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Prints at Retail (Just not CE)

Why don’t CE retailers push in-store printing?

One of the interesting paradoxes of the digital imaging marketplace is the fact that consumer electronics stores sell the most digital cameras (at least until last year), but they don’t capture much of the “after capture” dollar in the form of retail photo printing.

Some blame the gender gap: men buy the cameras at consumer electronics stores and women make the prints at mass merchants, drug stores and supermarkets.

As long as digital camera sales grew and photo printing in-store lagged, this gender gap was good for CE and not so good for the rest. But that pendulum is shifting. Camera ASPs are dropping, and so (if analysts are to be believed) will unit volumes. Meanwhile, retail print volumes are on the rise.

More than that, as evidenced by PMA, the center of gravity is slowly shifting in the imaging market — away from capture devices (though they’re still wildly popular) and toward what to do with the hundreds of thousands of pictures on your hard drive. Vendors like Kodak and Fujifilm (among others) are trying to position their channel partners to profit from this, by giving them the ability to make photo books in-store as well as a few other photo novelty items. It’s an open question whether consumers will trust their local drug store to produce a $40 photo book for them, but if this market does grow, CE dealers don’t look especially poised to profit from it.

Which begs the question — why haven’t CE stores promoted themselves as print destinations to offset the inevitable decline in camera sales?

The answer I hear from most people in the know is, again, the gender gap. A CE store just isn’t in mom’s routine (nor is it as conveniently located as a drug store or supermarket). Nor is it traditionally associated with print making.

I know from sitting in on Alan Wolf’s retail roundtable at CES that dealers are keen to pitch services to off-set declining hardware prices, but there doesn’t appear to be as much excitement for imaging services as there is for, say, installing a flat-panel TV.