UV Inkjet Printing Offers More Opportunities
By A. Ron Waters, president and CEO Durst Image Technology U.S., LLC
There's a growing homogenization - in terms of offerings and target customers - among commercial photo labs, sign shops and digital imaging service bureaus. But these "image fabricators" aren't necessarily moving toward or away from any particular technologies. They're simply picking the best technology for a growing list of applications. These days, images are printed on a much wider array of substrates and presented in many more venues. Customers want new and better displays to deliver their messages. The smart businesses are finding ways to tap into these new revenue streams by incorporating additional imaging capabilities. The fact that all imaging technologies are getting better and easier to use only fuels this homogenization trend.
It's worth noting that UV inkjet printing is probably the most recent and significant catalyst in this homogenization process. While a photo lab might not add a screen or litho press, and a screen or litho printer might not go out and buy a photo printer (although we've seen both occur), they're all adding UV inkjet printers to their output mix. These versatile, productive, "print on anything" output devices can give the photo lab a large-format capability on a broad range of roll and rigid substrates.
Customers today who work with multiple print providers want to award a single contract to the one who best fulfills the overall requirements of the job. If a lab can fulfill all aspects of a campaign, the likelihood that they'll be awarded the contract is far greater. So a growing number of professional imagers see diversifying their offerings as more of a necessity given this emerging "all or nothing" approach.
Examining Challenges at Retail
By George Briggs, CEO, Pixel Magic Imaging
The photo imaging industry has much to offer both the retailers that provide digital services as well as the consumers who are looking for the easiest way to print and repurpose their pictures. We have experienced some radical shifts in technology usage and consumer behavior over the last few years, and with the continued rapid decline of film use, it's easy for us to concentrate on the negative aspects of the business.
With uncertainty in our world today with the ongoing war on terrorism and upcoming political race certain to be unlike any other in history, there is a natural tendency to wring our hands and worry about the large scale issues. I would recommend, however, that retailers focus their attention on those things within their area of influence and devise a thoughtful plan on how to take advantage of the many opportunities our tumultuous industry has generated.
For example, Pixel Magic Imaging knows the power and benefits that photo kiosks can bring to a business, but it is in how they are implemented and used that can make an incredible difference in consumer satisfaction and return store visits. Does your photo kiosk have a distinct presence? Is it simple to use so that customers can quickly serve themselves and avoid others waiting? Is it credit card enabled to ensure self-service, avoiding the need for your employees to be diverted to help? Does it offer connectivity to the outside world so that a broader range of products and services can be provided? And how well is your kiosk solution integrated into your overall systems architecture, including your POS system?
Photo is an incredible industry, and we are pleased to provide solutions that help retailers make the most of every memory so that your customers will return often, bringing through your doors their pictures and their pocketbooks.
The Prolab Digital Transition
By Don Franz, Photofinishing News
During a recent convention for professional photographers I had a chance to talk to numerous social/portrait prolabs. Most are now running two production workflows: film and digital. The digital workflow is less expensive. Digital processing represents the majority of incoming orders, in most cases, ranging as high as 70 percent for one lab.
As a result, several labs are considering closing their film production workflow. As one owner said, "it is expensive to maintain two different production lines, and with increased competition for the remaining film business, print prices are under severe pressure." For many social labs, the print prices that they can charge while remaining competitive are considerably less then they were only a year or so ago.
For an interesting comparison, we looked at one lab's current prices and at its 1992 catalog. The price difference was under 23 percent - meaning that today's prices are less than 23 percent greater than they were 14 years ago. If we take into consideration the rising costs of operating the business (labor, benefits, rent, and utilities) and the investment in digital production systems, is it a surprise that operating margins are not what they once were?
On the other hand, several labs mentioned that long-time customers are placing larger orders than they did last year. Many are adding large framed prints.