People want to travel again. In our post September 11th society, people want to see what they have been missing as their traveling fears diminish. According to the U.S. Department of State, after September 11th, the number of passports issued to travelers saw a decline. Yet in 2004, there was an 11 percent increase over the previous year, because of the 8.8 million new passports that were issued. In 2005, this number is supposed to increase significantly due to the new passport requirements for travel within the Western hemisphere. The Intelligence reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 as well as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative are bound to increase the number of passports issued in the near future. Also, the increasing need for immigration IDs, local government IDs and other ID photos ensure that passports and portrait services are about to be high in demand.
It's important for each retailer to realize that document photography produces over $80 million in revenue in one year, and this can significantly increase a company's profits. Gross margins for the business are often in excess of 80 percent. A recent exit survey shows that 16 percent of people leaving an urban drug store had purchased a photo for a government application in the past six months. USA Today states the US Department of State is hiring 500 more workers to process applications, which is nearly a 50 percent increase. In 2005, it expects to process 10.5 new passport applications. Realizing the rising need for passports, companies are now providing great new services to help stores increase income with digital passport media.
Sony's UPX-C200 Digital Printing System offers high quality passport/ID digital photos and event portraits in a variety of print sizes. This model features a digital photo printer and a digital still camera that stores up to 200 images. With color or black and white printing options create a variety of photo productions. "Our Digital Passport system offers state-of-the art Bluetooth wireless technology, which eliminates the need for a camera docking station or the use of connecting cables," says Jennifer Gilmore, marketing manager at Sony BBSC Digital Photofinishing. "All functions from image capture to selecting one of our 22 different print layout options are performed right from our four mega pixel digital camera. It's that simple."
The system offers a wireless multiple-printer configuration that increases productivity. Multiple printers should be used when 3.5 x 4 inch and 4 x 6 inch prints are required. There are no inconvenient paper tray swaps or changes in print packs. For 4 x 6 inch media, there are 22 different image layouts, including one full bleed mini portrait or two 2 x 2 inch U.S. passport photos. There can be up to three poses per sheet. With the 3.5 x 4 inch media, you can choose from 17 different image layouts and print up to two different poses on one sheet. Wallets photos and four, six, eight or twelve mini portraits can be printed per sheet.
The entire process is done in just three easy steps. Just capture the image with one button click, review the picture and then print it. If the customer is not satisfied with the outcome, the picture can be easily retaken in a matter of seconds. "Our system is also equipped with a quick image preview function right in camera mode. No need to switch from Camera Mode to Play Mode to preview the image you just shot," adds Gilmore. A color-guide function is available, which maximizes image quality by enabling hue, contrast and tone adjustments. The printer is only 8 inches wide, 3 and 3/8 inches high and 12 1/8 inches in diameter. The Digital Printing System comes with PC utility software. All images can be saved onto a PC or removable recording media for photo archiving and printing. A mix of color and black and white images can be mixed together and printed, and the page layout can be easily manipulated. Dates, text and captions can be added to each photo as well.
To help a store advertise these services, Sony provides a complimentary Passport "In-store Merchandising Kit." This kit includes posters, window decals and tent cards to grasp the attention of new customers and to inform existing customers of the services offered. Sony also provides a CD to their retailers, which displays Sony logos and templates for flyers and "bag stuffers" to help promote the passport services. Rebates are also available for users, and direct mail campaigns are directed at each store to advertise the rebates.
