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Now That's a Novelty

To help sell its photo novelty products, Hollywood FotoFix has developed a catalog of gift ideas and templates.
To help sell its photo novelty products, Hollywood FotoFix has developed a catalog of gift ideas and templates.
Hollywood Photofix

As the vulnerable photo industry brand leaders battle for market share, they are forgetting that price is not as important a selling proposition as

is quality, service and reputation. Convenience and confidence'have'more to do with who picture-takers order their photos'from than do factors like price.

Why does trust matter more than price?' Just think of a family's summer vacation and all the'wasted time and problems that can arise if they choose not to have a boutique photo specialty retailers handle the order. It's also about the personalized service. For instance, earlier this year, in April my company sent'reminders to our customers to advance their clocks for daylight savings time;'at the same time we also created a campaign to urge picture-takers to do a'twice-yearly housecleaning of all their saved photos on their computer hard drives. This will be a bi-annual campaign for us to remind consumers to remember to adjust their clocks and'back up their'camera memory cards'with real photos. The smoke alarm'and battery manufacturers did a stellar job'with a'similar program, and so should all photo retailers. Urge picture-takers to make real Kodak-quality photographic backups of all their images two times every year. Everything.

Here's an ideal strategy to further differentiate your business. Offer something new. What if you could take the artistic expertise of an imaging specialist and put it to work creating custom photo gifts? What if you could add a staff of photo restoration experts and invest in the million-dollar infrastructure needed to produce over one-hundred customized photo gifts that are unique and easy to order? How much would it cost to even add an easy web-based ordering system to your product mix? The answer: it's nearly free. You can launch an entirely new business channel that can reinvigorate your company.

One easy solution is Hollywood FotoFix and their new photo novelty business. Rather than using our digital staff for photo restoration work, we have come to understand how much easier and cost effective it is to email the scanned image to Hollywood FotoFix. Within a few days the corrected photo is emailed back, we print and the customer is delighted. It's that easy. Now their formula for simplicity has been notched up from just photo restoration to include over a hundred new products, but with the identical ease-of-ordering mechanism. This digital imaging wholesaler, which built its reputation on photo restorations, recently added custom photo gifts to its product line after recognizing a gap in the market for photo novelties that an imaging specialist would be proud to sell.

We have samples of very unusual items, like lady's pocketbooks with their personalized photos as an art piece, canvas paintings from pictures and yes, even coffee mugs too. The problems of the past was that this custom photo gift market''was based on'volume. Also, the quality was an issue. With nearly every chain store offering'some type of photo gift item, the real trick is what photo specialty retails do best, promote and care.

"This family reunion photo would look great on coffee mugs to mail out to everyone who attended the event," are the types of suggestive selling that we do best. "You've got every Wal-Mart, K-mart, and grocery store offering some type of photo gift," says Frank Tona of Crown Camera in Redding, California.''

'These new custom photo novelty items pass the elevator test, within 30 seconds my customers understand and want to buy. During a recent talk with Mark Long, president of Hollywood FotoFix, he explained'"mass merchants typically don't preflight their images. Their business is based on doing huge volumes. Not only do they not optimize the image before printing it, but some of them don't even look at it. They just don't have the personnel to do that."

"Most mass production techniques limit quality control," explained Long.''He learned about it the hard way after purchasing a mouse pad from a volume vendor. "We submitted an order, but after 10 days we still hadn't heard anything," he says. "Our client couldn't wait, so we called to ask if we could expedite the job. You know, I figured there would be an additional cost but it just couldn't wait. The guy says 'I'd be glad to do it, but how are we going to find your job out on the conveyor belt?' Right then I realized this industry needed some help."

This is such a terrific story and is similar to how the photo specialty retailers have taken back the photo business by offering'automatic photo kiosks, in-store and online solutions. In the case of Hollywood FotoFix they went to work and launched Hollywood Foto Gifts ( as a division of its photo restoration services, but with the same easily online ordering system. The same digital artists that handle the company's restoration and retouching services also preflight every photo gift image before the order is produced.

rinting is done on-site and each product is hand-inspected before shipping. The entire process is managed through the company's highly efficient web-based tracking system, making turnarounds surprisingly fast.

Crown Camera decided to give Hollywood FotoFix a shot. Tona was familiar with the Salt Lake City company, having outsourced photo restorations there for several years. And he felt less than enthusiastic about his previous photo gift vendor. "The company we've used in the past is not on-line," Tona says. "They're slow and inconsistent"'average lead-times stretch up to 10 days, and almost three weeks during the holidays."

Tona's test-drive produced surprising results. "The image we sent Hollywood FotoFix was a high color image, very color saturated," he says. "When we got our mouse pad back in four days, we got something I didn't expect. The image on the mouse pad was as good as, or better than the image on the computer."

But the products reach far beyond the standardized mouse pad. The variety of custom photo gifts ranges from the typical'mugs, t-shirts, and photos on canvas'to the novel'beer steins, puzzles, and license plate frames'and the downright surprising, such as baby blankets and trailer hitch covers. Even basics like mouse pads come with a surprise: wrist-supporting gel-pads that can help prevent carpal tunnel injuries.

To help sell its novelties'and to help the final customer to grasp the realm of possibilities'Hollywood FotoFix has developed a catalog of gift ideas and templates. It's kind of like ordering a birthday cake; in addition to your customer's photo, you can choose a graphic treatment that lends it meaning. "It's one thing to just print a photo of three kids onto an apron," Long says. "That's okay, but it doesn't really say anything. But add 'World's Greatest Grandpa,' for example, and you've got a story. That's what these novelties are about, for the consumer: remembering the little stories that make life interesting."

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