By Martin Vedris
SYDNEY: Since 1996, Fujifilm Australia has been rolling out its Frontier Digital Minilabs and has just installed its 800th one at Dick Smith Powerhouse in Elizabeth, South Australia. The company is now expecting to exceed the 1,000 mark within two years.
Of the 800 Fujifilm minilabs currently installed, there are 205 in various consumer electronics stores including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, Bing Lee, Clive Peeters and Wow. There are a further 103 installed in mass merchants stores such as Big W and Woolworths. The majority of 477 are installed in specialist camera stores such as Rabbit and Camera House, with the remaining 15 at other locations such as theme parks.
In July last year the growth of the Fujifilm business was given a boost when Harvey Norman launched the Fujifilm digital photography concept store within a store and rolled it out in all stores in the Harvey Norman network.
However, according to Fujifilm, the company unveiled the ‘world’s first ‘ digital minilab in 1996.
“The popularity and growth of Frontier Minilabs since that time has been accelerated by both advancements in technology as well as the availability of photo kiosks, which are now commonplace in retail,” said Fujifilm senior category manager – Hardware, Daniel Paul.
“Fujifilm kiosks are now one of the most popular methods used by consumers to order photographs in Australian retail stores.
There are currently more than 5,500 Fujifilm photo kiosks in operation throughout Australia, with the majority of kiosk prints derived from digital minilabs.”
There is more growth in sight for Fujifilm.
"Fujifilm expect that the demand for, and sales of, Frontier Digital Minilabs will continue as new entrants come into the market, existing retailers expand their store networks, early adopters update their lab equipment and as technological advances, such as the newly introduced Frontier Dry Minilab, bring about new profitability opportunities for retailers," said Paul.
"Our sales targets remain as positive as they have done for the past few years and, including the Frontier Dry Minilab, we would expect to achieve the 1,000 unit milestone between the next 18 months to two years."
Digital cameras put an end to traditional film photography, and simultaneously increased the number of photographs people take while reducing the processing costs, because consumers don’t need to develop negatives or transparencies any more, they can simply view their images on screen and only print out ones they particularly want, and even then they can print them at home on their inkjet printers.
However, Paul suggests that there is still a market for professionally printing images.
“Professionally printed digital photographs are still considered the safest way to ensure images are available to show family generations in years to come,” he said “The longevity of the silver halide process is a trusted photo printing solution that has stood the test of time with its archival capabilities.
“As vast numbers of feature-packed digital cameras and camera phones continue to pour into the market, digital printing continues to increase with printed photos now just as conventional as they were in the ‘film age’.”
Digital photography has given consumer electronics retailers an increased product range with the many photo gift ideas that photo kiosks and photography minilabs provide.
“The photo gift range includes premium personalised hard and soft cover photo books that are fully bound and printed on thick archival paper for long-lasting durability — as well as folding greeting cards, photo calendars, porcelain ornaments, a range of bags, puzzles, bookmarks, posters and canvas prints to name a few,” Paul said.