50 Years In Business

50 Years In Business

Today they’re having celebrations at the Stirling Street and Murray Street stores for the 50th anniversary of the company. I’m heading down  to see what’s going on.

The advert that popped into my email feed promised store special discounts, new CE merchandise, and industry reps in-store to discuss their products with the customers. I’m a little concerned that it only hit the computer the day before the event, but I trust that people will get a chance to participate in the celebrations and deals all through the coming week.

50 years is a long time in the photographic business – it’s a heck of a long time in politics or other professions as well. Think for yourselves of the regimes and public figures who have lasted less than a tenth of that time. Camera Electronic, the family who own it, and the staff who operate it, must have been doing something right to be here all that time.

If that sounds like back-patting…well, it is…and I can do some of it for myself. I served behind the counter, at the shows, and at the kitchen sink for a number of years. I saw a remarkable change in the Stirling Street shop from the day I entered it to the present – the systems that run the sales and deliveries are complex, but being streamlined year by year. The sales floor is much more organised than when I was shifting boxes back and forth – I suspect one of the improvements there was bowing me out the door and letting me get on with writing these columns on my own computer at home.

Did I mention the kitchen sink? I used to start the CE day by arriving three-quarters of an hour before everyone else, letting myself in, and start to the process of turning the place on. Computers fired up, bins emptied, and the stray coffee cups corralled and into the washing-up sink. I was permitted to ignore the telephones during this time and did so with pleasure.

People sometimes thought me hard done-by, doing the dishes there in the sink as they arrived. On a freezing cold Stirling Street winter day I was the one with his hands in the warm water while they shivered up the stairs. You can be lucky sometimes…

On a less soapy note, the time spent in Stirling Street was very instructive to me. I’d never been a keen businessman before, and wasn’t prepared for the amount of paperwork, computer work, and general administrative effort needed to put products into the hands of the customers – I’d always been the customer myself and thought the interface a simple one.

It ain’t, as anyone who is in retail trade can tell you. The shop management is in a maelstrom of pressure from wholesalers, customers, shippers, and information management people. The amount of effort and the ability to manage multiple factors was far beyond me – I tip the hat to those who did and who do. The fact that they have had to do it in this last difficult year is even more to their credit.

Okay, that’s enough back patting. I’m off to fire up the Suzuki

and call on the shops. As it happens there is something that I actually do need for my Fujifilm camera system and I can justify spending the money for it. ( I like to be virtuous when it means new toys… )


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