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Western Europe Retail Minilab Photo Printing - It's Not Dead Yet

The UK pharmacy chain, Boots announced yesterday (March 1st 2017) that it is to close two thirds of its in-store photo centres, which fulfil silver halide photo prints, photobooks, cards and some wall décor with a combination of wet minilabs, duplex and simplex digital printers and LFPs.

Is this a sign of the times for the Western European retail minilab sector, which, has not invested as wholeheartedly in dry minilabs as other world regions, such as the USA, Canada and Australia?

It is clear that some Western European retail chains have turned their focus away from in-store minilabs in recent years, or, as is the case with the UK mass merchandisers, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons, have outsourced in-store photo centres to a third-party operator.

Unlike their peers in the USA, for example, European retailers have also eschewed driving online (and more recently, mobile device) orders to in-store minilabs and instant print kiosks, with a majority of online orders fulfilled by an off-site printing partner.

In-store photo printing is still facing the ongoing challenge from the now established web to home photo channel, plus mounting pressure from the more recent mobile device ordering sub-channel within web to home, facilitated by developments in AI.

However, let’s not write off the minilab sector in Europe. To put things in perspective, in-store minilab photo prints accounted for just over 40% of the 7.5 billon units sold in Western Europe in 2016.

If one considers the success of the Germany pharmacy giant, DM in retail minilab fulfilment, as well as that of the Timpson/Max Spielmann group in the UK (and Walgreens in the USA), not to mention the entrepreneurial spirit of many independent photo retailers, there is still plenty of lemonade to be made from the lemons!

About the author

Jeremy Wills

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Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.