As challenges go, Graham Hudson has had his hands full. Very, very full.
Having worked in the photographic industry since leaving school, Graham was the store manager at Wilkinson Cameras in Burnley for the last 8 years, until taking up his new role earlier this year. But what no one could have predicted was the Corona Virus – forcing the temporary closure of all non-essential retail stores.
As a team, Wilkinson Cameras rose to the challenge – up-scaling the online capability to fully support customers, maintaining sales and support. We caught up with Graham to find out first hand, the immediate challenges he (and Lily, his team member) faced and how Covid actually encouraged more budding photographers to take up the hobby.
‘When you start a new job, you don’t really plan for anything like the Covid Pandemic!’ said Graham.
‘Not long after I started in the role, the Covid crisis erupted – and retail changed pretty much overnight. We had to follow Government guidelines, where all non-essential retails stores had to close indefinitely – so we needed to adapt and respond very quickly to the new retail landscape.
‘Straight away, all business moved online and we worked hard to ensure stock availability, as well as to maintain and actually increase our customer service channels to meet demand.
‘With photography being one of the few things people could continue to do under full lockdown, we actually saw an increase in orders, and many brand new customers looking to take up photography as a hobby.
“We’re constantly improving and adding to our online offering – and during such a busy time it certainly was a challenge to meet demand on the phones, by email, through social media and questions and enquiries by live chat through the website. This was probably the biggest immediate challenge – together with then dispatching orders!
‘As well as camera gear, we saw a huge increase in printer and scanner sales – I think many people actually took the opportunity to organise and print their images, which is great. We had many enquiries regarding the scanning (and printing) of old prints too – so it’s lovely to think of all those photos that are now on paper or in a frame or album, rather than just lost on a hard drive.
‘We’ve also seen a steady stream of business to business sales, even under lockdown.
‘The team has gone from strength to strength tho – with support from many of the Wilki team that have been able to work from home.
‘The digital and PR guys have worked hard to fill our social media channels with inspiring content – bursting with tips and ideas of photo projects which can be done under lockdown, and as restrictions start to ease.
‘We’ve seen a huge increase in the online webinars we’re offering too – recently there have been some great sessions on food photography, creativity, printing, astrophotography. There are loads more online events coming up – and all are free to join/watch – details can be found on the events section of the Wilki Facebook page
‘As the stores now re open, our challenge now is blending all back together – the online demand is still high, and I’m really looking forward to settling more into the role, without quite the amount of drama and change we’ve had to manage!
‘Sometimes I do miss being in the store and seeing customers face to face and finding out how they are getting on with their kit etc. We still do this of course, but just more by phone or chat.
‘Outside of work I do enjoy my own photography as well, tho there hasn’t been too much time for that lately – I hope to return to shooting landscapes and wildlife on my Fuji X-T2.
‘I’m also a keen gardener and love my allotment for growing fruit and veg – alongside enjoying the garden at home. Over the recent months, with work being so busy, I’ve loved the time at the allotment with lots of delicious food just coming ready to take home and enjoy!’