Contacts: Bill Skinner, Store Manager, Calumet Photographic (Chicago)

Like most store managers, Bill Skinner is a hybrid. Some days he’s a personnel director, others, a salesman, but always, a strategist. As the professional photography market has shrunk, Skinner has decided to go after a category of customer he calls “the photocrat.”

“These are everyday people who’ve become passionate about making images,” he explains. “They may start with point-and-shoots, but they move up to D-SLR’s and at that point, decide they want to take control of the image they’re making instead of letting the camera do it. They realize that P [an automatic camera mode] doesn’t stand for ‘professional,’ and they’re hungry to learn.”

Skinner has decided to cater to these inspired prosumers by upping the number of classes, workshops and seminars he offers in his downtown Chicago store (a location that pulls in 12 million a year in sales, all without a print lab). On a recent Saturday, he actually had 6 different learning sessions scheduled throughout the day. “The educational factor is huge for us, and it’s very common for people to sign up for more than one,” he says.

Pushing the envelope further, Skinner has recently come up with an idea for a blow-out educational event he calls Digital Days. “We’ll strip the store and set up tables like a trade show,” he says. “We have 58 vendors so far, 5 off-location seminars and 4 seminars in our store studio…and of course, we’ll be selling all day long.”

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