Some good news for the weekend: camera stores will be able to open their doors again from Monday, June 15th. Camera retailers have faced a perfect storm this year: a gale-force assault caused by shrinking high-street footfall, ever-improving smartphones luring customers away, and of course, the massive impact of the lockdown and worries about virus transmission.

They’ve been fighting back though, as regular readers of AP’s news pages will know, proactively keeping customers engaged, running lots of tempting promotions in tandem with big camera and lens makers, and supporting furloughed staff during uncertain times.

With “non-essential” retail stores now able to open to the public again from Monday, we caught up with some leading retailers to find out how they’ve been getting ready, and what customers can expect in the new, post-lockdown normal.

Wex Photo Video
“We’re looking forward to opening on the 15th, but our opening times will be reduced from 10 am to 4pm – this is to ensure we optimise staff and reduce the need to rotate different teams, reducing the risk of Covid-19 spread and infection,” said Paul Wareham, Marketing Director of Wex Photo Video.

“Those stores open on a Sunday will open six days a week, Mon to Saturday. Times and days will be under constant review. If customer demand is high, then the opening hours may be revised to ensure we can cater for the customer’s needs.”

Paul points out that in-store services such as sensor cleaning and trade-in will still be offered. Hand sanitiser stations will also be positioned in every store for customers to use, but it won’t be a case of just walking in and browsing, as in the pre-virus days. “When customers arrive, they will wait in a sectioned-off area until a staff member becomes free to assist. The customer will then be called forward by a member of staff, who will show them what they want to see. Both the customer and the staff member will keep two metres apart, and all products will be wiped down after they have been handled.”

Grays of Westminster
Grays of Westminster, the used Nikon specialist based in central London, is taking similar high-level precautions, and is operating an appointments only system. “We’re also doing our utmost to prevent and kill whatever this virus is,” says owner and founder, Gray Levett. “We are utilising the most effective products for eradicating this virus, namely  Decon7, which is a patented, EPA-registered disinfectant, food-contact surface sanitizer, deodorizer, and chemical cleaner.”

Gray adds that the store will also be carrying out enhanced cleaning and hand washing procedures, providing gloves, masks and other appropriate measures for staff, customers, suppliers and people handling deliveries. See the link above to make an appointment.

Park Cameras
“Both our Burgess Hill and London stores will be open on the 15th June,” said spokesman Roscoe Atkins. “Customer and staff safety at this time is paramount to us so we have spent a lot of time adapting our stores and processes so that they are safe for all concerned. We have made sure we are Covid-secure as per the WHO and the government guidelines so we very much look forward to welcoming back our friends, safe in the knowledge that all steps have been taken to minimise any risks.

We are very fortunate to have large stores where the two metre social distancing will not be an issue. However, we will be limiting the numbers in store, so it might be necessary to queue at times, but we don’t expect customers will have to wait long, if at all. There are physical screens at till points, we will ask all customers to use hand sanitizer on entry and all equipment will be wiped after each touch. We welcome customers to trade in their kit either for cash or to get some new kit: we will be wiping down as well as wearing gloves in order to safely handle goods to be tested. Items will then be quarantined for 72 hours before we take the next steps to prepare them for re-sale.

Park has reduced the opening hours in both stores, with Burgess Hill open from 9-5:30pm Monday to Saturday and the London store open from 10-6:30pm Monday to Saturday. Both stores will be closed on Sunday. “This will be revised as we adapt to the needs of our customers and to ensure we have sufficient staff so please do check our website for latest opening times.”

Roscoe points out that during lockdown a number of products have launched that are now in stock, including the popular Fujifilm X-T4 and X100V, the Sony ZV-1 vlogging camera, and a range of lenses and drones. “There’s more to come in the summer months too so we’re very excited to show these too. To celebrate opening, we will have some great new offers that will be available in store and online so please do visit us in person or via the web.”

Wilkinson Cameras
Five stores are to open on Monday, according to the company, from 9:30- 5pm. As with other retailers, social distancing will be in place, and staff will be in PPE for demos, with other procedures in place. Meanwhile, gloves and masks will be provided for customers. “We are very much looking forward to the next few weeks as a learning curve,” said the company’s David Parkinson. “Going forward we hope to bring back more staff, based on demand, and will be looking at an appointments system for the future too.”

The company is planning a phased reopening of its shops and will have two branches open on Monday in Stevenage and Chelmsford. “Our London shop will open in due course once we see customer confidence return in travelling and working in London,”said a spokesperson.

“While both CameraWorld stores will open Monday but in a different way to normal trading. There might be a queue to get into the shops at times, as we will be limiting the number of customers allowed in-store at any one time. Our colleagues will be on hand to make sure we have a safe number of people inside the store and to help with social distancing. As we have “cosy” shops, we cannot allow more than two people in a service area at the same time.

Under Social Distance guidelines, we will not be offering any product demonstrations as this would involve close personal contact which would not be possible. We have introduced a Click and Collect as part of our online service so you can still come to store and collect your order with a minimum of contact.”

Ffordes Photographic
What about the situation in other regions of the UK? “I’m afraid that Scottish law is a little but stricter, so at the moment we are still not allowed to open to the general public,” says Alister Bowie of Inverness-based Ffordes Photographic, which sells both new and quality used cameras and lenses. “We will open when it is safe to do so, with hand sanitiser at the door for customers, and the option of face masks and gloves. Three customers will be allowed in the store at any one time and there will be also be spacing regulations in place.”

Plenty to look forward to
Other retailers have decided to keep their physical stores closed until the situation becomes clearer, or the regulations are eased. “As with most retailers, we are keeping an eye on the continued updates from the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO),” said Gareth Cox of Clifton Cameras. “With the safety of our staff and customers being paramount, we have been working on ways we can re-open our store, whilst maintaining the two metre safe distancing rules.

But our store lay-out, and the challenges around products handled by customers needing to be cleaned and removed for a period, have made this difficult. Until we can fully comply with the advice given, we will not be re-opening our store. Our customers can still reach us through our website and the sales team are available seven days a week via email, phone and live chat. For our customers who wish to visit us in person, we hope to be doing that in the near future.

But there is still plenty of exciting stuff happening: Sony has launched their cash back which will be very popular as the rewards are generous. There are also new lenses from Samyang expected soon and we are expecting first deliveries of the Canon EOS 850D after June 9th.”

We wish every success to the stores which are opening, and of course, even if a retailer’s shop is still shuttered, they will be open online. Do check out their website and social media for special offers and promotions – you can get advice from well-informed sales staff too, something which you’ll never receive from Amazon and other box-shifters.