The wide-format industry continues to grow. I.T. Strategies reports that the wide format graphics market generated total manufacturer revenues (at the retail level) of $7.3 billion in 2004 and is expected to generate manufacturer revenues of $10.1 billion in 2009, a CAGR of 7%. The market is becoming increasingly competitive as new product categories, such as eco solvent and flatbed ink jet printers, compete with aqueous and aggressive solvent ink jet printers for PFP volume and dollars. These numbers are good news for photo labs who continue to add many of these products and services to their mix.
For our annual roundtable discussion we asked representative from leading service providers to see where photo labs fit into this business and how they can find new service opportunities in this market. This year's panel of participant's includes: Bruce Butler, director of Marketing, MacDermid ColorSpan; Denis Griff, director, Agfa Sign, Screen and Display segment, North America; Christopher Howard, vice president for Sales & Marketing, Large-Format Imaging, Durst Image Technology U.S., LLC; Peter Mador, vice president, Photo Specialty, Professional and New Markets, Noritsu America Corporation; Brian McLeod, vice president of Marketing, Roland DGA Corp.; Richard Reamer, senior manager product marketing, Graphic Arts Systems Division for Canon U.S.A., Inc.; Eddie Sayers, marketing manager Digital, Fujifilm Sericol USA, Inc.; Tim Sexton, vice president, Marketing, ZBE; Sal Sheikh, vice president, Marketing, Océ Wide Format Printing Systems, Océ North America, Inc.; Jane Cedrone, advertising and public relations manager at Vutek and Kevin Shimamoto, worldwide marketing manager at Encad, a division of Kodak. Due to space limitations, we edited down some of the responses. The complete roundtable appears on our website at www.imaginginfo.com.
Do you see more photo labs entering this space?
Butler: Absolutely. Considering that nearly all of the display graphics that are produced by photo labs are mounted to a rigid substrate, the use of a flatbed UV inkjet printer significantly reduces the cost to produce these jobs, and we see a number of labs purchasing the 72uvr printer.
Cedrone: Yes, especially those who want to increase their productivity and expand their capabilities to compete with commercial printers, screen printers and sign shops. As market segments continue to overlap and converge, it is necessary to offer complete solutions and faster turnarounds, all while maintaining the high quality output their customers expect. It is necessary to enter new markets to stay competitive and to protect existing business.
Shimamoto: Definitely. As photo labs see more and more competition from new digital channels and more convenience channels offering digital, it is imperative that they expand their businesses to extend their expertise with new offerings. Wide-format printing is a logical expansion as photo labs can now match colors and papers to offer their typical 4 x 6 print all the way up to 60” on a wide variety of substrates. Kodak's Premium Rapid-Dry Photographic Lustre Paper 260g is identical to Kodak's range of photographic paper E surface, such as Endura, to enable a perfect match. New 8.5 x 11 and 13 x 19 cut sheet sizes enable matched prints whether they are printed on rolls up to 42” or on cut sheets, while using one single profile. With almost all wide-format content containing some type of photo, the industries, technologies and channels are blending now more than ever with solutions and substrates delivering unmatched qualities.
Griff: Absolutely! Labs are moving to become digital print providers because people are trying to diversify their businesses. Labs are moving into taking the imagery and offering other services to customers, such as birthday pictures and posters - there are many expansion and revenue opportunities, much of it being driven by wide format inkjet. Digital minilabs are interfacing inkjet devices so they can take the original file and go out to a traditional photo print or inkjet output. Labs once just did exhibit graphics or traditional poster work, and now they are all converging to more of a digital print provider.
Howard: We actually see continuing homogenization of the large-format market as a whole. More businesses are seeing the growth opportunities that large-format printing can give them and are entering into the sector as such. Much of this is driven by customer demand, such as where the offset printer is providing a print buyer with the long-run portion of a campaign, and that same print buyer is buying large-format output from another provider. The printers are seeing an opportunity to capture that revenue and are adding those imaging capabilities to their businesses. The inkjet printing technology - in particular UV inkjet printers - allows businesses to provide a wide variety of output to match those broadening customer requirements.
Mador: Wide format is a logical extension of the photo specialty business. Differentiation from mass retail is a constant challenge and photofinishers that recognize that they are in the imaging business can capitalize on some excellent opportunities. There is also a wider range of equipment options available now, which means photo labs have even more wide format choices.
McLeod: An increasing number of photo labs are entering this space to expand their businesses and increase profits. Because these professionals typically have experience with digital capture and imaging technologies, the addition of wide-format printing capabilities is a natural extension to their businesses. They simply modify their existing production workflow to accommodate these larger printing devices, and for the most part are able to capitalize on their core competencies, which include working with digital files and color management.
It is important to note that many photo labs, especially commercial photo labs, are already outsourcing the production of large-format graphics to competitors and sign shops. Bringing these capabilities in-house allows them to capture these revenues and grow this segment of the business going forward.
Reamer: I do not see how photo labs can afford not to enter this space. Photo labs are now not only competing with each other but are now facing competition from personal desktop photo printers. Photo labs are continually seeking new ways to bring customers into their locations. New products and services are still a great way to attract customers and - for the time being - wide format prints are not readily produced at home. While small photo prints are now commercially offered for pennies each, a large format print can carry a cost of $7-$15 a square foot, generating significant profits for photo lab businesses. The versatility of Canon's wide-format printers and the range of media options will also allow a photo lab to enter into highly profitable specialty output with printing on Fine Art paper, adhesive film, vinyl and canvas. At a suggested retail price of $3,495, the cost of owning an imagePROGRAF W6400 is minimal when compared to the business potential wide format printing offers.
Sayers: Most have already entered the market or will be very soon. Print customers are looking for graphic providers. Graphic providers produce output using technology that provides the best cost structure that is driven by run lengths. Graphic providers use various applications such as digital printing, screen printing, and photo lab equipment to create output. The Spyder 320 provides the speed, quality, footprint, flexibility, and strong ROI that fits nicely into a photo shop's portfolio of services.
Sexton: Yes, because our wide format Chromira printers offer so many new and profitable products, many traditional labs entering the large format market to better serve their existing market and attract new customers. More importantly, we are seeing a lot of interest in our wide format printers from outside of our traditional photo industry, particularly for the Chromira 5x 50. Chromira 5x 50 printers have the highest production imaging resolution with an imaging speed, an extremely efficient imaging workflow, and were designed to be very affordable to purchase and maintain. This makes the Chromira 5x 50 printer extremely versatile and ideally suited for commercial, custom, fine art and Portrait Social imaging applications. And it makes the Chromira a very good choice for labs that want to compete in more than one market.
Sheikh: With the right help to get started, photo labs can be quite successful in this arena. Océ offers a program designed specifically to help photo labs and others get on the fast track to profitability with the Océ CS6060 printer. The Océ Printshop in a Box program is our way of helping customers make their Océ CS6060 printer profitable quickly. We're taking the mystery out of large format solvent printing by providing tools, materials, training and support for shops that are entering this lucrative market for the first time. With this program, Océ CS6060 printer users will be able to come up to speed quickly and implement best practices for ongoing operation so they can realize profitability within a relatively short time period.