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Photo Specialty Stores Click With Sony's PictureStation



Two Southern California Retailers Focus On In-Store Digital Photofinishing

by Matt Hutchison

Alex Bell, owner of the Photo Fast store in Hawthorne, Calif., is at the forefront of an emerging trend: offering digital photofinishing services that distinguish his store from his competitors.

Since installing Sony's PictureStation digital photofinishing system in early July, the independent specialty store has seen a spike in business, addressing what Bell calls the "pent-up demand" among digital camera owners for retail-based digital printing services.

The picture's the same up the coast in Pacific Palisades, Calif., where Cathy Rodriguez, proprietor of Harrington's Camera Corner, noticed a "significant" increase in foot traffic when she introduced the PictureStation system.

Sony's PictureStation digital printing system takes up only a small amount of counter space at Harrington's Camera Corner in Palisades, California.

Designed specifically for retail environments, the easy-to-use systems feature high-speed digital printers that can produce photo-like prints in seconds. Both flavors of the systema counter-top unit and a free-standing kioskaccept a range of digital media and can print in four borderless sizes, 3-1/2x5, 4x6, 5x7 and wallets.

"Monday Morning" Calls

Nestled near residential and commercial districts in the South Bay section of Los Angeles County, Photo Fast has been an instrumental member of the community since it opened its doors in 1980. It was an early proponent of one-hour processing in the '80s.

The following decade, as digital cameras began to gain widespread acceptance, Bell noticed a phenomena he dubbed the "Monday Morning Phone Call."

"Like clockwork, we would get calls every Monday from people who wanted to know how they could get their weekend pictures out of their digital camera and onto a piece of paper," he said.

To meet his customers' needs, Bell said he invested in an expensive digital photofinishing system but heand his customersquickly grew disenchanted. That system, which cost more than $32,000, was too large and too complicated for customers to use. It could only print on 8x10-inch paper, which meant Bell wasted paper if a customer requested a 4x6 print, he said. In addition, the cost of a print ranged between $1.19 and $1.99 eachwhich didn't sit well with customers, he said.

"Although we could finally offer the service to our customers, we also had to tell them how much it was going to cost," he said. "Often, they would scale back on the number of pictures they wanted, or we had to encourage them to print more to reduce the cost."

When Bell saw Sony's PictureStation system at an annual gathering of photo professionals earlier this year, he was sold, recalling that he thought it "was like a breath of fresh air."

Bell installed the unit in early July. His customers can now bring in an array of media containing digital images, choose which they wish to print, crop the image, adjust brightness and contrast, and quickly and easily print. Bell said his customers also appreciate the fact that the typical 4x6 print costs just .69-cents each, nearly 60 percent less than the least-expensive print offered by the previous system.

Bell said the PictureStation system has enabled him to win over new digital camera users and reclaim previous customers who grew disenchanted with the prior unit. Within the first two days of installing the system, Bell said customers had made about 100 prints, exceeding his initial expectations.

July 4th "Oohs and Aahs"

Harrington's Camera Corner, situated between Malibu and Santa Monica in Pacific Palisades, was founded by Cathy Rodriguez' father John Harrington in 1958. Many of Rodriguez' customers are third-generation family members accustomed to receiving a high level of personal attention.

Cathy Rodriguez, owner of Harrington's, says she's seen a "significant" increase in foot traffic at her store since she introduced a PictureStation system in July.

Several years ago, as her customers embraced digital cameras, Rodriguez kept an eye out for a small but versatile and user-friendly digital photofinishing system that would accept all forms of media and produce stunning images.

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