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Last Stop: Finishing Counter



The exclusive patented Photo Ball Transfer System that has become the BallStars (www.ballstars.com) trademark has also received a recent upgrade. The Pro Automatic System is a comprehensive professional package that includes everything retailers need to start personalizing sports balls with customer photos and logos. Unlike the company's other two start-up packages, the new system includes a Dell laptop computer, a digital camera, a professional lighting and backdrop kit, a scanner, an air compressor, an 8-inch wide-format heat press head, and a larger inventory of sports balls. Marketing materials that come with the Pro Automatic System include a vinyl banner, a backlit lighted sign, a countertop POP display, five mail-in custom packet POP systems, and two oak display cases that feature embroidered matting to show off the balls.

Tapping into the current scrapbooking craze, the company's Scrapbook Frame Series features designs for 4 x 6 and 6 x 4 photos that have the look and feel of handcrafted frames with a tactile surface.

Neil Enterprises (www.neilenterprises.com) is introducing a slew of new photo products at this year's PMA show in Orlando, including a CD photo holder, new scrapbook frames, and pliable snow globes. First, the CD Holder Frame (ideal for storage of milestone event such as weddings, graduations, and vacations) is a translucent black 4 x 6 frame that features a snap-in lens cover for easy assembly and opens to reveal storage of four CDs. Labs can build name recognition by taking advantage of the custom imprinting option on the frame.

Tapping into the current scrapbooking craze, the company's Scrapbook Frame Series features designs for 4x6 and 6x4 photos that have the look and feel of handcrafted frames with a tactile surface. Customers can choose from 14 different designs.

Neil Enterprises has also redesigned its popular snow-globe frame line: the new Soft Touch snow globes, which can hold one or two 2 x 2-7/8 photos, have a pliable surface that's soft to the touch and are available in five attractive designs, including Christmas and Easter versions.

"The problem that a lot of dealers are having today is that people aren't processing film anymore—it's "more digital," explains Stephen Winer, creative director at Neil Enterprises. "That sometimes poses a problem sometimes in getting people there. Walmart has just introduced a new photo-processing [service], where the customer actually downloads their pictures from home and then goes to Wal-mart to pick them up. This is good, since it does get the customer in the store. Wal-mart is also finding that they're selling more digital cameras that way. With digital, there's a whole new way of thinking that the retailer, especially the people who process the pictures, has to think of. As far as our business goes, regardless of how the image is generated, people still want frames and keychains to put images in. As things have changed, our business has gotten even better. We just have to keep coming up with new ideas."

And that doggie dish we mentioned earlier? Retailers can fetch extra profits with Neil Enterprises' Photo Pet Bowl, a novel photo frame that also serves as a functional feeding dish. The easy-to-assemble pet bowl comes in two sizes (one holds a 2-7/8 inch diameter photo, the other a 3-3/4 inch diameter photo) and features a skidproof bottom ring and durable Lexan plastic construction. It's easy to clean as well -- just don't put it in the dishwasher!

What the Future Holds for Manufacturers and Retailers

Not everyone is reaping the benefits of digital when it comes to POP products, depending on the types of solutions they offer. Taprell Loomis (www.tap-usa.com), for instance, has a limited counter-finishing lineup that focuses on display racks that come with photo mailers and photo folders. "We didn't introduce anything counter-item-wise for the photofinishing market this year," says Elizabeth Adams of Taprell Loomis. "To be perfectly honest, we have seen this business diminish over the past several years, and we haven't been increasing the number of items that we offer. I think that market has been hit hard by digital imaging—people's need to mail photos around has diminished since they're now e-mailing photos around. Unfortunately, it's not a growth area for us."

While you'd expect processing labs to also be struggling with the advent of digital (and some are struggling), many retailers are continually finding new and unique ways to boost profits and stay in the game. "More and more people are using the Internet, and we have a couple of online services through Agfanet, our main provider," says Sam Tropp, operations manager of Film Stop in Seattle, WA, which stocks several POP items from Collector's Gallery. "People are downloading images, and we can either mail the images to them or they can pick them up at one of our stores. We're pushing people these days to get it off their hard drives and actually do something with them. With digital, there was a decrease of people printing at first, but now it seems to be increasing. We have image boxes on our counter so people can print pictures directly, and while last year we didn't seem to get much out of them, this year it definitely picked up tremendously."

Film Stop carries regular year-round greeting cards and has been increasing their usage of Collector's Gallery templates as well. "The templates sold very well this year, especially at Christmas," says Tropp. "I think we're going to go more into the digital templates. This year we're going to offer many more styles of borders—everything is digital now, so you can just drop a border in. We're going to try to get a lot more business that way, since prints are so much cheaper now. For a roll of film, we'd charge $0.39 a print; now, with digital, it's $0.29 a print, and without the processing charges."


   







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