"Installing a passport system in a retail outlet offers more benefits than are immediately apparent," says Darla Achey, Photo Product Specialist, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Photo Imaging Division. "Beyond the revenue-generating opportunities of a passport system, buyers may also generate additional revenue if they are looking for other travel related accessories. Traffic from the passport photo buyer may well result in sales of complementary photo travel accessories such as batteries, bags, film or storage media and/or travel adapters," adds Achey. Mitsubishi's DIS-900 (Digital Instant Studio) is a standalone, fully-functional digital photo imaging system that includes a point-and-shoot camera and a digital dye sublimation thermal printer. The DIS-900 features high-speed printing through a rolltype mechanism for jam-free reliability. This system can be used with professional lighting or a tripod and flash attachment. It can conveniently be set up anywhere for retailers of all sizes. There is a wide range of formats including one, two, four, 4D (two people), six or 16, each with a sharp resolution. The camera contains a preview screen, wide and telephoto adjustment, shutter speed, IRIS setting, and black and white or color photos. There are color pre-sets, multi-image, white balance, ISO 100 equivalent, and a four inch LCD screen. The DIS-900 requires manual operation and USB cable connection. The printer will efficiently produce one sheet in 46 seconds. Its photos have a dot resolution of 1676 x 1280 dots max, 256 grades for each color. The printer is 11 inches wide x 15.7 inches high x 15.7 inches in diameter. Each printer comes with an operation manual, printer driver, ink-cassette, power cord, spacers and screws. "In terms of drawing customers into an imaging store, the simple act of featuring signage in the front has marketing value with minimal cost," Achey advises on behalf of Mitsubishi. "Also, partnering with other local retail outlets can have value. This could be as simple as featuring fliers at the front desk of the nearest travel agents. Once the customer is in the store, being able to show them the image before it is printed has a very professional effect and is likely to ensure greater satisfaction. Using a quality printer, such as a Mitsubishi DIS-900 is also important because, ultimately, the print is the end product."
Polaroid offers three different systems that would be an asset to any store hoping to produce a higher profit. The MiniPortrait 203 has an analog system, a tried and true solution, and its mechanical system makes the product easy to use and easy to service. Polaroid's Digital MiniPortrait is the world's only digital all-in-one passport photo system. It has a four inch LCD preview, which conveniently eliminates retakes. The Digital MiniPortrait can print and capture images simultaneously for fast throughput, with no transmission time. The system includes 100 sheets of C-3000 media and dye transfer ribbon, passport folders, a pull-down backdrop screen, multi language POS kit and a die cutter.
Polaroid's Digital Photo Kit contains a printer, camera bundle. It provides a camera template for easy sizing and its versatile printer can be used for other digital printing applications. All systems are available with Polaroid accessories, such as the Business-In-A-Box Bundle, which includes media, equipment and merchandising for business. Each is available on an ala-carte basis.
Polaroid offers their own Point-of-Sales kit to help retailers advertise the passport services offered within a store. Each kit includes a window sign, 2-sided store decal and a free-standing counter card. Polaroid is also helping retailers focus on customer convenience. They advise that a well-trained staff, readily available equipment and fast through put are sure ways to success. Ilze Greene, director of Commercial Markets at Polaroid Corporation states, "Polaroid recommends utilizing dedicated systems that are specifically designed for passport application versus utilizing other in-store photography equipment since customers and margins can be lost while a retail clerk waits in line behind other processing jobs, realizes their camera needs to be recharged, looks for a misplaced memory card or even the digital camera for taking the photo."
When selecting any system, keep in mind that lower cost media systems will not pay back for over one year. Polaroid provides a ROI calculator on-line at www.polaroid.com/passport. A trained account executive can advise on any system decision. "The passport photo business can boast margins as high as 80 percent to 90 percent, making it a great revenue opportunity for retailers," says Greene. "Polaroid recommends that retailers make promoting the passport business a priority. This doesn't mean spending lots of money, but simply paying attention to the business everyday."
Olympus America offers TruePrint Digital Passport/ID Solution ID-220. The Olympus Digital Passport/ID Solution provides photo-realistic results in an instant. The ID-220 system is based on the fully-featured Olympus C-4000 Zoom digital camera and the P-200 dye-sub printer so you can capture and print high-quality photos for your customers in less than two minutes. Two photos can be printed on a single sheet for passport photos or four on a sheet for photo ID shots. The P-200 printer can be used with the included AC adapter or an optional rechargeable battery.
Hi-Touch Imaging's 640ID passport system offers a stand-alone printing that doesn't require a computer, 23 different built-in passport sizes, and compatibility with every digital camera on the market. The 640ID offers the user full image control without a computer thanks to its Wizard Window LCD, whose main functions include: choice of printing formats (photos, stickers, or photo IDs); quick image editing and enhancement; and preset color settings to suit the retailer's specific camera, allowing users to customize the color printout setting.