Does it Cost MORE to Buy Camera Gear Online or at a Physical Store?

Does it Cost MORE to Buy Camera Gear Online or at a Physical Store?

Brian Mathers

So, you sit down or you’re on the fly…you ask yourself “I wonder if there is a cost difference between purchasing camera gear online or at a physical store?!?” As always…the answer is, it depends! Hang in there, let us explain!

There are multiple factors that play into the cost of selling Camera Gear and they vary depending on the fulfillment method the business chooses to use. The fulfillment method is the means in which the goods are moved from the manufacturer to the end user. Which leads us to the two main categories, online and physical store front. Some companies have both online and a physical store front, others are strictly the physical store front, and other are strictly online. We will go over some of the cost factors of both physical store fronts and online only retailers letting you decide which option is best for you!  

Let’s admit, there is no right or wrong way’s to fulfill your customers’ needs, as long as the customers expectations are being met. The next time you walk into a store think to yourself, is there anything wrong with walking to a shelf picking up the product, walking to the check out counter and purchasing it with a piece of plastic? I challenge you to do the same the next time you are purchasing something online, is there anything wrong with browsing the web, looking for the product/service you are after. Narrowing it down to a few vendors that have the selection you are after, finding the best price/delivery time or whatever factors are important to you, clicking checkout and entering the information off of your piece of plastic to purchase a product that will arrive in a short few day? Absolutely not! We all shop both ways and will continue to for a while yet…everything is going to go ecommerce in the next 10-15 years but that is a whole other topic! 😊

Down to some nitty gritty starting with a physical location selling camera gear. This way of fulfilment was traditionally the only way to purchase camera gear. A physical location offers the luxuries of personalized service and creating a relationship whether it be temporarily or long-term depending on what kind of shopper you are!

A physical location has the expense of renting/leasing/owning the physical space they are occupying. They have the cost of employing physical staff onsite to ensure each customer gets their personalized service. There is the cost of all the lighting, temperature control, air quality control, covid protective items, water for washrooms and kitchen for the staff…the list goes on. These are general costs associated with the physical building. There are costs associated with shelving and display units. Overall the sales needed so the company can become profitable is much higher with this fulfillment method for camera gear. The upside for a consumer wanting to purchase camera gear is that there are not many people willing to risk this kind of investment so the ones that do are often very serious about customer satisfaction and customer retention so you will receive the excellent service you deserve (of course there are exceptions to every statement!)

A camera gear store or business that has a physical location has the advantage of securing many of the large brand names within the camera gear market that are not available to online only retailers. As these larger manufacturers and brands out there such as Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, ect want to protect their bricks and mortar dealerships. They do not allow online retailers only to sell their products directly hence giving the brick and motor locations and upper hand over the online retailers.

The other advantage of a physical location is purchasing power and inventory holding. As you have a physical location you can store/display physical units therefore you are purchasing in larger quantities which in normal circumstances would increase your discount from the manufacturer. Shipping in larger quantities to one location reduces the freight cost per item. The physical locations often can purchase directly from the manufacturer which means that there is no distributor involved to take another portion of the profit therefore increasing profitability for the physical location selling camera gear.

Let’s flip the coin to online retailers and the costs associated with running an online retail store – this is strictly an online store only. There can be large costs associated with creating and setting up a new website. There is a lot more man hours involved with finding vendors as many vendors put online retailers through a much more rigorous questioning/trial period then someone with a bricks and mortar store. There is a very high advertising cost with an online only store as you do not have those people driving by everyday looking at your sign. There is an argument that you might be surfing by on the internet, but it is much harder to catch someone’s eye on the internet believe you me! 😊

Online retailers do not have the costs of a physical bricks and mortar location, but they do have higher freight costs with shipping more small packages to various locations. Normally speaking an online retailer would hold very little stock if any at all. When a customer orders through their online store, the online camera gear store would place an order with the supplier which would be a wholesale business holding stock. The wholesale business holding stock would then ship the item out to you.

One downside of an online only camera gear retailer is their purchasing power is often hampered. This is since orders are only placed with vendors once the customer has placed the order with online retailer. This leads to many small orders which creates a lot of small shipments therefore leading to the cost per item delivered increasing.

Getting into online retail selling camera gear is a relatively low investment which leads to many people throwing up a website in hopes of making a few bucks not necessarily realizing what they are signing up for. There is an issue in the market of fraud stores and stores that are run by people that are only interested in making a few bucks regardless of how you are treated. There is a risk that you could unknowingly purchase from one of these online stores. A few things we would suggest you check for is a physical address on their website, even if it is their home address. This shows they are willing to be exposed to their customers. Another tell tail sign is if there are no product reviews, as well as no easily accessible contact phone number or chat. Last thing to check for would be an about page, you can tell quickly if someone is just bluffing you! 😊

We are not going to answer the question of whether it is cheaper to purchase at a physical location or online as there are so many factors that play into pricing but here are a few things we will leave you with:

  1. Manufacturers often specify advertised selling prices – reach out to us at the as the manufacturers cannot dictate the final selling price…we may be able to get you a further discount.
  2. Physical stores and online stores both have expenses to cover and business goals – we would encourage you to support the smaller physical stores that are local or smaller online retailers such as the
  3. Don’t be shy to push for what you need or want, many physical locations can only sell you what they have on their shelves, online retailers such as the can source from many different suppliers to get you the products you need.

As the Camera Gear Store is an online only retailer, we strive to offer awesome customer service. No, we cannot offer every product that the big box stores and amazon can offer but, we are doing are best to expand our offerings as customers’ needs change and evolve. We are constantly adding new and innovative products to our online offering. We do stand behind our warranties and product guarantees as we are passionate about photography and want to make every photographer’s experience just a little better than the last time.

We hope that you have been able to gain some insight into the difference between the physical store locations and the online only retailers that offer camera gear. We will now back away and allow you to make the choice of whether you shop online or at a physical location!