The digitalisation of photography has hastened the demise of traditional processing methods and retailers are acting decisively to stay up to speed.
Why are we talking about it now?
Boots is closing 160 of its 520 in-store processing labs, potentially cutting around 200 jobs. It said last week it is reacting to a changing market, as digital cameras replace traditional film cameras. “The way our customers use photo services has changed significantly over recent years,” Boots said. Photo departments will not be closed completely, but the retailer will be focusing more on digital photo printing.
Who is in the market?
Specialist photo developing chain Snappy Snaps and camera retailer Jessops are key players. And despite retracting its offer in some stores, Boots is one of the key players, alongside supermarkets Asda and Tesco. Most of the grocers offer digital photo printing kiosks for digital prints in their bigger stores. Brands like Fujifilm offer a mail order photo development service.
What effect will the Boots closures have on the market?
Rivals will benefit, including Snappy Snaps, which will be granted “a bit of breathing space”, according to Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders. But he believes that the closures will not have a major effect because traditional prints “have been in long-term decline for many years”.
What does the future hold for photo developing services?
Digital cameras have largely eradicated the need for traditional photo developing services as people print photos from digital printing kiosks. Although photo developing is still strong on the professional side, through occasion photography such as weddings, Saunders believes high street retailers have largely failed to grasp that opportunity.
“The rationale for photo labs on the high street is disappearing,” says Saunders. Furthermore, he believes digital printing services, such as in-store kiosks, also have a shelf life. He argues rival online services are cheaper and more convenient because people can order or print photos at home.
However, retailers have been fighting the decline by adding new services such as product personalisation, where customers can print pictures on mugs and T-shirts. Asda has been offering such add-ons and says its customers are still printing photos in “huge quantities”.
What other high street services are under threat?
“Anything that is threatened by the digital world,” says Saunders. He suggests that as banking moves more online, the need for a physical presence could diminish.
“But there is nothing that is in the same position as photography,” he adds.