Going to Maine Coast Photo & Digital is an eye-opening experience for customers who don't know what they can do with digital photos. The company has four stores in Rockland, Belfast, Brunswick and Camden.
Digital Print Café Means Longer Visits, Higher SalesFreestanding merchandise racks in KICS participating stores are on wheels, giving the retailer freedom to move them from time to time and create a new traffic flow within the store.
The newest, in Brunswick, is a digital showcase. One corner of the store features a digital print café, where customers can sit down and relax, sip a gourmet coffee (and get a free doughnut on Wednesday) while they browse through their digital images using a Kodak Picture Maker print station; or on a Kodak Picture Preview Center with Preview & Select software; or even browse the internet on another PC. Soon, they'll be able to retouch their images using Adobe Photoshop Software. Then, they can either make their own 4 x 6 prints using the Picture Maker, or submit the order to the store's Noritsu 3011DLS digital lab system from the digital café workstations.
So where did the café idea come from? "Hey, I like coffee!" says Maine Coast Photo vice president Bob McManus, a 30-year veteran of the photo business. "Actually, the idea is to keep the customer in the store as long as possible. We make them comfortable, and give them a home away from home. The longer they stay, the more they'll spend." He's thinking about adding a Nintendo machine to occupy children while mom is busy retouching her photos and submitting them for printing.
Customers who bring film in for roll processing automatically get a free CD back with their orders, "so we can walk them over to the digital café, show them the advantages of digital, and point out that they can have all those advantages without giving up their film camera," McManus says.
Like most stores, Maine Coast Photo has given digital camera buyers a card good for some free prints at the time of the camera sale. But McManus has altered the strategy. He takes the buyer over to the digital print café and signs them up on the LifePics portal for online photofinishing, with a credit for free prints. So now the customer not only gets prints produced at Maine Coast Photo, but he also has experienced the convenience of online photofinishing.
Kodak Image Center Solutions Fits Growing BusinessBob McManus is vice president of & Maine Coast Photo & Digital, which operates four stores in coastal Maine.
Maine Coast Photo Digital locations are members of the Kodak Image Center Solutions program (KICS). "We're with the program because we like co-branding with Kodak and the customer awareness that gives us. After all, Kodak is one of the most recognized brand names in the world. And they have fantastic technical support," says McManus. The stores offer cameras and accessories, darkroom supplies, photo gift items and a broad range of services including in-store printing, self-service printing, print copying, poster printing, passport photos, restoration and compositing, scanning and short-run printing on a Canon laser copier-printer.
The Kodak program works particularly well for Maine Coast Photo & Digital, because the small chain is slowly buying up older independent stores and applying its brand (and Kodak's). The Brunswick store, for example, just joined the fold this year. Older stores typically need a facelift, and the Image Center Solutions program supplies layout and design plans, fixtures, signage, color scheme, flooring and promotional materials including lifestyle graphics, point of sale materials that call out digital printing here in our store, as well as Kodak funded promotions designed to drive new business into the store. Each month, the retailer earns a rebate that is credited towards the cost of installing the KICS program, based on Kodak purchases.
Among the costs that Maine Coast Photo can apply the rebate dollars to: the Brunswick store's new Noritsu 3011DLS digital lab system and Picture Maker. There are less expensive labs and kiosk products in the market, but with this program the company will eventually recoup its investment.
Rusty Brace, president of Maine Coast Photo, notes, "It's not the price that matters, it's the cost. If the equipment costs a little more but there is a savings in labor, the price has been lowered. Quarterly rebates earned on selected equipment also reduce the price. Add both together, then subtract the total from your original price, and you end up with the true cost of the equipment."Kristen Anderson produces both film and digital orders on the Noritsu QSS- 3011DLS digital lab system. McManus says the lab's Kodak DLS software helps the operator to produce significantly better prints than other labs, even with poorly exposed images.
Maintaining Film, Adding Digital Photofinishing
While total roll count nationwide is dropping, Maine Coast Photo is maintaining a steady volume. "And we're doing it while maintaining our price ($12.59 for a 24-exposure roll)," McManus adds.
How? First, by offering added value. McManus notes that the free CD is much less costly than giving away a second set of prints. In addition, he says, the perceived value is better from the customer's perspective, because they can use the CD to go over and start making their own enlargements or reprints using the Picture Maker, or emailing images to friends. "We've given them a way into the world of digital without having to buy an expensive digital camera."
He also thinks that offering numerous print options, including both 3-1/2 x 5 and 4x6 sizes, in combination with bordered, borderless or black-and-white prints, distinguishes Maine Coast from the national retailers down the street. "Elsewhere the customer gets a cookie-cutter product, but here, they get what they want."
Maine Coast Photo also offers a broad selection of services. Among them: large-format printing on 60-inch Encad inkjet printers. Families buy poster prints for reunions, birthdays and anniversaries; local businesses and non-profits buy window signs. There are new orders for about 150 square feet of output per day. "Pricing varies depending on the media and ink combination," McManus explains. Signage is typically produced on a low-cost combination, but the sales staff encourages customers to upgrade to higher end materials, like canvas and archival ink, for fine art prints.