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Hewlett-Packard system offers an answer.

SAN DIEGO -- People are snapping more pictures than ever before, according to the Photo Marketing Association. The challenge retail photoprocessors face in this digital era is getting consumers to print those pictures.

Hewlett-Packard Co. may have the solution.

The company has developed a system that allows consumers to turn their digital images into everything from posters to hardcover printed photo albums, all of which can be produced right in the store.

"There are a number of machines out there that will turn a consumer's digital images into 4-inch by 6-inch prints," says Rick Voight, director of sales, North America, for Hewlett-Packard's digital photography and entertainment business. "But is that really what the customer wants? What does the customer do with 4-inch by 6-inch prints? Put them in an album, which most people don't do? Or put them in a shoe box and store them?

"From our machine customers have many more options. They can order albums of various sizes, as well as posters, calendars, greeting cards or photo CDs."

One of the system's strengths is its flexibility, Customers who want to organize their photos into a printed album can staff with a soft-cover booklet version, which has a suggested retail price of $7. Or they can go with a larger version that is more elaborate and comes with a hard cover, If they want to turn their photos into a calendar, Hewlett-Packard's software will let them staff it when they want. Instead of forcing them to have a calendar that runs from January to December, customers can create calendars that staff with July and end with June, for example.

"One of the things that is fun about this is that we're seeing consumers come up with a lot of their own ideas about what to do with these products," Voight says. "After a party or a wedding people are printing out mini photo booklets and are sending them out to their guests, We've seen small and medium businesses using the booklets as business cards. We've come up with some good ideas, but consumers will come up with ideas that we haven't even thought of."

At the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace show, Hewlett-Packard showed off a version of its system that features a kiosk as the front end, It included samples of the different products a consumer could produce, including posters, calendars and photo books. The kiosk thus functions as a merchandising tool, and Hewlett-Packard is developing additional merchandising concepts that can help retailers sell other auxiliary products, including picture frames.

Voight says the real strength of the system is that it can allow retailers to offer consumers a wide variety of photo-based products, which can be sold at very competitive prices while still reaping healthy profit margins.

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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 17, 2006
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