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NYC Retailer Mission: Focus on Core Photofinishing



NYC Retailer Mission: Focus on Core Photofinishing

Photo Mission in New York City has one main goal-one mission: to sell photofinishing. And they're succeeding.

"Basically people come here to get their pictures processed. And I like that," says Victor Kaykaty, a photographer who partnered with Joseph Arcabascio, the retailing guru behind the store, to open Photo Mission in 2000. "If you want to come here and buy a frame, fantastic. You want us to take your passport picture? Fantastic! But most of all, come in here to get your pictures."

Building on Reputation
Launching the store back in 2000, Arcabascio thought it was important to establish credibility from the outset. So he and Kaykaty decided to affiliate with the Kodak Image Center Solutions program.

"Kodak branding drove people to the store. We were the new Kodak Image Center Solutions store in the neighborhood, and that was a big help in getting us established. At the same time, we had to live up to the quality expectations," Arcabascio says. With all the other photo stores now in the area, he wants customers to experience the difference at Photo Mission. "The fact is, not all stores are created equal. There is a personal element when you come into this store that our customers recognize as unique."

"What I liked about the Kodak Image Center Solutions program was the marketability of the Kodak name, and the look of the store," says Kaykaty. "It's a very professional look that helps set us apart from a lot of the other photo stores in Manhattan."

Photo Mission reflects the Kodak Image Center Solutions store character through its design which utilizes wood-grain cabinetry and a blue-and-gold color scheme carried through in displays. Like all Kodak Image Center Solutions participating stores, Photo Mission also offers both on-site photofinishing as well as a Kodak Picture Maker, Kodak films, a selection of cameras, photo gift items and frames. And while the owners concentrate on photofinishing, strong merchandising also plays a role in Photo Mission's success. Despite the store's small size-about 1000 square feet on the main level-it has an uncluttered sales floor with attractively displayed merchandise items on wall racks.

Unlike most other photo stores, Photo Mission also offers professional photography in a small studio upstairs. That helps to drive interest from the surrounding businesses. Kaykaty says he would like to spend more time shooting, but he won't compromise customer service downstairs.

A Neighborhood Store in Manhattan
One of the keys to the store's success, Arcabascio says, is running it like a small-town neighborhood business. "We're on a first-name basis with all our customers. I've been in retail since I was 15 years old, and I worked in a neighborhood store where we knew everyone. That's the way I wanted this store to be, too."

Ironically, Photo Mission isn't in a residential area. In New York City, where Photo Mission is located at Madison Avenue and 40th Street (a stone's throw from Grand Central Station), photo lab density can be measured by the block. But most of its business is still from individuals. One regular customer is a Californian who saves her film and brings it in when she visits New York on business.

Photo Mission isn't succeeding because it's convenient. Photo Mission is succeeding because its employees and service are phenomenal.

"A lot of our customers have told us, 'I tried another shop and the results just weren't the same,'" says Kaykaty. "Sometimes we even encourage people to try them. Because we're pretty confident they'll come back. People just want to bring their film or digital images somewhere where they'll get good pictures. They want the kids to look good, they want the snow to look white, and the trees to look green. That's not much to ask. Our lab operator does all that, and then some. He's probably the best printer in the city."
Customer Robin Katz, standing at the front counter when the duo was talking about the store, couldn't restrain herself from offering a testimonial. "Photography started for me when I came here and met these guys," she says. Katz first appeared in the store two years ago, discouraged with her pictures. "Is it my camera? Is it me?" she asked with exasperation. Arcabascio examined her prints and negatives, and told her that a lot of the problem was in the photofinishing. He had a few of her negatives reprinted to illustrate the point. She's been a steady customer and Photo Mission zealot ever since. She drives into Manhattan from Long Island specifically to visit Photo Mission.
Photo Mission's formula for success also includes investing in technology that gives them an edge to satisfy customers. In addition to their workhorse Noritsu 2301 minilab, they are among the first in the country to use the brand new Phogenix Imaging DFX Digital Photofinishing System.

Digital Photofinishing
A sign in the front window reads, 'Got digital? Let us show you how beautiful your digital images can be.' The store has recently added the Phogenix Imaging DFX digital lab, a full-featured digital minilab that uses thermal inkjet technology to produce high quality, long-lasting prints. Phogenix Imaging (www.phogenix.com) is a joint venture of Eastman Kodak Company and Hewlett-Packard Company.

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