October 13, 2011: In late 2009, Ted’s Cameras announced its decision to switch its stores from silver halide printing technology to the new kid on the block, HP Photo Centres.
It was a bold move. While a number of mass merchants – Kmart in Australia and Walmart in the US among them – have gone with HP – Ted’s was among the first photo specialty chains in the world to move from tried-and-trusted silver halide technology.
The HP system consists of proprietary kiosks/software tethered to high speed inkjet, wide-format inkjet and colour laser photo printers, with an array of finishing equipment for products like photo books and spiral-bound calendars.
By June, 2010 the changeover to the HP-based ‘Ted’s Photo Lounge’ concept was complete. With well over 12 months experience overseeing the operation of HP installations in 22 stores, there is probably no-one in Australia or New Zealand better placed than Jason Robertson, Ted’s Cameras manager of photofinishing operations, to review HP, its equipment and its dedicated photo specialist supplier, Photo Direct.
So Photo Counter put some questions to Jason on how Ted’s arrangement with HP has travelled so far. He responds to these questions – plus a few more – below:
Is the equipment suitably reliable? (With over 20 installations you would be in a unique position to comment!)
The equipment is suitably reliable. As you can imagine with 22 installations, we can get a run of issues in any given week and naturally some stores have had more issues than others.
I think what is important to remember when thinking about service compared to our previous set up, is that we used to maintain our servers and kiosks ourselves, and we also now have more items within the lab that can have an issue. It’s not just a lab and a film processor any more.
Are HP and Photo Direct suppliers which specialist retailers will find easy to work with? (Supplies? Responsiveness on service calls?)
The team at Photo Direct do a pretty good job and it’s really only being able to keep up with the growing demands of in-house stretcher kits that always seem to run low – but there are always more on the way!
In regards to service responsiveness, the Hotline really is great, and doing their job and logging all calls promptly. We get daily updates at head office of all calls, their status and details of the problems, and what is required to resolve them.
There are occasions when the right part has not been available for the quickest possible repair, but nothing I haven’t experienced over the years with Kodak, Noritsu and Agfa. I have not heard anyone say Fuji is perfect all the time either! HP is a massive organisation and that presents its own issues – it’s really more about learning how to work with the processes (hurdles!) that can be presented.
How do ongoing maintenance costs stack up against the wet labs the HP equipment replaced?
Quite comparably, really, when you think of what is being covered. When you have a lab, 6 kiosks, a server, wide-format printer and a laser printer, plus a couple of other items, the cost is reasonable.
If you had to make the decision to go with HP today (knowing what you do now) would you do so?
I still don’t believe that the future is in 9 cent prints. We have to offer more and we have to be able to make it in-store and be able to facilitate orders placed online without having to go through a margin-eroding fulfilment provider like Snapfish, Photo Create, etc.
Do I prefer a wet lab print over a dry? Yes – just.
Is the Noritsu Dry a great machine? Yes.
Do HP still have the most complete offering for a company with 20+ outlets that wants to do everything in-house? Yes.
I think there are some great opportunities for owner-operators out there with quality or quirky (niche) set-ups but for 20+ stores, having everything available from one supplier does have significant advantages.
So yes – I would still make the same decision.