As for replacement lab equipment, Harry feels that Noritsu will get the inside track.
Service and Parts
When Gretag went bankrupt a few years ago, they left in their wake one major buyer in this country, Kodak’s Qualex. Fortunately, Kodak had the service responsibilities of over 10,000 Gretag minilabs, and they had the clout to assure a flow of parts, if not from Gretag’s ashes, directly from suppliers.
According to Agfa, there are about 2,000 Agfa minilabs installed in this country and as many as 6,000 throughout the world. Most of these installations are onesie-twosie and the owners are dependent on the continued operation of their equipment for their livelihood and meeting payroll. What to do for parts and service?
At this writing, a firm by the name of a&o Group, Potsdam, Germany, has taken over the responsibility for Agfa service and parts in Europe. This is a fairly new firm, but it has 1,000 employees handling tech service on the continent and is highly regarded.
According to Dan Unger, Agfa’s director of marketing, AgfaPhoto’s president, Bing Liem, has been in negotiation with a&o to expand into the U.S. with the hopes that they will absorb the existing Agfa service structure, including personnel, and take over service, parts, and warranty responsibility here. At this writing nothing has been concluded, but Dan said the Agfa Customer Care Center hotline is still being manned at 800-926-2432.
The loss of the Agfa brand of labs, film, and consumables will no doubt change the landscape of the retail processing business in the U.S.
I’ve been told that Konica and Mitsubishi have used the shift in demand as a way to increase paper prices. About 6% was the number I heard. Expect that others may do the same to take advantage of the situation, though by holding the price it might encourage deals to jump onboard. It will be interesting to see how the chemical suppliers set their marketing sights as new accounts become available.
From an equipment standpoint, opportunities open up for the likes of Fuji, Noritsu, and Konica, the old guard, and especially two firms that have been trying to make a mark in the U.S., Marko (née Gretag) and Kis Photo-Me. Harry Reiter feels that Noritsu will become the big player as he feels Fuji has aligned itself more with the mass merchant accounts.
Kis Photo-Me might have already staked its claim with the contract to supply CVS with about 700 DKS-1510 digital labs, its first major sale on these shores. Walgreens had a deal going with Agfa and had already installed over 100 labs with more to come. The door reopens at Walgreens.
Then again, there is always a possibility that someone will pull the Agfa rabbit out of the hat.