Photo books offer new focus for in-store photo centers

With the opportunities presented by the growth of digital imaging, it’s little wonder that Walgreens is testing a new dedicated photo kiosk that has as its one purpose the convenient creation of photo books.

According to the Photo Marketing Association, photo book sales approximately quadrupled between 2005 and 2008, when they reached $326 million—yet, in 2009, spending on photo books is expected to increase by only 4%.

To gain ground, the PMA said, companies that are providing photo books must convince more households that they are attractive alternatives to traditional prints and albums. That may require changes in pricing, design and distribution, not to mention ease of use. Even online, low awareness and high project abandonment rates plague photo book operations. But growth potential is inherent in the growth of digital cameras and camera phone use, which will result in 27 billion images captured in the United States by year’s end, compared with 24.8 billion in 2008, the PMA stated.

The KIS Photobook Maker addresses the time challenge associated with putting together the photo books. KIS kiosks create, print, bind and deliver photo albums in 10 minutes by using technology that simplifies design and processing. Drawing images from USB sticks or memory cards, consumers can quickly craft high-gloss, stain-proof and scratch-resistant photo albums, mounting up to 90 images in up to 30 pages.

From the start, KIS determined to keep the photo book creation process short and the processing time limited so that consumers could take a finished product home from the store where it was made. “We create instant happiness in the store,” said Nicolas Series, president of KIS.

KIS kiosks require only 3 sq. ft. of space, and are stocked and serviced by Fuji in the United States. The machines pay for themselves when they produce two photo books a day, Series said.

Walgreens is starting with a single-unit test, looking at potentially supplementing its online and in-store kiosk digital photo processing services. “We are testing [the KIS kiosk] in one store in a north Chicago suburb, and we have no plans right now beyond that store,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Washington.

“We do a pretty quick turnaround on photo books, but we do at this point still send them out,” Washington continued. “We’ve been fairly successful, especially seasonally, but we want to see if customers will do photo book self-service. As they become more comfortable, I can imagine lots of folks would want to do that kind of editing and selecting at home, but some might want to have that in-store experience.”

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