Blacks, the photo retailer, is closing its remaining 59 stores across Canada by August. The end of a long downhill story. “What do I think”, I am asked.
First, that this is bad for competition. Even though Blacks only sold a few pieces of hardware, and concentrated mainly on prints, any retailer disappearing is bad news for everyone. Less competition is never good. Wait for choice and quality to go down and prices to go up.
Second, that this is a disaster for me. The end of my film days for sure. Now that Blacks still exists, I can shoot a roll of film and drop it off a few kms away, and the next day, I get back prints and a CD/DVD. This is over. Now, the only way to get a roll of film developed is to find an envelope and print a label, line up at a post office (talk about 19th century anachronisms, and yes, there is always a lineup at every post office), pay too much to send the roll somewhere far away, and wait weeks and then pay a fortune. No way. The end.
Third, that this is not surprising. I have wondered for 20 years how Blacks survived. All they sold was rubbish frames and prints no-one bought, as well as a few cameras no-one was interested in. If ever I have seen a company without vision, it is Blacks. Run by grey Telco people in grey suits. If I were Blacks I would hire a bunch of young 20-odd year old Apple guys or McGill graduates and make a business out of something related to photography. And there must be something. I would create the market. Make a deal with Apple, if at all possible, or with other Telcos, or create a Telus app that automatically prints photos you take on a Telus phone: anything like that. There is a place where online and paper meet, and I would build a business around that. But no. They sold lousy 5×7 Chinese picture frames no-one wanted.
Fourth, that the market is changing and this is not Black’s fault. People should make prints, but they don’t: they keep all their snapshots on their phones and lose them all when their phone dies. Disasters in the making. Blacks was right that people should print their photos. But they don’t. That’s lack of vision on the part of the population as a whole. And everyone will pay for this, when all their family photos disappear. But you cannot enforce vision on the part of the public. You can try to educate, but that is it.
So, a sad day, and this is bad for everyone, including the 450 employees who will lose their jobs. But you can’t stop progress, right?