Magazine Article


Giving Your Minilab a Digital Makeover

"Look at what your store looks like," he added. "How many retailers have a back door to their businesses and walk into the store through the back door in the morning? I suggest that it is very important to have yourself and your staff walk through the front doors in the morning. It's very important for you and your employees to notice what your customers see." His three main points with store design: Keep it clean, keep it simple and keep it comfortable.

Holland then asked the group to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does your business smell like a lab? To mask the odor of processing chemicals, buy eucalyptus at Pier 1, Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn.
  • Is your store clean? The rugs should be cleaned every day. Merchandise should be put away neatly with no clutter.
  • Are the aisles wide enough for a double baby carriage? Remember, 80 percent of your business is probably women. Make sure that strollers can fit down the aisles.
  • Is your store well lit? It's important for the perception that, if the store is well lit, it's probably going to do a good job with the customers' photos.
  • Are there stools at the counter? In the kiosk area? It's a comfort factor. And to have customers hanging out and comfortable helps with the reprint orders.
  • Are you providing the extras to make the customer experience special? Do you provide coffee and doughnuts? Other "extras" could include CD/DVD viewers and proofing stations.

He showed a number of before-and-after photographs of stores that had been redesigned, including Noble Industries (Concord Camera) and Cal's Cameras and Video Inc. (see below). For more ideas on boutiquing, "minilab owners should survey successful boutique operations in your local malls and borrow some of those ideas," he added.

Products and Services

In the new products and services section of the seminar, Holland said that your core products should include: photo prints/enlargements, image archiving to CD, data storage, artistic media (printing on canvas) and effect, fine-art reproduction (giclee prints), digital wall paper, framing and scrapbooking. He also looked at retro products such as black-and-white enlargements and processing, self-serve darkroom rental, E-6 processing and 3-D prints. "The product approach means you think more like a retailer than a photo lab," he said. "Know your customers. Develop and find products they will buy and then promote the heck out of them!"

New services should include color management, color correction, design and retouching: "These are all services that mass merchants can't offer and that you charge a premium price for."

He then pointed out offering 10 new services each month, like Starbucks does with its different coffee flavors. Those services could include: educational programs, canvas stretching, frames and framing, home movie conversion to DVD, photo CD/DVD burning and archiving, print scanning and archiving, mounting and laminating, printing from camera phones and retouching. Holland added that labs could also offer some ancillary products such as selling digital cameras and digital accessories such as paper media and media cards.

He closed by saying, "Stop referring to your business as a lab. Become something like a digital lifestyle center. People don't want to go to a laboratory."

Product Demonstrations

At different points during the seminar, the four industry sponsors had the opportunity to present some of their equipment in the meeting room and make a brief product presentation to the group. DigitalPortal had a working DKS-1510 digital minilab; Olympus was showcasing its True Print kiosk; Ilford presented its Gallerie Premium wide-format program; and Fuji Hunt talked about some digital products that they are integrating into their Digital Photo Imaging Division, including Epson 7600/9600 printers and Fujifilm Print Suite and GretagMacbeth Eye-One color management software.

It was an excellent opportunity for sponsors to showcase new products to a select group of independent minilab owners. DigitalPortal's Lawrence said, "The seminar provides us with a great opportunity to get our product out there. Thus far, every minilab we've used for each meeting demo has been sold to a local retailer."

John Blakeslee, national sales manager, New Business Development, Olympus America Inc., spoke about the kiosk market and the new improvements to their True Print kiosk: "Retailers will certainly benefit from the addition of high-margin products they can offer."

The PMA Digital Minilab Makeover final dates and locations include: August 10 in Denver, CO; September 14 in San Francisco, CA; and October 22 in Chicago, IL.

For more info, go to If you've recently completed a makeover, let us know at

Cal's Cameras' Makeover Goes to Circular Proportions

Pat Hegwood, CFO at Cal's Cameras and Video, at their circular cashier counter.

One of the stores that were featured in the Minilab Makeover Seminar was Cal's Cameras and Video, Inc, Costa Mesa, CA. The store was purchased in 1962 by Cal and Helen Stilley. In the early 1970s, daughter Pat and son Mark came to work in the store. Another son, Kurt, came to work at the store in 1987. Since then they have grown from a store with 3 employees to the current total of 25. Throughout the years, Cal's has been a destination store for many people in the Orange County area. The store has the reputation of having a large inventory of all types of cameras and accessories. They just purchased their second store in the neighboring city of Corona Del Mar and are looking forward to serving customers from the southern part of Orange County as well.

Just before they purchased the second store, they decided to remodel their first location. "We hired a local architect firm with a great reputation at doing big jobs to quote us on our remodel and asked them for their ideas," says daughter Pat Hegwood, CFO. "What came out of our meetings was the idea that we wanted to go from a traditional 'square or rectangular' layout to a circular one. We then chose materials and colors that we liked-the aluminum and the red are our two signature colors.

"So far we haven't really added many services to give us a boutique flavor," she adds. "The services we have added are necessary ones for our business: the addition of a Noritsu dDP-411 for instant printing of our customers' digital media, and now in the process, the addition of a Lucidiom kiosk."