Magazine Article


The Picture Spa Could Be The Future of Digital Retailing

He was able to take over the space formerly occupied by a jewelry store that adjoined his in a very busy strip center. Physically, he ended up with a 14-ft wide by 32-ft deep sales floor, a kid’s play area, and a large backroom for equipment (Sid’s future plans include a classroom for photo and scrapbook instruction). It is sort of joined at the hip with his Moto Photo operation by having a large passageway between the two stores so that his Moto customers have easy access to The Picture Spa—as well as his employees, some of whom serve both businesses.

Designing the store was a real challenge, according to Sid. This, for a man who, as a former franchise area developer for Moto Photo, assisted in the building of about 20 stores in the area. “I could build a photo lab in my sleep,” said Sid. “But this was uncharted waters for me and the industry. There was no rule book to follow.” Sid sought the advice of designers from Moto Photo, Lucidiom, and the folks that designed the PMA Complete Picture store.

In Jennifer’s mind, what makes a spa, a spa? New age music is piped in; a subtle aroma introduced; a trendy color palette in multiple shades of green; a floor with a woodlike appearance; furniture; and area carpeting in tans and beiges.

Dozens of micro decisions were made: height and shape of tables; style of chairs; location of tables and other furniture; the restroom setup.

The result? As cluttered as Sid’s adjoining Moto Photo store is with its busy wall, floor, and countertop displays, sales promotion signs, etc., that’s how quiet and serene The Picture Spa environment is. And, Sid is proud to say, “No slat wall.”

After many months of planning, a construction phase that took almost two months, and an investment of about $100,000, The Picture Spa opened during Thanksgiving week with an attractive, lighted outdoor sign, and a sign in the window reading: “Relax. We’ll help you get the picture.”

The store layout sets up like this:

• Two separate wall-mounted tables, about 7-ft wide, one with two Lucidiom APMs and the other with one APM and one Luci scrapbooking kiosk; One peninsula table with two Lucidiom APMs, back to back; One center island with two input stations for the HP Photosmart Studio; A comfortable seating area with upholstered chairs, an area rug, and a coffee table; A coffee bar with a small cooler for bottled water; A bright, well-decorated restroom with a changing table; Chairs at every station and stools for Jennifer’s friends; Kid’s play area with chairs, tables, and bins with toys; An idea table with a variety of product samples; Plans to add Wi-Fi; and Room for expansion.

Unlike the retail store where merchandise is an in-your-face deal, Sid has carefully set up The Picture Spa so that all of its decorations are items for sale. On the walls are a variety of pictures, animated art, posters, and the like. On the tables are picture trees, ceramic tiles, blankets with images, a serving tray with a print in it. All are cleverly presented as decorations, but with subtle suggestions that they can be purchased.

Every customer is offered coffee or bottled water. If help is needed at any station, either Sid or a salesperson sits with the customer to work the kiosk and offer product ideas. When I was there I would guess that about half of the Jennifers were working on their own. I saw one guy—he sat with his Jennifer.

How Is The Picture Spa Doing?

At this writing, only a few weeks after it opened, Sid said it’s been very encouraging so far. On the Tuesday that I met with Sid, one enthusiastic woman was working two monitors at the same time and, with no prompting at all, turned to Sid and myself and said, “You opened this store for me, didn’t you?”

Sid said his biggest kick so far came the first time he saw a customer sitting at each station: “That was exciting!” He has had at least one occasion where every station was in use and with a queue of customers, and he is prepared to add additional kiosks sooner than he expected.

It’s too early to talk about revenue at this point, but Sid did indicate that his average sale at The Picture Spa is running about $30, compared to about $18–$20 at the Moto Photo counter. “We are selling posters, books, calendars, and photo gifts in the Spa that we didn’t sell on the other side of the wall because we can display it better in a more conducive sales atmosphere.”

As for the customer base, Sid’s seeing new faces that hadn’t previously been Moto Photo customers. “We’re not just looking to convert our existing customers. We’re looking for new Jennifers.” He hopes customers will find the surroundings comfortable enough to use as sort of a gathering place.

“Digital has changed the entire culture of the business. Until now we have been order takers. If they wanted an album, frame, or film, they had to ask for it. The Picture Spa is not an order-taking model, but hopefully it will be an entertainment experience.”