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Industry Exclusive: Picture People Photo Studio Chain Switches From Noritsu Inkjet [Dry] to Wet

After installing about 40 Noritsu inkjet dry labs in its retail portrait studios, the Picture People are switching to the Noritsu 3202 wet systems for the balance of the 320-store chain, it was learned.

An informed source within the company, who requested he not be identified, confirmed that problems with jamming inkjet paper in the dDP-610 system resulted in “too many down-days” and they were forced to abandon the firm's goal to go to all-dry studios.

He said, “We still believe that the inkjet concept is absolutely where we need to be. Eventually it is where the portrait studio industry will have to go.”

After as long as two years of evaluating competitive systems to replace a custom wet machine supplied by San Marco Imaging, last March the Picture People decided on the Noritsu dDP-610 as its solution. They said it offered the speed and simplicity it was seeking for its business model which is to do a sitting and deliver the finished package to its customer in about an hour. Forty machines were installed in various locations.

The source said that with the onset of hot weather the stores began experiencing serious paper problems with the 400-foot Kodak inkjet roll paper being used at the time. He indicated that the paper would “warp and curl” resulting in jamming in the machine and high paper waste. He felt that humidity was the underlying problem and all efforts to correct the problems were not successful.

He noted that Picture People originally used Epson paper and had no problems with it but added that the switch from Epson to Kodak was before the hot weather conditions which, he acknowledged, might have affected the Epson paper similarly. He said it was not known whether the source of the problem was the paper, a problem inherent in all inkjet papers, or the Noritsu equipment itself.

The firm looked at alternative solutions to the dDP unit inviting new bids from Fuji but finally settled on the Noritsu 3202. Picture People already had a few of the 3202 in its system and were pleased with its performance, according to the source. “It's a more expensive system but it's bulletproof and reliable.” The 3202s with Kodak SM cartridge chemistry was important “for a lab run by photographers, not skilled lab technicians.”

The 40 dDP units are being re-located to lower volume stores and it is expected that the 3202 machines will be installed in the entire chain within the next 6-8 months.

Noritsu's comment on the matter: “We value our relationship with The Picture People and have no comment at this time.” A spokesperson for Kodak also chose not to comment on the matter.

The Picture People chain was purchased in September, 2005, by Plainfield Asset Management Co., Greenwich , CN, from Hallmark Cards. In addition to about 320 stores, located primarily in large malls, the firm said it has plans to open about 50 new locations in the coming year.