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Spotlight: Transforming Brands at C&A Marketing

C&A Marketing takes Chaim Pikarski around the world—from offices in Taiwan to trade shows in the Southwestern United States. The Executive Vice President has deep roots in the film and photography industries, and the brands he is helping build are household names across the globe. C&A Marketing is the name behind the brands Polaroid, Ritz Photography, and SkyMall magazine, to name a few. That doesn’t happen without a progressive technology platform and strong partnerships. 

Founded in 2003 by two former competitors in the film and camera industry— Pikarski and Harry Klein—C&A Marketing offers an impressive inventory of products. Pikarski alone represents more than twenty years of experience in the photography industry.

His initial venture, The Film Shop, was a highly successful mail-order film, photography, and camera equipment catalog. After selling that business, he and competitor Klein, proprietor of The Film Exchange, joined forces as C&A Marketing.

Pikarski and Klein’s results are stunning. The firm has experienced year-over-year growth, including excelling during the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. C&A Marketing boasts multiple divisions, including ownership of licensing for Polaroid¬Æ, Ritz Camera & Image stores, SkyMall¬Æ magazine, and private brands, Jumbl and Ivation.

The niche brands and products under the C&A Marketing banner also include equipment for in-studio audio production, a private label for small electronics, and the latest Polaroid lifestyle cameras and printers.

“Over the years our business has quickly evolved as technology innovations offered new opportunities for sales and distribution,” Pikarski says. “Soon after we began selling photography equipment online, we moved to other platforms, such as Amazon, where we realized we had to clearly differentiate our products in a consumer-savvy market. Unless you create a unique product, or align with an existing strong brand, you are merely competing on price. Branding provides long-term sustainability. We realized that by creating new products and innovations tied to the strength of our dynamic brands—like Jumbl and Ivation—we could not only survive but thrive.”

The Cube as the Next Step
Look no further than the recent success of Polaroid Cube, a mountable action camera, that represents a true milestone for C&A Marketing. The Cube is shockproof, splash-proof, and weather resistant much like Pikarski’s brand.

The secret behind the brand, Pikarski notes, was a team willing to take calculated risks to develop an innovative new tech product that appeals to a wide demographic. Like the initial Polaroid, the Cube is hands-on fun and engaging.

“The launch of the Cube took our company to a new world,” Pikarski says. “We went from asking people to buy our products to people begging to sell our products. As an iconic brand, now was the time to revitalize Polaroid for today’s market. The Cube offered us an introduction in the lifestyle category and in the coveted $99 range. But, instead of tossing in another wannabe camera, we worked with renowned design group Ammunition to create something truly innovative in look and capability. It’s truly innovative because it’s not just a new technology, but it offers the user a new experience. That’s what makes the Cube so successful.”

The Cube—complete with recognizable Polaroid colors—represents a shift in consumer demand. Tech savvy consumers are seeking a total experience: form and function, says Pikarski. Pikarski notes there are two kinds of innovation—one based on product development and differentiation—and the other based on association with or acquisition of highly valued brands.

“Many products do similar things, but they’re worlds apart because of their design, positioning, lifestyle, user experience, and how they allow users to interact with other people,” he says. “Apple has been a leader in that model of industry transformation, as well as Beats headphones, for another example. Differentiating our products, both in the Polaroid brands and our online storefronts, enables our company to thrive and grow.”

An Eye on Entrepreneurism
Part of the success of C&A Marketing relies on the company’s international infrastructure, which spans from their headquarters in New Jersey to the Far East.

“After we gained the Polaroid license and began bringing in global products from Thailand and Taiwan, we set up offices there as a crucial part of our supply chain management, logistics, and production. We also have a solid manufacturing and distribution infrastructure in the U.S. that includes our sales force.”

“Our business runs across the spectrum of dynamic enterprise. We are engaged in design engineering, factory and supply chain logistics, and direct interaction with our customers. We process thousands of orders daily through our warehouses. We’ve really built the business and each brand item piece by piece, relationship by relationship.”

People Make the Business
Hiring qualified and capable employees has bolstered C&A Marketing. The company employs nearly 200 people at the New Jersey headquarters and 75 store associates at Ritz locations across the country.

“My partner, Harry Klein, and I are closely involved in the hiring process,” Pikarski says. “We hire good people, empower them, give them responsibility, and also give them credit when they succeed. Our creed is to build slowly, train employees well, and move on to the next phase of innovation.”

Taking Calculated Risks
As a privately held company, C&A Marketing leaders can take calculated risks that enable them to quickly adapt to market demands and opportunities. In 2008, for example, when the economy crashed and the company was doing business in the online marketplace, Pikarski and his team responded quickly by lowering prices in anticipation of consumer’s tight holiday season budgets.

“The decision we made was right—while other businesses suffered in denial, ours grew,” Pikarski says. “If you’re able to quickly observe and anticipate change, you can make a lot of lemonade when life hands you lemons. I’m not afraid to make changes or make mistakes, because we can adapt so quickly.”

Success in the online marketplace has also been the result of C&A Marketing’s aligned interests with online retail giant Amazon. Similarly, Pikarski credits the partnership with Polaroid as a part of their success. Based on a 20-plus year license agreement with Polaroid, C&A Marketing has transformed an already well-known brand by introducing innovative products, including the Cube and Polaroid ZIP, a digital on-the-go photo printer.

The Best of Both Worlds
Sterling National Bank was an easy choice as a financial partner according to Chaim Pikarski, Executive Vice President of C&A Marketing. Pikarski has been banking with John Hotchkiss and Ricky Fischer for years, he says, and appreciates Sterling National Bank’s attention to an ever-changing business landscape. According to Pikarski, your banking partner can make or break your business.

“Sterling National Bank has always responded quickly to our needs,” Pikarski says. “More importantly, Sterling knows our business inside and out and we value that strong relationship.” “Some banks are too small, and some are too big,” Pikarski continues. “Banks like Sterling are just right. They are able to offer personable service while also providing the sophistication of function and security you’d expect from much larger banks.”

C&A Marketing—A Snapshot
Customers expect good service, but they also are loyal to companies that align with innovation and offer not just a product but a lifestyle or experience. C&A Marketing and their product lines below bank on innovation and bank with Sterling National Bank.

> Polaroid
> Ritz Camera & Image
> Calumet Photography
> Ritz Pix
> Lyx Pro
> Ivation
> Ritz Gear
> SkyMall
> Lil’ Jumbl
> Jumbl
> Zink

Sterling National Bank’s dedicated sales teams allow us to be responsive and adapt to your business needs. Contact your relationship manager or Clients Services at 855.274.2800 to learn about working with Sterling to grow your business.

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