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The allure of new technologies: an irresistible force.

NEW YORK -- More consumer electronics products and accessories are finding their way onto the racks and shelves of many chains and independent locations. Suppliers are citing accessibility to stores and convenient shopping hours as reasons for the growing success of this product category in the channel.

Michael Newman, president of Craig Electronics, said one of the trends he is seeing with consumer electronics products is a much quicker adoption curve. "Today we are seeing a faster adoption in the drug channel of new technologies that are relevant and very today. A great example is the introduction of Alexa-type smart home products with some retailers this year as well as the expansion of Bluetooth headphones and speakers as a larger portion of the channel SKUs. The mobile accessory space is also being revamped to insure that retailers offer their customers the latest in charging and care for today's new smartphones."

Newman pointed out that consumers have a very loyal and special relationship with their drug store. "Just like the prescriptions or beauty products they purchase every day, they are also looking for electronic products to satisfy immediate needs: play back their music, charge their phone or grab a tablet for an upcoming trip. The fact that consumers can now purchase these items at their favorite store builds a stronger relationship with the retailer and saves them valuable time."

Craig Electronics offers a wide range of consumer electronic products from the latest in Bluetooth headphones to speakers, tablets, Alexa-based products, mobile accessories, and more. "We even supply our customers with heaters and fans during the winter and summer seasons. We will continue to expand our assortments to meet the channel partner and consumer needs."

"Craig has been the most trusted value-conscious consumer electronics brand for over 50 years. Our mission is simple--to always come to the market with the latest and greatest technologies and most on-trend products at affordable prices while always exceeding quality expectations. We continue to deliver against our mission statement and are working with our partners to bring exciting new solutions for their consumers in 2018."

Michael Duffett, vice president and general manager of the printer marketing division of Canon U.S.A. Inc., said that Canon has been partnering with the drug channel for a number of years with its ink consumable products.

"It's been a very successful relationship," he said. "Ink is a 'must have' kind of product. The good news with the drug channel is location. With many chains having close placement of stores, it gives consumers easy access to ink supplies. It's been a great traffic builder and a good discovery when customers realize that the drug channel carries these types of products. Right now that's our biggest goal, the awareness factor."

The immediacy element of the channel and the ease of shopping in drug stores versus big-box stores is a real plus, according to Duffett. "For example, you can get in and out of a Rite Aid in 10 minutes and get a good bit of shopping done in a number of categories including the consumer electronics space."

Duffett stated that over the last few years Canon has been selling its Pixma photo printers into the channel. "Drug stores always seem to be open, so the convenience factor comes into play. We are viewing this area as a viable market for a select number of hardware products. Going forward, I would also love to see our calculator products in the channel as well as presentation products."

One of the leaders in portable audio products, with products such as headphones and earbuds, is Skullcandy. Kathryn Smith, Skullcandy's global brand manager, said that consumers are looking for entry-level wireless products with Bluetooth connectivity that is seamless to use with their smartphone at a price they can afford.

"Right now in the drug channel, we are seeing that people who traditionally use wired products are starting to venture into wireless products. The value offering at drug stores gives the consumer a chance to try wireless without overspending."

Smith said in the past year the company has made wireless models of all of its best-selling wired buds such as the Smoking Bud 2 Wireless, the Ink'd Wireless and the Jib Wireless. "We are offering the former 'wired consumer' a product they know and trust in a Bluetooth version."

The video gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy and accessories are hot items in the retail space. Dreamgear is a leader in this market and offers a number of products including gaming headphones, controllers, charging docks, cables and cases.

Digital cameras are another profitable area with selected models in the channel. Scott Peterson, Gap Intelligence's industry analyst, who tracks digital camera sales in the mass merchant sector, said that Walmart and Target Corp. are still the top players for digital camera sales. "Overall retail shelf placements for cameras in the mass merchant channel remained virtually flat on-year, with Target's assortment up by 18% and Walmart offsetting that gain with a 13% reduction of its shelf."

