Magazine Article


Snapfish Goes Retail, Exploring Marriage With Its Online Service

Despite its age, the store has a brand new, modern look and feel with more of an emphasis on products, merchandising and services than the fact that it is a one-hour lab. The equipment, a Fuji SFA-298 and a Photo Me digital lab are along a rear wall.

Significant display space arranged along both walls prominently shows a wide range of albums and frames, as big a selection as I've seen in an on-site store. There is a special Kids Corner and baby gift section focusing on items for those age groups. An all-Kodak film display, not as large as I would have expected (I wonder if Rite-Aid might impact that), and a display for video and digital media accessories.

I was especially interested in the treatment given to the digital direction of the store. After all, this location, was to be a "laboratory" and serve as a showpiece for others. Al said prospective clients, un-named, have already been there.

On one wall, about halfway down, are two digital stations. One is a typical Kodak G-3 digital print station offering on-board dye-sub prints. The other is a Digital Portal input station that is tied directly to the DKS minilab for photo output. Kim said that because the Kodak station has been in place longer, customers tend to approach that unit first.

The store prices a 4R print at 69-cents from the Kodak unit. From the Digital Portal kiosk, a print has a two-tier price depending on delivery: 38-cents same day, 31-cents, next day. A 24-exp. single print roll is sold for $7.99 next day and $9.49 for one-hour.

(Personally, I have always felt that one-hour stores should price everything at a one hour price and let the customer decide when it should be picked up. Tier-ing is a carryover from the overnight wholesale vs. on-site concept that is used by mass merchants and suggests to the customer that the store is offering two classes of service when, in fact, all the work is being done on-site at the same highest quality level.)

The Snapfish online display is a highly styled, modern eight-foot wall section by the firm that develops the KICS store designs. It incorporates two divided work stations, each with a sculptured counter top and its own work station with media card reader so that the customer can work on the Dell desktop in a semi-private area.

To me, the highlight of the display, are bright metal stools that allow the customer to work on images in comfort. I've spent 90 tiring minutes standing in front of a Wal-Mart Aladdin, so I know the difference a seat can make. There is ample space for a second seat for a spouse or child and this would make sense for a future design.

Store manager Kim said that all customers are invited to sign up for a Snapfish account at no charge. If they don't want to do it at the work station, the clerk will take name and email address and handle the registration.

Even customers bringing in film can play the online game. Sharon Skinner said that customers are told they can view their film images online at home, if they choose, and make a print selection. Prints can be picked up at the store or mailed.

Doesn't that open the possibility that a customer who is used to coming into the store for processing and may buy an interesting frame or album along the way, now won't have to come into the store any more? Al Steinman said that is a possible scenario but that in the end whatever can be done to make it easier for the customer to do business with you will be a positive for the business.

Snapfish is pushing more than just prints. District recently purchased an equity interest in a firm, Photo This, Chambersburg, PA, that provides fulfillment to the trade only for such things as mugs, mouse pads, etc. There is a large selection of new items that are available to the consumer and shown in a display adjacent to the work station area: a 36x53-inch baby blanket with photo for $70; boxer shorts "with a silky feel" and photo (great Valentine Day gift) for $25; glass cutting board and photo, $26; dog collars and leashes; etc.

Al said they now offer over 100 products and that new ones are coming. "The real growth comes from new products."

The enthusiasm for the new operation on the part of Sharon, Kim and Al sort of bring me back to the early days of one-hour when we were all glassy-eyed over the future of on-site processing. Might the marriage of on-site and online stimulate the same reaction?