Magazine Article


Making the Case for Home Printers at Photo Specialty

Retailers Say They're Not Worried About Cannibalizing In-Store Photofinishing

by Diane Berkenfeld and Dan Havlik

When low-end color home printers come bundled with computers these days and are available for under $100, why should photo specialty retailers push more expensive models in their stores? As Mike Worswick, owner of Wolfe's Camera in Topeka, KS puts it, "People want photo caliber models for printing photos." In other words, as Worswick explains it, once consumers see the detail possible in a photo quality printer, they are likely to purchase one in the future.

Worswick's experience is consistent with several retailers around the country interviewed by PTN, who say photo quality printers can be effectively pitched as another accessory during a digital camera sale.

Epson Stylus Photo 2200

"If you want to sell digital cameras, sell printers as an accessory," suggests Frank Ponder, general manager of Bel Air Camera in Los Angeles, CA. Ponder says Bel Air averages one printer sale for every six to seven digital cameras, mostly because staff members demonstrate the printers when they show prospective customers a digital camera. Some of these printers are sold at the time of camera purchase, others are after market, but Bel Air is still making the sale.

According to Ponder, "Printers are one of many accessories. If you don't sell printers, at least sell the consumables: inks and specialty media." He says it's more important for him to show his customers what photo printers can do. "Our goal is to help customers capture, display, and preserve their precious memories," Ponder explains.

Will Home Printers Cannibalize Photofinishing?

Twenty-five years ago, most retailers had an entire darkroom section in their stores, selling enlargers, paper and chemistry and other equipment. With the digital revolution, home printers have become the darkrooms of today.

Retailers may worry that home printer sales will cannibalize from their in-store photofinishing. The retailers we spoke to, however, say they are not too concerned. As Walter Erbe, general manager of Samy's Camera in Los Angeles, CA explains, "We used to sell lots of enlargers and process photos too."

Ponder concurs, "We used to sell darkroom equipment, now we sell home printers." Photo specialty retailers should offer printers and the consumables that go with them. "Printers, ink and paper should be as important as darkroom equipment was 25 years ago," Worswick says. "Dealers who don't see that are gonna lose out on a lot of printer market opportunities," he warns.

According to Bel Air's Ponder, there is room for both photo quality home printers and in-store photofinishing, as well as for online photofinishing. Not every consumer will want to print the same way, and those that print at home may find occasions when it is more convenient to have their photos printed at retail, and vice versa. "If you don't want to print at home, we'll do it for you," he says.

Samy's Camera's Erbe likened printers and consumables to the razor blade sales model. Sell someone the razor and they'll come back to you for the blades. Sell someone a printer and they'll return for inks and paper. "If you [photo specialty retailer] don't sell them, the large chain stores will," he warns.

Educated Customers = Loyal Customers

Sony DPP-EX5

Education is a big key to printing and photofinishing sales from digital camera users, according to retailers interviewed by PTN. Whether its home printing, using the store's kiosk, dropping off digital print orders to be done on the retailer's digital minilab or ordering online on the retailer's websites, dealers say they try to educate their customers about the various ways they can get prints from their digital cameras. Worswick explains his motive behind educating customers, "We want people to figure out that they need to print their pictures. That's the first stepchanneling them for in-store photofinishing can come later."

All the retailers we spoke with agreed on one thingcreating loyal customers is important. While selling the printers themselves might not provide a large profit margin, loyal customers will keep coming back for the inks and papers they need to print at home. And the future purchases a loyal customer may make are more important in the long run.

A large selection of photo quality printers are on the market for home use, including inkjet and dye-sublimation models. Inkjets are cheaper as are their consumables but dye-sub prints are extremely detailed and don't fade as quickly as inkjet. They range in size from small card printers such as Canon's CP-10 and CP-100 card printers to the 13x19-inch Epson Stylus Pro 2200. Some printers offer card slots to print images directly from digital media without the need for computers, and others are capable of running off battery power for mobile printing. The printers are offered to fill all price points and user sophistication from snapshots to archival fine-art printing.

The following snapshots feature a few of the many photo quality printers being sold at photo specialty today:

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