He added that Canon leads the mass merchant channel with a 27% share of the total placements currently offered, followed by Nikon's 22% share. Polaroid (15%), Fujifilm (11%) and Sony (11%) round out the top five brands placed at mass merchants, according to their data.

Meanwhile, color film, which was a top-seller in drug stores during the heyday of photofinishing back in the 1980s and 1990s, will be making a comeback via Kodak. Last January, the company announced it was bringing Ektachrome film back to the retail space.

"Kodak's resurrection of Ektachrome film through an announcement at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show was met with much enthusiasm, although to date, the film is still not available," said Peterson. He pointed out that recent updates from Kodak on Facebook promised that a "limited supply" of the film will be available by year-end for "market testing," with wider availability expected to come in 2018.

"Kodak Alaris will market and distribute the 35 mm format film, and initial exposure for the product is expected to be skewed toward enthusiast destinations such as photo specialty shops rather than mass availability through drug store chains and other retail outlets," he concluded.

The nostalgia of instant photography is scoring big with both Millennials and Generation Z and driving sales with new models from Kodak, Fujifilm and Polaroid.

This fall Kodak and its licensee C+A Global unveiled the Kodak Printomatic, an instant print camera. The point-and-shoot camera instantly prints high-quality, full-color photos right from the camera body, making it the ideal all-in-one solution for capturing and sharing beautiful,

vibrant prints instantly.

"The Printomatic is a contemporary camera with a wonderful balance of digital and analog technology," said Steven Overman, president of Kodak's consumer and film division and Kodak's chief marketing officer. "It's an accessible device for anybody who wants to create a lasting memory in a tangible, colorful way."

With a maximum resolution 10 megapixel camera and no computer connection or even Wi-Fi needed, the camera produces 2-inch by 3-inch photo prints with no ink cartridges, toner or film necessary. Photo prints are durable and water-and tear-resistant and have an adhesive back. The camera is being sold at mass merchants and in other retail channels.

The availability of the Kodak Mini Shot instant print camera was also recently announced. Expanding upon its instant print product line, the Kodak Mini Shot point-and-shoot camera combines high-quality, instant color photo output with such digital conveniences as color controls, filter effects and Bluetooth connectivity.

"There is a resurgence for instant print photography, and the demand for affordable and versatile products is massive," said Kodak chief executive officer Jeff Clarke. "The release of the Kodak Mini Shot and recent launch of the Kodak Printomatic cameras are a continuation of Kodak's commitment to instant printing. In addition, they represent just the beginning of the instant print solutions Kodak plans to bring to market. We are fully committed to growing a diverse product portfolio as well as investing in the instant photography business. "

High-quality image processing and printing is at the core of Kodak's DNA and remain the key differentiators in its expanding instant print photography product portfolio, added Clarke. In addition to the Kodak Mini Shot instant print camera and Kodak Printomatic instant print camera, the portfolio includes the Kodak Photo Printer Dock and Photo Printer Mini Wi-Fi connected printers.

Fujifilm offers a number of models in its Instax lineup. The Instax Mini 9, rolled out earlier this year, features a front-facing selfie mirror next to the lens, which is said to make taking selfies even easier. There is also a close-up lens for capturing high-quality close-ups, and a new high-key mode that enables users to take brighter photos. The Instax Mini 9 also works with all Instax Mini film packs, including the latest Instax Mini Monochrome film that is said to open up new artistic options for users.

Polaroid's Snap Touch incorporates a wide range of updated features for an enhanced instant experience. Updates include the addition of a 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen for framing shots and navigating the camera's menu and a 13 megapixel sensor for higher-quality images as well as full high-definition video recording capability. All images and video are stored on a micro SD card to allow for sharing later.

Integrated within the Polaroid Snap Touch is a printer that uses ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology. ZINK 2-inch by 3-inch photos print in just under a minute. Additionally, ZINK Paper is adhesive backed so the photo can be used as a sticker as well. The latest version of ZINK Paper features five fun, brightly colored borders reminiscent of the familiar white Polaroid classic border logo.

Caption: Sections for digital and mobile items have become more common

Caption: Craig's Alexa smart device
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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