By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The Photographic Research Organization (PRO) buying group has turned 50.
At its annual convention, held here last month, the retail group touted its evolution from its founding in 1958 with just six retailers to its current stable of 131 members and 41 affiliate test-program participants, representing a total of 400 retail stores.
According to PRO — not to be confused with the specialty A/V Progressive Retailers Organization, or PRO Group — the cooperative is the largest operating in the photo-specialty channel.
In addition to volume discounts, PRO supports a line of private-label PROmaster-brand goods in both the photographic and consumer electronics category for a total of 1,500 SKUs.
PRO maintains a 33,000-square-foot warehouse in Hatboro, Pa., and stocks such brands as Fujifilm, Lexar, GE/Sanyo, Panasonic, Crane, Olympus and others.
During its convention the group bestowed its first lifetime leadership award to PRO founder Edwin London. London was the group's second president (1962-1983) as well as a past PMA president (1977-78) and the owner of Fotoshop, a seven-store chain based in New York.
"His unwavering commitment as a founder, president and financial advisor to PRO for five decades has been priceless to us," said Mike Worswick, PRO president.
Photo specialty has enjoyed brisk sales thanks in part to the growth in digital SLRs. According to The NPD Group's retail-tracking service, the photo-specialty channel outpaced total market growth in digital camera sales. While camera sales slumped during the January-May period, dipping 0.4 percent in dollars on 6.5 percent unit growth, the photo-specialty channel saw dollar growth at 7 percent and units up 9 percent.
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