The lights are getting dimmer at the Ridgefield Park, NJ, headquarters of AgfaPhoto, USA, as the legal morass at the German headquarters of the bankrupt parent seems to be leading the entire worldwide structure of this once famous brand into total darkness. Inside the building fewer desks are being occupied as people are no longer needed to perform tasks that no longer exist.
It appears as though, barring some last-minute white knight charging into the fray, the Agfa that the industry has known for so long will close its doors on December 31 in the U.S.
The impact of such a loss hits every segment of the industry as the lifeline between supplier and user gets cut. Rather than ripples, the effects have the impact of a tsunami: New markets open up for manufacturers of film, paper, and chemicals; retailers, mass and independent, seek new sources of minilab equipment; qualified photo-industry personnel become available.
Agfa has had in place a group of six wholesale distributors, including one in Canada, that generally reason of size or inclination, have not purchased their consumables directly from Agfa. Maybe they like to support their local businessmen, can’t meet credit standards, can’t buy required minimums, or whatever.
Up to now, these wholesalers have been flying under the radar, but with Agfa closing down, these distributors take on a major role of importance as the supplier of Agfa paper, chemistry, and film during a transition period when dealers will either turn to new brands for their consumables or, maybe, someone will pick up the Agfa pieces.
Mike Wodushek, owner of Photoland, Inc., Appleton, WI, said his firm has a two-level plan. In the short term, he said, “We are bringing in as much Agfa product as we can to protect the dealers. Longer term, we want to help the dealers to find other supply routes.”
He indicated that he’s increased his Agfa inventory by about 65–70% but even with that he feels his supply line will dry up in 2–3 months. He said that Agfa has represented about 65–70% of his business.
Mike said that Kodak has been very helpful in making its heavier Royal paper more competitive with Agfa’s Prestige line as the dealers prefer the weightier stock. He is troubled with the lack of other roll B&W paper suppliers, however, as the only other source, Ilford, can run twice the price of the Agfa line, he indicated. For chemicals, Photoland has added Fuji-Hunt and Trebla to its line.
Darrell Benton, owner of Diversified Photo Supply, Torrance, CA, said he has taken in about $1 million of Agfa inventory above what he would normally stock. His firm is the exclusive distributor of Mitsubishi film in the U.S. and expects to fill some of the hole left by Agfa with that line.
He expects his Agfa paper and chemical inventory to last through January. Diversified carries Konica and Mitsy papers and “we’ve already seen a number of dealers make the switch to other papers.” Darrell said that Agfa has represented about 15% of his business.
Nova Graphics, Miami, FL has depended on Agfa for about 50% of its volume and is a major exporter of Agfa product to South America as well as supplying the southeastern U.S. “We have made the Agfa brand very well known, and it is not so easy to switch,” according to Nova’s Steven Decker. Historically, Agfa has been 50% of the firm’s volume.
Steven, and the other distributors, have been hearing from dealers they never dealt with before as owners scrounge for Agfa items.
A list of Agfa distributors accompanies this article.
Harry Reiter, president of the Town & Country group with headquarters in Pennsylvania, said that 70% of the 212 member labs have Agfa equipment and 85% of his members use Agfa paper. The group also deals with Kodak and Konica paper, but he feels Fuji will become the paper of choice for his members.
He said the biggest concern of his group are those dealers with Agfa ‘d’ labs who are paying $1,500–$2,000 a month for service contracts. “Who do they pay and who will provide the service?”