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PMA 07: The Long Tail of Photo Merchandise

By Eileen Fritsch


In the opening keynote presentation at the DIMA Conference, Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, set the stage for what would become the major focus of the PMA 2007 Show: Photo Merchandise.

Anderson discussed two major premises from his best-selling book: The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. First, he talked about how the U.S. is moving away from a culture dominated by a relatively small number of mass-market hit songs, movies, TV shows, and books into a de-synchronized culture in which individuals can choose from millions of songs, books, videos and other products that satisfy their own preferences. According to Anderson, “We’re now celebrating differences in our tastes, instead of settling for similarities.”

He then showed examples of how the seemingly overwhelming number of choices can become a true Paradise of Choice if customers are given sufficient help and guidance about their choices, though branding, online search, peer reviews, and other methods. 

Although Anderson’s book focuses on music and books, his DIMA keynote presentation included a graph showing how The Long Tail theory applies to the photo and graphics market.

PMA research shows that photo retailers who once relied primarily on 4 in. x 6 in. prints for most of their revenues now derive most of their revenues from an assortment of products “beyond the 4 x 6 print” including photo books, photo enlargements, photo greeting cards, canvas prints, calendars, and collage prints.

In 2003, consumers who used photo kiosks to order prints from their digital camera cards could only choose from 14 products other than 4x6 prints. Today, they can choose from more than 200 photo products beyond the 4x6 print.

In 2006, PMA research found that 21.7% of households that made no prints from digital cameras purchased at least some photo-related products other than prints. This is more than double the 12.3% of households who didn’t make prints but bought photo products in 2005. In real numbers, this represents a jump from 7 million to 15 million households in a single year.

This surge in interest in photo products means that anyone who sells prints to consumers (including photo retailers, online photofinishers, and professional photographers) is extremely interested in finding new, higher-margin products they can offer their customers.

If your print-for-pay graphics business has the right mix of wide-format printing devices, materials, finishing equipment and design talent, you can help satisfy this growing demand for photo products.

At PMA, a number of exhibitors were showcasing photo-based products that were produced either through inkjet dye-sublimation or on UV-curable or solvent-system printers. For example: SportsPose Inc. and Photo-Tex demonstrated how a child’s sports-team photo could be enlarged and converted into a life-sized, die-cut, easy-to-hang-and-remove vinyl decal for use as a wall decoration.

The popularity of photo merchandise has been confirmed by an InfoTrends study entitled Photo Merchandise—Opportunities Beyond Prints. InfoTrends projects that the North American photo merchandise market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24.5% with revenues surpassing $800 million by 2010.

InfoTrends’ analyst Ed Lee noted that during the first phase of digital photography, most of the emphasis seemed to be on how well digital could replace film. Now that we’ve entered the Digital Photography 2.0 phase, the emphasis seems to have shifted into how digital files can be managed, shared, and repurposed to create other products. He predicted it won’t be long before we all stop using the term digital photography and just start calling it photography.

Volume 2  -  No. 3


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