The Boutique


When we use the term ” Boutique ” in the photographic world it is nearly always in reference to a particular brand of photo equipment – a famous company who have produced expensive and precise photographic apparatus for over 100 years. They were wise enough while in the doldrums that beset them at the start of the digital era to realise that their best approach to it would be to capitalise upon that reputation for precision that they had established and to make sure that the price demanded was always high. They correctly read the market when it came to who was going to buy from them…

You might not have thought it so at the time – the first offerings from the firm were somewhat clunky in today’s digital terms – but they were wise enough to persist with the top-end stuff  when other marques just used a formerly great name and attached it to cooking quality products. Sure, they made some clangers at the start, but even the clangers are precise and expensive, and the prestige of the name means that even these will find homes with collectors.

They got smart early when they decided to engage a design team to make a standardised product presentation in the form of cabinets that could go into dedicated camera shops as a ” boutique ” offering. I have seen these standardised modules in cities all over the world – including my own home here – and they are a potent way of dominating the camera shop. Even if there are other good brands on offer, with their characteristic colours and signs, the boutique still acts as the high point of sales presentation.

It’s surprising that it does, in a way, because it is done with a remarkably dull exterior. flat black MDF cabinets with flush mounted doors and concealed locks. There is the occasional inclusion of a video screen and the option for additional cabinets to stretch sideways. These additional cabinets frequently hold binoculars, telescopes, and rangefinders. The catchpoint is the red lining for the cabinets.

Red/black. White accent. Imperial German colours. I’m surprised they got away with it, but they did. Even Canon, with their red/white haven’t gone quite as close to their national flag ( Though they did put their wooden clog in it a few years ago with a reference to taking pictures with Canon cameras in Hawaii in the 1930’s…). In any case the boutiques stand as bulwarks of branding even when there are no cameras in them – you know what they are selling.

I should think that their rivals would like to be able to out-boutique them, but so far it does not seem to happen. One wonders if it ever will.



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