While many who attended were energized by the meeting and had animated discussions with co-workers at the conclusion, others had to be concerned about the reality they faced. Will's story hit home but not all were happy with what they saw as the need for new investment and a complete shift in the direction of their business for which they might not be equipped either financially or emotionally. The truth does hurt.
What brings operators to a seminar like this? Linda Anderson runs Anderson Photo, Concord, MA. "I want to find out how to keep my store alive." John Adams (a highly respected name in these parts of new England) owns three stores on Cape Cod, Orleans Camera & Video. John is here "to get some new ideas."
Jim Russell is an officer of Severn Graphics, a 27-year old graphics firm in the Baltimore area that recently opened a retail minilab, KC Color Lab. Jim said that at first he didn't want to invest in digital but succumbed three months ago, buying a Noritsu 2901. "We had no choice." Among the promotional activities of Jim's lab are photography workshops for parents and children. As a graphics pro, Jim was not in the least phased by Will's discussion of color management and its tools. He could relate.
Jeffrey Prag, Paradise Photo & Video, Natick, MA, considers himself a newcomer since he's been in business only five years. He has changed as he sees the need to do so and has added portraits and graphics design services. "I'm in business to compete." He came to the seminar because "we gotta move on."
A Moto Photo franchisee, Pete Mahler, with stores in Brookline and Newton, MA, said, "The business model of film doesn't work anymore. I'm here to find out what has to be done to stay in business."
In all, about 30 people attended the Woburn seminar.
The program has tapped the assistance of four industry sponsors who, for a small fee of about $1,000 per meeting or $10,000 for the entire tour, earn the right to set up a small equipment display at the meeting room and make a brief product presentation to the group. At my Woburn, MA, meeting only three of the four made it: Olympus showed off its Tru Print kiosk; Ilford presented its Gallerie Premium wide-format program; and Digital Portal had a working DKS-1510 Photo Me digital minilab. Fuji Hunt is the fourth sponsor.
It is obviously a good opportunity for sponsors to show product to a unique group of independent minilab operators: those that are interested in their future. Digital Portal had three staff on site, including Kevin Donohue, president, and Mark Lawrence, marketing director. Mark said that the meetings were a good vehicle for a firm that offers the lowest priced digital minilab, at about $80,000, to show off to the trade. He said that, so far, every lab used for a meeting demo has been sold to a local lab.
For those of you who missed the seminar presentation in your areas, or if you just can't break away for a whole day, Will's entire PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded from his company's website at www.graphintel.com. Of course, you'll miss his scintillating, humorous presentation, the stimulating Q&A and the candy on every table. Warning: load plenty of paper in your printer. There are over 100 slides.
And, my thanks to Chad Munce, PMA's Digital Imaging Markets director, and Stephanie Fisher, PMA education director, for the initiative in developing the Minilab Makeover program on behalf of the little guys in our industry—and for inviting me.