The Pantiles Camera Centre director David Podbury gives us the bigger picture on how his photographic business has survived for the past four decades and why the industry has embraced the advent of camera phones and is benefitting from them
How long have you been in business?
We have been running for over 40 years. We started as a photographic repair company and gradually developed into a retail business over the years.
Do you have any other branches?
We have one shop in Sevenoaks and have just closed our Beckenham store as it came to the end of its lease. The store on The Pantiles has been trading since 1984 and we took it over in 2000.
You obviously specialise in cameras. Has demand changed since the advent of camera phones?
Actually, they have been generally a good thing for our industry. Yes it’s true the bottom end of the compact camera market has been replaced by camera phones, but this has also bought photography to many more people and this is where we come in. We can advise customers the best way to develop their interest and sell them a better camera. The other exciting change is that cameras now connect via WiFi to smart phones so the industry has embraced all this rather than battled against it.
You have a diversity of products, such as telescopes and digital radios. Have you seen your range grow in recent years or was it always wide-ranging?
We are ultimately a photography store but we have always sold a large range of optical equipment, such as telescopes and binoculars. The Roberts Radios have been an excellent addition to our range and because they were at the forefront of DAB (Digital Radio) they’ve sold well over the years.
How many people do you have working in your team and are they local to the area?
We have two to three people at each store, all of whom have been with us for many years. Most live locally but one or two travel a little further.
What are the positives of running your own business?
The obvious benefits are being in control and able to make a difference on a day to day basis.
Any negatives that you would like to touch on?
You sometimes work more hours than you would if you were employed but the standard 9 to 5 Monday to Friday job is a rare thing these days for nearly everyone now.
How do you like working in The Pantiles and why?
The Pantiles is a great place to work. I have a peaceful 30 minute walk to the shop every morning across the common and then arrive at one of the most beautiful shopping areas around. Who couldn’t enjoy the wonderful settings, lack of cars and the general feel of the place? It certainly beats working in an office or commuting to London every day.
Pantiles Camera is located at 22 The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5TN