The variety of substrates entering the market have spurred innovative applications. "I know a person who sells only one sublimated item-cue balls," says Gross. "Another had the foresight to realize that poker was going to become hot. He came to me a few years ago looking for a sublimatable poker chip. We invested in making the chips; now they sell by the hundreds of thousands. You can put your design on just one, or on thousands, and when the demand gets too large, you can go to offset sublimation, the mass decorative version of digital sublimation."
The Bottom Line
When asked how it has affected their bottom lines, Hanson and Park sang the praises of photo gifting using sublimation systems. "Almost 50% of our photofinishing dollars are produced from items that don't use chemical processing," says Hanson. "Photo gifts are an important part of the mix."
"I did a few things about two years ago," says Park, "with photo gifts being the big item. If I didn't do those things, I wouldn't be in business today. That's how much of an effect it has had on the business."
Aside from walk-in customers buying the occasional gift item, Park has found a very lucrative niche. "An advantage of being in New York City is that we have corporations coming in with large orders," he says. "They use mouse pads and mugs as promotional items, t-shirts for retirement parties, all that kind of stuff." Park buys the mugs for a little more than a dollar; the ink and paper cost is about a dollar, so the total cost is about $2.50 (the mugs sell for $14): "You don't have to be a genius. It's a very, very profitable business."