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Kodak Moments: Best Buy, Target, Dry Film Processor, B&W & Online



The folks at Kodak are making news on many fronts simultaneously ranging from the need to engage its customers and the public with a digital focus (as would be expected) to a promotion with one of the oldest products in its portfolio, black & white prints (not at all expected).

These are some of the positive happenings in Rochester and Atlanta during these hectic days of downsizing and re-adjusting:

Jerry Lansky

Best Buy Moving Into Processing Via Online

There has long been speculation that the electronic retailing folks would be getting into the photo output business. After all, they are major players in selling digital cameras that capture images. Why not print the images, as well? I have always felt that processing was a convenience business that would not lend itself so well to a specialty retailer that had locations not generally favoring convenience services. Then again, I didn't consider that, with the uploading of images to a website, the location of the brick-mortar store becomes somewhat irrelevant.

Best Buy, the 638-store electronics chain, has tested digital printing with results sufficiently favorable to move into the game, not just with an online service, but with on-site equipment, as well. The online service is the one they're crowing about in a press release. The on-site activity is not a national program, though who knows what the future may bring, and was not mentioned in the announcement.

The online service, launched on Sept. 30, is being offered at www.bestbuy.com/imagelab. The website is not too different from those of other online services, though I found it to be less user friendly than others. It offers the services of its "Photologists" to "help you show off your digital photos."

Pricing for uploaded prints is 29-cents for a 4x6, competitive with retail pricing but somewhat higher than online offerings from such as Snapfish (19-cents "everyday," plus free, unlimited image storage), Kodak's Ofoto (22-cents on special at this writing; 29-cents regular); Club Photo (17-cents); and Shutterfly (29-cents regular, 22-cents on a prepay plan); Wal-Mart (24-cents). Promotions abound online. The usually promotional Best Buy had none.

The fulfillment for online orders is being handled by Siberra, a Best Buy subsidiary in Vancouver, Canada. (A previous arrangement that Best Buy had with Shutterfly has been terminated, according to a Best Buy spokesperson.) Turnaround service for online orders is shown on the website to be five business days if the order is to be picked up at a non-lab Best Buy store or mailed to the home (extra charge). If picked up at a Best Buy store with an on-site lab, according to the website, pickup is 1-2 days, though I couldn't find any info on the website that indicated where the stores with labs were located.

The on-site part of the story was filled in for me by Bill Jones, the Kodak man who is responsible for the Best Buy account. He said that Best Buy has set up a hub-spoke system with Noritsu 3011 labs operating in 18 stores in seven markets that serve a total of about 104 stores—roughly 5-6 stores per hub.

The hubs are located in: Minneapolis, Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Boston and D.C. Bill said installations began in May after a year of test marketing in Phoenix and Minneapolis. Orders taken in drop boxes at spoke stores will be transferred by Best Buy courier to the hub location for processing and returned the same way the following day.

Each lab location, according to Bill, will also have some variety of Kodak G-3 Picture Maker, some with on-board printing and scanning capability, others feeding directly to the Noritsu 3011. Interestingly, the Noritsu setup also includes film processors though the focus for Best Buy is clearly to serve the digital market. The price for d&p on a 24-exp. roll at the Watertown, MA store is $6.99 and a digital 4R print is 29-cents.

Asked if a national roll-out of the hub-spoke arrangement is being contemplated, a Best Buy spokesman said, "It is under evaluation."

Best Buy stores will be serviced with paper, chemistry and tech needs by the same Kodak folks that handle Kodak's other on-site programs.

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