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PMA Vendors Pumping Prints

Approximately 700 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees are expected to converge on the Orange County Convention Center here for the Photo Marketing Association’s (PMA) annual trade show and convention to be held Feb. 24-27.

According to Gary Pageau of PMA, the show’s attendee numbers will be nearly as strong, but the number of exhibitors will be off slightly from last year.

“We’re seeing a tightening of budgets, exhibitors are bringing fewer people,” said Pageau.

The show will feature the industry stalwarts, exhibitors such as Agfa, Canon, Eastman Kodak, Fuji Film, Gretag, Ilford, Konica, Minolta, Nikon, Noritsu, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, and Sony will again anchor the expo and are expected to announce new digital imaging products. Adobe, ArcSoft, Casio, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Toshiba and others will present new consumer digital products in expanded exhibits.

HP, who marked an aggressive move in digital imaging at CES, will have expanded booth space at the PMA show. The booth will in part reflect a new alliance with digital printing technology company Indigo. HP will also debut finishing products by Phogenix Imaging, its joint venture with Kodak.

Even beleaguered Polaroid is expected to display retail printing technology with its new Opal technology as well as new digital cameras.

Despite the recession, Pageau and several buyers who spoke to TWICE were upbeat on the prospects for digital camera sales in 2002.

“Digital cameras represent a substantial portion of our CE business,” said Frank Sadowski, VP of electronics, “We’re very bullish on growth in this category for 2002.”

As such, Sadowski noted he’d be paying close attention to the higher-end and solution-oriented cameras (like Kodak’s Easy Share and HP’s new Instant Share) that have resonated with his customer base. Most of Amazon’s customers bought, in 2001, cameras of 2 megapixels and above, Sadowski reported.

Though PMA promises to be awash in pixels, cameras will have to compete with emerging printing technologies that have garnered retail interest.

“You won’t see as much pixel-pumping this year,” said Pageau. “You’ll see 4 and 5 megapixel cameras but the emphasis will be more on features, ease of use and price. I think the real story of the show will be getting digital prints in some retail solution, either by a minilab or kiosk,” said Pageau.

Bob Gundersen, merchandize manager at Best Buy, concurred that his focus will be more on getting a sense of consumer’s printing habits than on just checking out the latest cameras.

“As household penetration starts to grow, we want to understand how people will be sharing images,” said Gundersen, who said that Best Buy has experimented with a Sony/Pixel Magic kiosk with “mild” results. Best Buy is waiting to build a print fulfillment business model until it fully learns consumers’ printing proclivities, said Gundersen.

“It’s very apparent that the consumer market has not been taught to print yet,” said Pageau. “That’s what this show will largely be about. Household penetration is reaching a point where manufacturers are starting to push their retail print solutions and retailers are starting to take notice.”