specific store then I expect a level of service and satisfaction. It’s called reciprocity, if I’m choosing to go to your store and give you my money it is not enough to simply sell me the item because that is the level of service I expect from an online seller. I put my item in the basket, give my credit card number, and get my package a few days later. I expect more from the people that want and appreciate my business. This simple concept seems to escape many retailers and I have no problem taking my business elsewhere because of the amount of choices we now have at our disposal. 

This added benefit can extend to little things like a smile and a sunny disposition to other things like educating the buyer and giving quick tutorials. Adorama has a website full of tips as well as a Youtube channel which I subscribe to. Yes, you have to put up with the marketing of the items they sell but when it is accompanied with good information and likable hosts it doesn’t feel overbearing. It’s things like that that make me return to Adorama when researching my next buy. Charging $100 per hour for a class at Calumet was not something I was interested in or made me feel like they wanted to help me. Why answer my questions when they could sell me an hour course for $100? It seems short sighted along with many decisions the company took that ended in them filling bankruptcy.

In the end I feel bad for the employees, which I’m sure most of were very helpful and knowledgeable. They seem to be looking into opening a few select locations n the U.S. and the stores over in Europe will remain open (for how long? if they don’t change things around).  There are lessons to be learned for big electronic companies and changes to be made. Why stay on board of a sinking ship trying to patch it up? Maybe a new business model is in order, a new leaner, meaner vessel that will provide photographers and videographers with their needs alongside great service.

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