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The Lowly Shoebox in the Closet May be the Key to Keep the Doors Open


Shoeblox and Mouse

Looking for a definition of ‘shoebox’ on the internet reveals the following: “an oblong rectangular (usually cardboard) box designed to hold a pair of shoes.”

The lexicographers haven’t figured itout yet that’s not the only thing a shoebox can hold. In what may be one of the earliest examples of recycling: once the shoes were taken out of the box, the family photos were put in. And they have stayed there long after the shoes that they were made to hold were given to the Salvation Army.

The newest photo industry challenge is to now get those photos out of the shoebox and onto a CD or DVD where, depending on many factors, they should remain for a long time to come. But, as every marketing textbook will shout, challenge means opportunity.

Mitch Goldstone of 30 Minute Photos Etc., Irvine, CA., saw this opportunity and, to me, is the ‘inventor’ of the concept of having customers bring or send to him shoeboxes holding thousands of photos to be scanned and downloaded to a CD. He was the first to figure out that Kodak had a high-speed document imaging scanner system, the i660, designed for use in commercial and medical scanning applications that just might work for photos, as well.

He has been aggressively promoting the idea to his retail customer base, both locally and through his website. For an education check it out at Shoeboxreprints.com.

Mitch has been selling the idea of bringing (or sending) in old family photos for scanning and burning them to a CD. He charges $49.95 for up to 1,000 photos and generates additional revenue by selling 5x7 index prints and print duplication for family distribution.

Mitch won’t discuss the amount of shoebox business he does other than to say that he gets “many orders every day.” Maybe his quotes will be an indication of his enthusiasm: “It’s absolutely entrancing;” “It’s the future of the photo industry.”

The success with shoebox and the incorporation of four Lucidiom Automated Photo Machines (APM) and a Luci creative kiosk for the scrapbooking market has encouraged Mitch to completely redesign his store. Photo albums, which Mitch long ago threw out because he was tired of dusting them, have taken on a new focus in the re-designed store.

The rapid decline of film processing has sent all but the most enterprising photo specialists down the tubes in the past few years. As in the animal world, only the fittest have survived. Reaching out for new opportunities, has been the salvation for those still around and it would appear that shoeboxes and scrapbooking may be specialty products that not only lead to the differentiation that the specialist always seeks, but his survival, as well.

I get the feeling that Kodak had to be pulled into the shoebox game as the i660 scanner was being sold by the firm’s imaging document people—not the photo folks. I was told that getting information was not easy. However, they did work with Mitch in developing unique software that made the system friendlier in a photo environment and Mitch has proven that there really is a shoebox business out there.

Kodak has since eased (not jumped) onto the bandwagon and had two of the i660 scanners at its booth at PMA-Orlando to get trade reaction. It also had its own demo station at a recent press event that Kodak hosted in New York City.

Jose Rivera, Kodak’s new business development leader, has been shepherding the i660 at its various presentations. He said that reaction to the unit at PMA was very positive and that Kodak was looking at various business models as they bring the scanner into the photo market.

One such plan discussed with dealers at PMA was a revenue sharing concept. Sort of like a click program in which Kodak would be paid by the dealer for each scan made on the system. This would be a way to make ownership of the i660 a lot easier for dealers who would rather share their revenue as the business increased than spend the full $60,000 purchase price up front. In the meantime, Jose said that Kodak is working on changes to its software to the i660. One feature will incorporate a ‘batch restore’ function designed to deal with the fading and image degradation of old, stored photos. He said it would bring color back and improve the image of under-exposed photos. “It’s not Kodak Perfect Touch,” he said, but would help to restore old, shoebox pictures.

Another possible setup, according to Jose, would be to marry the i660 with the Kodak 6850 thermal printer and a computer so that the scanned images could either be burned onto a Picture CD or printed on dye-sub media—or both. Mitch is not the only retailer bitten by the shoebox bug.

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