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Production Rides a Digital Wave on Digital Lab at 30 Minute Photos Etc.



Production Rides a Digital Wave on Digital Lab at 30 Minute Photos Etc.

In an everyday shopping center in Irvine, CA, 30 Minute Photos Etc. is quietly employing ground-breaking digital output technology and making a great success of it.

"Doubling imaging sales—a 100 percent increase. That's the kind of potential our new digital system has," says Mitch Goldstone, president of 30 Minute Photos Etc. Goldstone should know, his photo imaging business is a textbook example of marketing savvy and profitability.

30 Minute Photos Etc. is one of the first retailers in the country to use the Noritsu QSS-2711DLS lab system. The system delivers up to 1250 5 x 3. 5-inch prints per hour on silver halide paper. It accepts 35 mm and Advanced Photo System film, as well as a variety of digital input sources—CDs, floppy disks or PCMCIA memory cards. The system can output to a variety of print media in sizes up to 12 x 18 inches, as well as to CDs, or to the Internet through Kodak PhotoNet Online.

It is no surprise that 30 Minute Photos Etc. leads the way with this technology. For over 10 years the company has been in the top one percent of sales among photo dealers nationwide. The store has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal (three times), the New York Times, Los Angeles magazine and Business Week, to name a few.

When a customer walks into 30 Minute Photos Etc., things are different right from the start. Freshly cut flower arrangements adorn the countertops, a comfortable couch invites customers to relax and wait for their photos, an outgoing and friendly staff is ready to help at every turn and a chocolate bar is slipped into every order. Goldstone and his partner of 16 years, Carl Berman, have created a store that caters to customer retention and attraction.

It's this attention to knowing what the customer needs and wants—even before the customer knows—that has made 30 Minute Photos Etc. successful. That is why Goldstone also keeps his equipment on the cutting edge of technology.

"Film has an illustrious past and present and the same remains for its future. It is going to be here for a long, long time. This is a marriage between film and digital technology that will expand the business and provide the customer with the best photographs possible," says Goldstone.

The QSS-2711DLS lab system helps customers get the pictures they wanted to take. The system's Kodak DLS software normalizes contrast and density, enhances details in shadows and highlights, improves sharpness, removes red-eye and corrects up-close flash and backlighting conditions. The end result: customers reject fewer prints and the lab racks up higher sales.

"For years people have been shooting mediocre photos that had the potential to be great photos. Digital technology puts the power into the customers' hands to crop, correct exposures, eliminate red eyebasically rescue valuable photos from the trash bin. It puts the fun back into photography for the customer," says Goldstone. He points out that better quality and more fun means more pictures, and more sales. Everybody profits.

One of the features designed to ensure customer satisfaction is Preview & Select. Customers can preview their images on a monitor, then select which ones they want to have printed.

"Initially I was a little concerned about giving customers the option of printing only what they want, thinking they would have a smaller, less profitable order," says Goldstone. "But to the contrary, customer orders almost doubled on each roll of film. That is an important factor. Imagine...doubling sales!"

He says the digital lab produces so little waste, it's difficult to measure. "Remakes are essentially a thing of the past.."

At first Goldstone was concerned about expanding into the digital realm, questioning whether or not it was only a smaller piece of an even smaller pie. But he has found that the new technology makes his store a destination. "People are coming back specifically to our store, not just any photofinisher. They are not going to impersonal warehouse discounters or supermarkets because they know their pictures will look better here, whether they use a film camera or a digital camera," says Goldstone. "For years people have been taking lousy pictures. Now all of a sudden they are experts in photography. Moms, people with one-time-use cameras, people with their new digital cameras, underwater cameras, all of a sudden their pictures become mesmerizingwhich means that they're happier, so they're taking more pictures and ordering more pictures."

Goldstone's strategy for making it easy for picture-takers to get into digital is based on digitization, or converting traditional film and prints into digital images that may be used on a PC. When customers come into the store with their 35mm, APS or digital cameras, all of their images are processed, scanned and stored in the Kodak Store It system. Customers can preview their images using Preview & Select, which enables them to see each of their images before they are printed on the QSS-2711. The customer can choose the images they want printed, put on a floppy or CD, or uploaded to the Internet.

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