Magazine Article


How To Cope With Roll Erosion

Fifty-eight percent said that home printing is more affordable, said the survey. This, I cannot understand. Consumers are either unaware of what their own photo paper and ink costs them per print, or they are unaware of what's going on in terms of retail pricing of digital prints. Must be a lapse in consciousness as Wal-Mart is at 24-cents a print, Costco, 19-cents and online fulfillers go as low as 17-cents—as Club Photo did in a recent Easter special.

Probably the easiest story for on-site to sell is the price advantage, but it's not being exploited. There may be one roadblock here: the photo specialist who insists that a consumer should pay more for a digital print than one made from a negative. I know of no large retailer that has taken this pricing position, yet I see it at independent minilabs. A print is a print, after all, and I'm certain that once the equipment is in place, a cost accountant will tell you it probably costs even less to make a print from a digital source than from film.

By the way, "...57% of respondents said they would not be willing to pay more for digital prints." Get the message?

The Fuji-InfoTrends survey did find that their surveyed digital shooters gave high marks to the retail photofinisher in one area: quality. "62%...believe that retail photofinishers give the best quality prints." That's a plus and a reputation that's been earned over many years of performance.

One interesting bit of information from the report is that " their photos on their hard drive." There's a real Achilles' heel that should be exploited by the photo trade. How many of us have experienced a hard drive crash and lost it all—data-wise and anger-wise? While some store images to CDs, most remain on the hard drive where they continue to be vulnerable. Besides, how long will CD and DVD remain as viable formats in this ever-changing digital world? Consumers have to be reminded that their albums of photo prints have been around for a long time—and will continue to be.

If you wonder about the urgency to get on the ball and switch your promotional emphasis to digital (while still paying your bills from film processing), this tidbit should concern us: "Twenty-seven percent of digital camera owners reported that their digital camera had completely replaced their film camera, meaning they no longer consumed film." This compared to 21% in 2001.

The large merchants have done a much better job in preparing themselves and their customers for in-store digital services with their merchandising, enlightened pricing practices and promotions. Meanwhile, as independent camera stores have conceded much of the digital camera hardware business to the electronics chains, free standing minilabs continue to be pressured by mass merchant chain competition for film processing. With the heavy competition from within the industry striking on one side and with the latest technology, digital, drawing prints toward the home computer on the other side, photo specialists of all stripes are on the brink. If they don't equip themselves for digital, work to educate the consumer on "why retail," and find a way to re-direct the digital printing to the store, their future is not a bright one.

Usually, manufacturers are most reluctant to reveal the details of surveys that they have spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop. Why is Fuji so willing to share all of the results with the trade? Joe Welch, Fuji 's director of marketing, retail digital, said, "We do it to assist others and to take a leadership position in our industry." He said the information is used "to devise and execute retail strategies with our customers."

The Fuji-InfoTrends report concludes: "In-store marketing has proven to be most effective for educating consumers about printing photos in retail stores...While much work remains to draw digital camera users into retail stores, signs of growth in the industry are progressing with each passing year."

Yes, Fuji , who paid for this survey, has a big stake in the idea of "progressing with each passing year." So have we all.

Jerry Lansky is president of MiniLab Consultants, Inc., P.O. Box 475 , Colts Neck, NJ 07722. Tel: (732) 946-8484. E-mail: