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Walgreens Launches Photo Repair Service

Walgreens Launches Photo Repair Service

Drugstore Giant Brings Image Restoration to the Mass Market

by Diane Berkenfeld

Drugstore giant Walgreens announced recently that it has launched a new photo restoration service at all of its locations. The national drug store chain currently has 4,227 stores in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
The photo restoration service is the latest "digital" service offering at Walgreens. Virtually every store currently has a minilab on site that offers one-hour photofinishing. According to Michael Polzin, a spokesman for Walgreens, "The stores that don't, make up less than one percent."

Walgreens has also been rolling out digital labs to its stores, with 25 percent of all locations now fully digital.

The company has been touting their new photo restoration service as offering several advantages over current methods. For starters, originals are scanned at the store's photo department by trained staff, Polzin said. And because the original images-many of which are one-of-a-kind heirlooms-never leave the customer's hands, they're more willing to have the images restored.

He added that much of the reason why customers are reluctant to have their images restored has to do with their concern about leaving precious photographs at a store. "Customers are much more willing to have the service done when they don't have to send photos away," Polzin explained. He also noted that because the process is digital, the amount of time required to restore a photograph is cut in half. The restoration or colorization (of black and white photos) is performed at the lab and returned to the store within 14 days. Walgreens is also offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

"Walgreens' new photo restoration service is very easy to use and makes photo restoration an option for everyone," remarked Dean Jarrett, Walgreens divisional merchandise manager for photofinishing. "The service is affordable, restored prints can cost as little as $39.95, depending upon the size and quantity ordered."

Before rolling out the service to all of its locations, Walgreens successfully tested the photo restoration service in the company's 148 stores in Wisconsin. "We knew this service was going to hit a chord with our customers, but even we underestimated how popular restored photos-at a great price-would be for gift giving," added Jarrett. "We're very excited to offer this service on a national level."

Walgreens will be advertising in newspaper inserts and in-store signage to introduce customers to the service.

The chain has had considerable experience when it comes to photography-they've been offering photofinishing services since the 1920s. Walgreens was founded by Charles R. Walgreen Sr. in 1901 when Walgreen, a pharmacist, purchased the drugstore where he worked. Walgreens opened its 1,000th store in 1984. In the 1990s, drive-through pharmacies were introduced. More than 75 percent of Walgreens stores currently offer this service. The company plans to expand further with 450 new stores projected to open by fiscal 2004.

Image before resotration (above left) with cracks and tears in the print's emulsion. The final print after being restored (above right) no longer shows damage. The print also shows a better tonal range than the original. (Images courtesy of Walgreens).

Image restoration has become an increasingly popular offering in the current "digital age," especially post 9/11. More and more photo specialty stores now feature digital restoration services. Jeffrey Makoff, president and CEO of the DigitalCustom Group, a company that offers image restoration to consumers and retailers, advises camera stores to value their restoration business.

"Get out and sell it better," he said. "Show customers that their store is the best, fastest, and a reasonably economical place to get it done."

Camera stores can compete against the larger chain stores offering equivalent services, Makoff argued, because it is the photo retailer who offers the added value of being a "photo specialist."

"Camera stores also provide a final tier of quality control," he added.

Frank Ponder, of Bel Air Camera in Los Angeles, CA doesn't feel that photo specialty should be threatened by the Walgreens service. "I am thrilled that Walgreens will publicize photo restoration," he said. "We should all benefit. It's an area most everyone will want to do something."

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