by Elizabeth Friszell
It may be a one of the most common rhetorical, yet neverending questions, but it has a multitude of answers. No, it's not Why did the chicken cross the road? But rather, how do you make the jump into digital in a timely yet cost-effective way? The Shutterbug, one of the nation's largest family-owned chain of independent photo stores, may have the answer. Shutterbug has installed Sony's PictureStation digital photofinishing systems at all 15 of its Oregon locations.
The company, which built its reputation offering trusted advice to consumers and professional photographers, embraced the PictureStation systems in response to customer demand for retail-based digital photofinishing solutions, according to general manager Chris Samiee.
"We're appealing to digital camera owners who are looking for a convenient retail solution that offers high-quality prints of their digital images," Samiee said. "People enjoy the convenience of digital cameras, but they also appreciate the ability to make prints they can hold in their hand."
The PictureStation systems are available at all Shutterbug locations, including three in Salem, two in Portland, and one each in Albany, Corvallis, Eugene, Hillsboro, Lincoln City, Keizer, McMinnville, Medford, Tigard and Woodburn. The Shutterbug is also expected to open two additional stores in 2003, both of which will also feature PictureStation systems.
Designed specifically for retail environments, the easy-to-use systems feature high-speed digital printers that can produce photo-like prints in seconds. Both types of the system - a countertop unit and a free-standing kiosk - accept a wide range of digital media and can print in four borderless sizes, 3-1/2" x 5", 4" x 6" and 5" x 7" and wallets.
Promoting The Bigger Picture
Since installing the systems, The Shutterbug has seen an increase in foot traffic, Samiee reports.
The retailer tested the PictureStation systems in five locations before rolling the units out to all 15 stores, and immediately noticed an increase in customers, many of whom were digital camera users. During the initial phase, the systems were generating an average of 1,000 prints each weekday and as many as 2,000 prints on Saturdays and Sundays.
As customers make prints, they're also inclined to pick up picture frames, Samiee said. The units are strategically placed next to the picture frames section in each store, helping ignite once-stagnant sales for those products.
In addition to attracting current digital camera users excited about creating instant prints, the systems are used by sales associates as a selling tool to demonstrate the quality of digital cameras and the ease of making high-quality prints. At each location, would-be digital camera customers can take pictures in the store and then make prints with the PictureStation systems.
The Shutterbug actively promotes the PictureStation systems, placing coupons in Oregon newspapers offering 15 percent off the .69-cent per-print price. The store also places "stuffers," or notices, in the envelopes of film customers who may not know that The Shutterbug offers digital photofinishing services.
Samiee, who compared several digital photofinishing offerings, said he chose PictureStation systems because the units offered a compelling graphical user interface and excellent print quality. For the price of another company's expensive unit, Samiee said he could outfit all of his stores with PictureStation systems.
"The best thing it's done is fill the digital gap," he observes. "If we were to go out and spend $100-200,000, we could get a great machine that would give us digital printing capabilities. But, we'd have to put in several million dollars in order to outfit all of our stores with the same digital printing system. This way, spending about $100,000 for all 15 PictureStations, we saved tons of money and will be able to recoup our expenses." Shutterbug already had some top of the line minilabs, but it's hard to go out and spend that kind of money, especially in the economy today. And people seem to realize that. Samiee says customer response to the units has been enthusiastic.
"Our consumers appreciate the high-quality prints and instant gratification the PictureStation systems provide," Samiee said. "People have told us that the prints feel like a regular photo, and we tell them that's because they are," he said.