Digital mini-labs a weapon for printing market

Retailers that haven't adopted digital mini-labs or kiosks by the end of the year risk missing the photo printing boom, according to digital camera executives at an industry conference.

A panel of vendor and photographic store heavyweights told the 18th annual Photo Marketing Association conference in Sydney last week that the industry was on the cusp of great opportunities in the printing market following the widespread popularity of digital cameras.

Stores that offered high-quality prints for digital images via digital mini-labs, self-serve kiosks or Internet printing could then reap long-term repeat business from customers, attendees heard during an hour-long Q&A session.

The panel consisted of the local chiefs of Agfa, Canon, CR Kennedy, Kodak, Fujifilm, Konica Minolta, Olympus and Maxwell.

Photo Imaging Council of Australia president and managing director of Fujifilm Australia, Dave Marshall, said there would be no shortage of retail competitors for the digital printing market.

"Anyone that doesn't have a digital lab by the end of this year will be in big trouble," he said.

Marshall said Big W was an example of mass merchants moving in on the market.

The retail chain recently announced 91 digital mini-labs would replace its analogue operations by November. It already offers kiosks (in some stores) and Internet printing to customers.

The message was particularly relevant to the many delegates from camera store that attended. Many of them have already seen the ease of printing photos from digital cameras at home erode their staple photo-processing revenue.

Stores had to educate consumers that retail outlets could provide quality prints and enlargements and that home printing was not the only option, Marshall said.

The industry was already seeing "massive growth" in stores using multi-kiosk strategies, he said.

"It's up to retailers to see how they adopt multi-kiosk ... [but] A-grade retailers have already done so,” Marshall said.

The market was both an opportunity and threat for retailers, as kiosks would eventually be widespread and available in newsagents and supermarkets, according to the panel.

"The challenge is how quickly can we be organised to keep that business in this room?" Kodak general manager, digital and film imaging systems Asia-Pacific, Steve Morley, said. "Someone will do it if we don't."

Olympus camera and printing group director, Todd Lynton, said on a recent trip to the US he had heard about an interesting example of how the market could develop.

He said one camera specialist had signed popular retailers in its area, such as pharmacists and newsagents, to stock self-serve kiosks on its behalf.

This would ensure the camera specialist had enough presence to secure a slice of the printing market, while also making it harder for new competitors to enter the region.

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