Magazine Article


Online Uploads to Retail A Growing Category: Ritz Switches to Kodak Gallery for One-Hour Pick-up
Retail Photofinishing Scene

Kodak Gallery offers the service of customer-upload for next day pick-up at any one of six major Kodak accounts, but this is the first time it teamed up with a retailer to reduce the delivery time at the store to one hour using the Kodak G4 kiosk as the output device instead of a Qualex facility.

Kodak Gallery partners for the next-day program are listed on its website as CVS, Brooks, Eckerd, Wegmans, Bartell Drugs, and Meijer. The expansion of Gallery into a one-hour program will no doubt put major pressure on Kodak by these chains and others to expand their own menu to include the one-hour turnaround option. It could be made available to any chain equipped with the upgraded Kodak kiosk.

Rowan Lawson, Kodak's worldwide marketing director, kiosk group, said the Ritz program was in development for six months and acknowledged that there was "active discussion" with other accounts for the program. He said there could be announcements "in the near future." Though he would not identify the accounts, it can be presumed that it might include some or all of the above major partners already in the next-day program.

The Kodak G4 kiosk is the key to the Ritz service. Customers upload images through the Kodak EasyShare Gallery website, select a Ritz store for pick-up, and are given an order number. At the store the customer inputs the number into the G4 and gets "instant" prints from the onboard printer, which outputs a 4x6 print about every six seconds.

Ritz has about 1,100 G4 kiosks in service as of November 2006, with at least one per location.

Ritz Camera kicked off the in-store Gallery program on November 20, according to Rich Tranchida, Ritz's executive VP. He noted the service is currently available in about 750 Ritz Camera Center stores that are equipped with high-speed DSL connections. He said this number will be expanded as new DSL lines become available. The chain currently has about 1,000 locations.

Neither Rowan Lawson nor Rich Tranchida would discuss the revenue-sharing arrangement between the two firms—if, in fact, there is any. With its next-day Gallery accounts, Kodak is providing the print fulfillment and delivery service for which it earns revenue.

The Ritz-Gallery program competes with Ritz's own RitzPix program, its branded, online, one-hour store pick-up program that is about three years old. The major difference is that the RitzPix orders are printed on a Fuji Frontier on Fuji silver halide paper as opposed to the G4, which outputs on Kodak dye-sub media and is promoted as an "instant" service.

After about three weeks of operation, Tranchida said that the Gallery program is already fairly active. How active? "We are getting hundreds of orders a day." How does this compare with the firm's RitzPix program? "So far it's not even in the same league."

Rowan Lawson indicated that the Gallery one-hour program could be made available to any retailer that owned a G4 kiosk as well as later model G3's and that it is being tested with selected independent retailers in California. New software and a high-speed connection is required, and Kodak takes on the role of system integrator. Base price for a G4 kiosk system with a single model 6850 4x6 printer is $5,000, he indicated, but being modular, it can be equipped with a gang of 4x6 and 8x10 printers.

What is especially interesting is the below-the-radar exposure that the Kodak EasyShare Gallery website gives to the Ritz one-hour pick-up plan. While its major account players with next-day pick-up get their names and logos prominently displayed on its "Save on Shipping" webpage, consumers don't even know about the Ritz one-hour plan until after their order is placed and they are asked to select a pick-up location.

A spokesperson for Kodak acknowledged the low-key promotion of the Ritz one-hour service on the web, stating that it's typical for a roll-out program. "We want to make sure everything is working properly" before we highlight it. It was indicated that the service will be evaluated and, meeting expectations, would be given greater prominence in early '07.

Banking on Web-Savvy Consumers

An online upload for one-hour in-store pick-up is not new to the photo specialty sector, though Ritz is the first to promote it to a wide geographical base. Certain photo specialty labs also offer the service through affiliations with such firms as Graphx, Inc.'s Photogize; LifePics; and Trevoli's Photo Finale, a firm recently purchased by Lucidiom.

Fuji claims to have been the first to create the online-upload-dealer concept in 2003 with its Get The Picture Online program and provides the service to Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target, Longs Drug, and other retailers. In November, Walgreens also signed onto the Fuji online program, offering 4x6 prints at 19 cents each with one-hour delivery. This is a supplement to Walgreen's tie with HP's Snapfish.