Magazine Article


How To Cope With Roll Erosion

The new battle lines are pitting the entire on-site industry, mass and independent alike, against the forces of those promoting printing at home. And those forces are formidable.

No matter which magazine I open, which newspaper pages I turn, which TV channel I watch, I am constantly being bombarded with advertising for the latest home inkjet printer from HP, Epson, Canon or others extolling the latest in home printing technology to give better quality, faster and with archive features. The printer folks are in their own battle with one another to place printers in the home that will consume their proprietary inks. We seem to be their victims.

Such huge advertising exposure has an impact. As a consumer owning a digital camera it would appear that the only way to print is at home. Those are the messages I continue to see from the printer manufacturers.

Where is the consumer getting the opposing story that says: Hey, folks, remember us? We did that great job of processing your film. We can make your digital prints, also.

From the very beginning of the digital era the industry talked of the need to educate the consumer. That education is being done, yes, but by the home printing group—not the photo folks. There are some photo movers who have taken the challenge and do promote digital printing in-store, but their story is barely a whisper over the loud drum-banging and multi-million dollar advertising budgets of the printer people.

Consumers are slowly—but surely—becoming more aware that they can
print their digital images at their local photo retail store. While the vast majority of digital camera users still print at home, the
number of those that print at retail more than tripled since 2002.

One would expect that Kodak should be picking up that ball and running with it. Aren't they in a position to benefit the most from on-site, not home, printing of all of these digital images? They have the horses to do it with.

Yes, but it seems as though they are putting these horses to work more toward home printing than to on-site. The aforementioned Kodak annual report boasts that Kodak shares the market leadership (presumably with HP) in the sales of home inkjet paper in the U.S. and that worldwide sales increased 32%. Also, they claim that the Kodak Printer Dock, a home thermal printer introduced last year dedicated to 4x6 output, is a $100 million segment and they are No. 2 in that business (Sony probably No. 1). And, let's not forget that Kodak promised a home inkjet printer for 2006. No question as to which direction the Kodak horses are running.

Fuji seems to have the most reason to drive digital printing to retail. With little or no stake in home printing but with a very strong position at retail with its popular Frontier minilabs serving many of the biggest on-site retailers, Fuji has a need to understand and keep up with the world of home printing and the folks that do it.

For the third year, Fuji has commissioned InfoTrends Research Group, Norwell , MA , a leading digital imaging market research firm to conduct a consumer survey. The results were presented at a NYC conference in mid-April by InfoTrends senior research analyst Kerry Flatley, entitled: "Fujifilm USA Digital Camera Retail Printing Study, Year 3."

We have long talked about the need for educating the consumer to the fact that digital prints can be made at the same store that has so faithfully handled the consumer's film needs. According to the report: "In September 2002, only 34% of digital camera users...said their local film processing location could print photos from a digital camera. In January 2004, 68% were aware..." The message seems to be getting through.

Does that mean that more digital shooters were getting their prints done at retail? In fact, yes. The InfoTrends report states that their survey found that 17% of digital shooters were having their prints made at retail. This is quite a shift from the 5% that did so in the 2002 survey and 3% in the 2001 survey. Certainly, a positive trend.

Don't get too comfy. Some 92% said they did print at home. Why? "...they find home printing to be a convenient and easy solution for obtaining prints."