Another new hat has been thrown into the silver halide paper game with the announcement that the China Lucky Film Corp. has appointed Royal Marketing, Chatsworth, CA, as the exclusive importer and distributor for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
In addition, Royal Marketing will be importing the Lucky line of 35mm film, single use cameras and inkjet paper, according to David Press, executive vice president of Royal Marketing. All products will be marketed under the brand of Majestic High Definition Professional, he said.
All of a sudden, just when it appeared that Kodak and Fuji would have the paper markets to themselves, with the loss of the Agfa and Konica brands, Dai Nippon (see story, page 1) and now, China Lucky, have emerged as potent competitors. As neither of these two companies has an established distribution base in the U.S. it would be expected that price will become an important marketing tool and could bring considerable pricing pressure to bear on Kodak and Fuji.
Press, a former sales VP at Konica Minolta, calling on mass channels, said, "We will certainly have to be priced somewhere below Fuji and Kodak."
While only a short time ago many were dismissing silver halide as a dying species, there seems to be a resurgence in interest with some new, very powerful forces jumping into the fray. The jury is still out on whether Mitsubishi will remain in the silver halide paper business with rumors that they are seeking a new OEM supplier for their brand.
Royal Marketing, according to Press, is a 25-year old firm that has specialized in the distribution of imaging products and supplies, primarily Konica, to the cruise industry. It has warehouses in California, Miami, the Caribbean, and the UK.
He said that Royal Marketing will carry Lucky's line of papers in varying widths, and in glossy and lustre finishes. The digital paper will have a gold water mark and will bear the Digital Professional Color Paper name. The analog paper will have a gold water mark and will bear the Super Professional Color Paper name. Inkjet paper will be packaged for retail sale in 30 4x6 sheets, or 15 8½x11 sheets.
There will be one single use SKU, a 27-exp., 400 speed with flash, that could retail at about $4.99, according to Press.
He said that in addition to the brand marketing, Royal will be making available its paper and film products for private label branding and is already in talks with large users interested in private brand paper and film. He indicated that Lucky inventory is currently being brought into the country.
Press said that Royal Marketing is planning to distribute through a group of about 3-5 master distributors and is now in a review process for the United States. Separate distribution is planned for Canada and Mexico. In addition, he is looking to hire independent reps. Interested parties can call David Press at 800-222-4235.
China Lucky, according to its website, was incorporated in 1958 and "is now the largest national photosensitive materials.manufacturer in China." Intriguing in the story is that in 2003 Kodak signed a $100 million, 20-year co-operative agreement with China Lucky, wherein Kodak would provide technical and manufacturing technology support "to assist Lucky in upgrading its existing triacetate film base production and coating line," according to an October, 2003 press release. It stated that Kodak would have a 20% stake in China Lucky though, according to a PMA Newsline story on August 24 2006, quoting Reuters, Kodak holds a 13% stake in the company. Kodak has confirmed that number.
No doubt the agreement was a way for Kodak to work its way into the formidable, tightly controlled China marketplace. Now, that technology is being exported by China Lucky right back into the U.S. to compete with Kodak, are the two papers the same? The PMA Newsline article reported: "Kodak in brand dispute with its China partner, Lucky Film Co." It went on to say that the watermark on the Lucky paper was too similar to the Kodak Royal paper and that "consumers can't tell the difference."
Asked to comment on the China Lucky arrangement with Royal Marketing, Charles Smith, a Kodak spokesman, stated: "The primary intent of our agreement with Lucky is to more quickly develop the market for photographic products in Asia and other developing markets and serve consumers there. As a partner, we are disappointed that we did not have advance knowledge of their arrangement with Royal Marketing and cannot comment on that."