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PRO Imaging Group Turns 50

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — The Photographic Research Organization (PRO) buying group turned 50 this week.

At its annual convention, here, 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 — a total of 400 retail stores. According to PRO, the group is the largest cooperative 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 brands such 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 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 from January–May, 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.

The specialty channel earned higher customer-satisfaction scores in NPD’s consumer-tracking service than other channels, the research firm noted.