Turning photos, cards into holiday profit

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Local camera accessory dealer Photographers Edge is launching a line of greeting cards to increase its bottom line. The company solicits photos from photographers across the country to use on the cards.

Picture this: Local camera accessory dealer Photographers Edge is launching a line of greeting cards to increase its bottom line. The company solicits photos from photographers across the country to use on the cards.

Photographer’s Edge has developed plans that it hopes will sharpen its profit picture this holiday season and for years to come.

The six-employee company sells camera accessories as well as products that help photographers market their work, items such as calendars, bookmarks and greeting-card jackets that allow photographers to feature their own pictures.

This year, however, the company is launching its own line of holiday and all-occasion greeting cards.

Owners Chris Washko and John Keegan are soliciting pictures from photographers around the country for use in a line of all-occasion greeting cards that will be sold in gift shops and galleries nationwide.

Washko and Keegan hope those efforts will double the company’s annual revenue of $2 million in the next two years. They think they can sell 175,000 cards in the first year and 400,000 in the second year.

For the holiday cards, they solicited images from local photographers for a line that is being marketed to, among others, 3,000 Colorado Springs businesses.

Last year, revenues at the company dipped 7 percent, mostly because sales of high-dollar items like tripods, flashes and camera bags dropped.

“People used to buy everything they needed from us,” Washko said. “Now, they buy only the core products.”

The new all-occasion greeting cards will wholesale for $2.40 each with a suggested retail price of $4.99.

A distribution consultant is helping the company break into an industry that is dominated by Hallmark and American Greetings.

Washko and Keegan met years ago in the communications industry and bought Photographer’s Edge in 2007. At that time, the company relied entirely on catalog and phone sales.

From the start, the two realized the company’s weakness was that it didn’t produce its own content or have control of distribution. They started introducing new items and stocking a greater variety of cards and colors and found new customers who wanted personalized cards to serve as announcements, invitations and marketing tools.

Eighteen months ago, the company also launched an e-commerce site and found a whole new set of customers who wanted to turn their holiday photos into greeting cards.

Now, the holiday season is one of the busiest times, accounting for 40 percent of the annual sales.

Finding ways to grow a company is something Washko has experience with.

In 2002, he bought the La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery on north Academy Boulevard, which jumped from a ranking of 184th out of 340 stores to ninth in two years.

This turnaround, however, poses some unique challenges: The cards must be assembled by hand.

Washko and Keegan have found help by employing wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, many of whom have sustained head injuries.

The work will benefit the veterans as much as Photographer’s Edge, said Eric Mitchell, a consultant who works to find employment for veterans. “The repetitive work of building these cards has been shown to have therapeutic effect with people who have cognitive disorders, especially for those injured in combat,” he said.

About a dozen wounded warriors have been trained and are already working on the first holiday sales, Keegan said. Veterans will be paid 20 cents per card for the holiday cards and 25 cents for all-occasion cards.

Twenty-five cents from the sale of each holiday card will go to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado’s Scholarship Fund, and 25 cents from the sale of regular greeting cards will go to Operation Shoebox, a nonprofit that sends care packages to troops overseas.