“Buying a retail business and expanding it was challenging, and required a great deal of fortitude, help and support from others within my industry,” Fournier says. “After five years in business I was fortunate to be invited to join the Photographic Research Organization, full of wonderful independent retailers willing to help and advise me. Throughout the years I have had many people tell me that we work harder in retail than any other business they have ever been in. It’s true! To thrive and grow we wear many hats, work long hours, and face many challenges.”
Southern Photo’s challenges over the years have included phasing out film processing and investing in digital printing equipment, growing competition from online retailers, shrinking margins in photographic equipment sales, and the decline of photo printing services. The store suffered significant damage during the hurricanes of 2004, forcing the company to move for six months while the building was restored, and weathered supply shortages in 2011 after tsunamis and flooding in Asia shut down manufacturers.
Through it all, Fournier has built an impressive record of community service, including support for local organizations such as Girl Scouts, Camp GAIA, The Haven, and the Pelican Island Preservation Society, and a Facebook charity campaign to help fund medical expenses for a young man fighting cancer. A long-time member of the Melbourne Regional Chamber of Commerce, she has won the group’s Better Business of the Month award and served as the chairperson for the group’s Better Business Council. Southern Photo is also a member of the Independent Photo Imagers organization, and Fournier has served as a trustee for the Photo Marketing Association and as a board member of the Photographic Research Organization, which represents independent photo specialty retailers around the U.S. Brevard residents have repeatedly voted Southern Photo the “Best Camera Shop” and “Best Camera and Imaging Store” in local competitions.
Southern Photo is successfully competing with online retailers by differentiating itself with personal service and a focus on creating value at the local level. Southern Photo cultivates photo enthusiasts among its employees with a special employee-purchase program on camera gear, as well as incentives from manufacturers such as technical training and promotional items. The store offers photo classes, custom printing and framing, and steps up its customer service for funeral memorials by waiving rush charges and offering photo restoration for displays.
Southern Photo’s canine mascot, Milk Dud, exemplifies the store’s personal touch. “Milk Dud brings in a lot of customers,” says Fournier. “You can’t pet the dog when you buy online!”
Lisa was nominated by Christine Michaels, president and CEO of the Melbourne Regional Chamber of Commerce.