Allentown, Pa.

For a category that started off with low-quality and unintuitive products, digital picture frames (DPFs) are generating some of the strongest sales numbers in CE retail history. “It’s just exploding!” says NPD imaging analyst Liz Cutting. “Digital frames were the biggest growth category of all electronics at the end of 2007.” NPD’s weekly tracking service pegs image displays—5 inches and above—up 240 percent in dollar growth and 250 percent in unit growth from this time last year. Stats on the tiniest frames, those 2-inch little jobs that retail for around $30, are even more staggering, with 1,300 percent growth over the

Imaging Buyer, Sixth Avenue Electronics Age: 32 Education: Three years at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., studying chemistry Career History: Growing up in New York City means a kid spends a lot of time around storefronts and a lot of time on the bus. For Vartivarian, that time was perfect for nurturing an interest in electronics. “I’d walk through all those little mom & pop electronics boutiques and just learn so much,” said the present-day Sixth Avenue Electronics Imaging Buyer. At age 21, Vartivarian joined P.C. Warehouse in Rochelle Park, NJ, to sell computers. After a successful year, Hartivarian was invited by

From his mezzanine office, Concord Camera Store owner Michael St. Germain has a bird’s eye view of his sales floor. Last November, it was hopping. Customers were checking out a wide selection of the latest sub-$1,000 digital SLR’s and the ever more affordable point-and-shoots, pleased to be getting a lot more camera for their money than the year before. St. Germain’s staff had good offers for customers that day, showing an 8 megapixel Kodak 875 for $199. The year before, he said, a comparable camera would have sold for about $700. Surveying the busy registers from his desk chair, St. Germain could cross off

Scrapbook enthusiasts, a veritable American subculture with their own magazines, tools, clubs, even retreats, have long been associated with craft items like stickers, ribbon, gold markers, and decorative paper, not the sort of low-ROI products consumer electronics retailers are hot to stock. It’s time to rethink that stereotype, though, says Amy Kinnon, the owner of a scrapbooking store she started four years ago in Allentown, PA, called Kinnon Keepsakes. “I think digital has taken over,” says Kinnon. “My customers love designing on the computer, especially if they’re in a crunch for time. You can do a whole book in the time that it takes

“I’m the worrier in the business, that’s what I do. You don’t get to have a store with 65 employees without realizing our industry is constantly changing. We try to keep our employees as long as we can. The technology is so complex, it can take us six to nine months just to get an employee up to speed. We pay half of their health care, even though it increases every year. We pay way above minimum wage, and we underwrite the cost of computers for the staff. We want long-term employees, and we’re learning to do many different things to make that

Ask your average digital camera retailer exactly what customers want these days and you’re likely to see eyes roll. The fast-evolving digital imaging industry is offering many different types of goods, from video products to bound books, but all of them require significant set-up costs for retailers and no one knows which will deliver a decent ROI. “The biggest challenge these days is identifying which opportunity to pursue,” says Mike Woodland, the CEO of Dan’s Camera City in Allentown, Pa., “Where do you put all your eggs? I haven’t seen a guaranteed winner yet.” Woodland has found his own way through market uncertainty in the

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