Today, the typical Picture People setup involves a Nikon film camera and a custom made, optical, printer-processor made for it by San Marco Imaging. This is now the pattern for about 90% of the locations.
In the others, Picture People has been experimenting with a digital setup that includes a Canon 20D camera and a Noritsu 3202 digital lab. The results have been encouraging enough for PP management to commit to an all-digital environment that not only incorporates the taking of a digital image and processing it digitally, but the use of a variety of digital tools to enhance the sales process as well.
I visited one of the Picture People flagship locations with John Johnson. Located in the Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City, NY, a 2,100-sq.-ft. store with a 40-ft. front, it is very bright and attractively appointed for a positive sales atmosphere-appealing especially to the kids. The store features all of the digital gadgets available for enhancing the sales process. For example, in the front window of the store is a 60-inch plasma screen devoted to Picture People merchandising messages. It is directly controlled by Foster City headquarter operations where themes can be, and are, changed throughout the course of a day, depending on seasons, holidays, time of day-or whatever.
Inside the store, Dawn Cumia, the district manager, walked me through a typical shoot and the way digital is being used in the sales process.
Four separate rooms are set up for shooting. Since about 95% of the jobs include children, PP has a large variety of props, most of them, according to John Johnson, made exclusively for the firm. Airplanes and boats are always available; sleds and pumpkins are seasonally stored. Usually, said Dawn, five poses are shot. After the shoot, the images are sent to a server and the sales person and customer sit at one of four selling stations where the images are viewed on a personal, 19-inch plasma monitor. Overhead, one of a bank of 42-inch plasma screens also shows the images.
The sales person talks about the variety of packages available. Any image can be shown in a variety of frames available for sale, vertical or horizontal, to upgrade the sale. The selected order is sent to the Noritsu for printing and in a few minutes the sales person delivers the finished order, printed on Kodak Endura paper, to the customer in an attractive, 12x15-inch, four-color folder.
Dawn said she also shows the customer the images in black and white as well as color and that about 10% of customers choose both as an option.
The Noritsu can output up to 10x13 prints for on-site delivery. PP has a large central lab facility in Modesto, CA, where it fulfills orders for 16x20, 20x24 and 24x36 along with the ties, mouse pads and other specialty items that are returned in two to three weeks.
A PP high-end package including five poses and 16 package sheets costs $256. The low end is $46. John Johnson would not reveal the average revenue per sale.
The store is manned by four full-time employees and 16 part-timers according to Dawn, and this increases to about 30 during the Christmas holiday frenzy. Do you require a photo background for a new hire, Dawn? 'No, we hire people for their positive attitude. We'll photo-train them.' All employees are cross- trained for all of the store's activities, including sales, shooting, and lab work.
Sales promotions of one sort or another are the order of the day. For the most recent Father's Day holiday, PP had a special that included the traditional tie for dad, this one printed with the selected portrait image right on the tie for $20. The Ultimate Portrait Package included a bundle of prints, a 12x16 matted portrait, an 8x10 framed portrait and a variety of prints for $160.
It also offers a Portrait Club program where, for $40, a customer gets, among other things, a year of free sittings, three color portrait sheets, members-only shopping hours and a year of free storage for images.
Two 'cutesy' things I saw: carpeting panels in various sizes, shapes, and colors placed around the store are embroidered with such prompts as 'Start' at the entrance, 'Smile' at the posing area, 'View' in the sales area, and 'Finish' at the pickup station. Also, the business cards that Dawn and John offered me include their personal head shots, not unusual, except the pictures were of them as children, not adults. Nice touch.
John feels that Picture People must go full digital on-site because fast turnaround is what moms want to simplify their already burdened schedule. Going fully digital, according to John, makes the experience an even more positive one for the customer.