Why CVS and Walmart still print photos
Many aspects of drug stores and supermarkets feel like they’re of another era. But perhaps the most retro part of these stores is the photo-printing equipment.
In a time when most photos don’t leave the confines of a smartphone, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Albertsons and other chains still offer photo prints, greeting cards, books, film processing and other services.
Who needs to print photos anymore? Well, there’s still demand from some customers: Photo services bring traffic into these retailers’ stores, particularly during the peak holiday, graduation and wedding seasons.
More than 50% of photo prints made this year will come from a retail store, totaling about $786 million in sales, said David Haueter, a longtime photo industry analyst and the founder of consulting and market research firm Rise Above Research.
Around 4.2 billion 4” x 6″ prints alone will be developed at stores this year, he added.
“People aren’t printing as much as they used to, but there are still people who like to print,” said Haueter.
Retro technology and older gadgets have staying power in part because they allow people to unplug from the constant ping-ping-ping of their devices.
Interest among Gen Z and Millennials in film cameras has picked up in recent years. Photography became a popular hobby, with camera sales reportedly spiking on sites like Etsy and eBay. Disposable cameras have also made a comeback with younger consumers, as celebrities like Chris Pine and Gigi Hadid have been spotted with them, driving interest.
Haueter said many consumers like ordering photo prints and products at stores like CVS because they get the goods immediately, with no shipping charges. They’re often heading to these drug stores to pick up other stuff, too.
CVS offers photo services in around 7,600 stores. “We continue to see a strong demand for this service — especially around gift-giving seasons,” a spokesperson said.
More than 8,000 Walgreens stores offer photo services, said Raghu Valata, Walgreens’ senior director of digital commerce strategy and planning. “Holidays tend to be a busy time for our photo business, with the highest foot traffic generally seen in December,” Valata said.
Though drug stores and other retailers have kept their photo services in stores, it’s not the answer for every business: Costco and Target have nixed them in recent years. Costco last year closed photo centers at all of its roughly 800 stores, telling customers that the “continued decline of prints no longer requires on-site photo printing” and that “digital technologies allow consumers to do more with their photos.”
But at Walmart, by contrast, around 3,700 stores have Fujifilm photo kiosks — typically located within the store’s electronics department and they’re often put to use.
It’s a service that “customers utilize quite regularly,” a Walmart spokesperson said, including people who may not have access to a computer to order prints online. “We maintain a healthy business year-round.”
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