Hewlett Packard this week completed the installation of 181 of its Photosmart Studio systems in the Meijers supermarket and general merchandise stores, the largest chain installation for HP to date, with stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.
A commitment of this magnitude by such an important player as Meijers could represent a significant endorsement to the concept of onsite production of such products as photo books, collage posters, and other high margin services in a mass merchant environment. These products, for the most part, have been the province of online sites though the more progressive of on-site retailers have been inching in.
There was considerable fanfare when HP first came to market with the Studio at PMA-Orlando in 2006 and announced that it signed a deal to install 50 Studios at Wal-Mart locations on a test program. While those systems remain in place, Wal-Mart, so far, has decided to not expand the program.
HP’s other major installation for the Studio is at Longs Drug which has about 100 systems in operation throughout California. Longs, with a total of about 490 locations, also operates in Hawaii and Nevada. The chain has had a long-standing relationship with Fuji and continues to operate the Frontier in all stores—even those with the HP studio.
In the case of Meijers, however, the installation of 181 HP Studios resulted in the removal of 137 Noritsu minilabs with the remaining 44 Noritsu units left in place at certain Meijer locations. According to sources, the stores without Noritsu equipment will be outlabbing film processing to District Photo for a two-day turnaround service.
It was learned that Meijers began field-testing the Photosmart Studio in July and by mid-September HP was installing about 25 units a week.
The Noritsu systems, mostly 2900 series, were shipped to AAA Imaging Solutions, Santa Ana, CA. Lou Burgess, vice president, said that most of the units would be shipped out of the country with the largest number going to customers in Africa.
In other HP news, Dan Kinsley, vice president, retail photo, reported the addition of new printing output options by HP that has resulted in the expansion of the Photosmart Studio system offering and some new names to identify each.
The ‘basic’ setup consists strictly of dry lab print output components and includes the year-old Microlab 1000 for 4x6 inkjet prints and the B9180, just introduced, which can be configured for both 5x7 and/or 8x10 prints.
The HP Photosmart Studio, the original system, continues as the equipment configuration designed to output the wide variety of photo books, posters, collages, etc.
Combining the various photo printers to the Photosmart Studio into one setup and HP has decided on the new name of HP Photosmart Center, according to Kinsley.
At the PhotoPlus Expo event held at the Javits Center in New York a few weeks ago, HP unveiled an expanded line of albums and poster designs as well as a new system for binding photo books.
Shaun Wilde, product manager, retail photo solutions for HP, demonstrated the new ‘pinch book’ method for binding photo pages that eliminates the previous pressure binding system equipment. The album covers are made with a spring spine that can be spread open by bending the covers backward. Not only does this simplify the binding process, according to Wilde, it allows a consumer to add pages to an already produced photo book.
Wilde noted that there were 41 new album covers ranging from high-end leather and linen to less expensive cloth coverings. There is a Limited Edition series of six albums, each carrying a specific album theme both inside and outside, and another 19 albums with dedicated graphics including themes representing sunflowers, newborns, confetti, family tree, etc.
In addition, HP announced a variety of custom packaging solutions for a retailer outputting Studio products. These include plastic bags for posters, envelopes for books and calendars, envelopes for enlargements up to 8x10, and print envelopes for 4x6 and CD’s.